Last night, I had a nightmare about Chictopia.com. I was clicking through page after page of girls in oversized white t-shirts, black leggings and black boots. Every single ChicBlog was exactly the same. My legs began to hurt as if the sight of so many bland outfits was physically painful and I suddenly woke up in actual pain. Lying in bed, I began to wonder if I go on Chictopia too much.
Chictopia.com is a social network based in San Francisco designed for users (mostly women) to showcase their most stylish outfits. Deemed the “people’s fashion destination,” users rate and comment on each other’s outfits. Teen Vogue called Chictopia “the next big thing” and Nylon declared the site to be “totally inspiring, despite the cheesy name.”
On Chictopia, users are able to browse the pages of other users with the same age, body type and even skin tone. Members post reviews on specific items of clothing, from Hanes T-shirts to Ksubi jeans. Each month, members with the most “fans” (other users who add them as a favorite Chictopian) become style icons and receive prizes.
What’s the point of Web sites like Chictopia? Blatantly put, they are places for people to fish for compliments. You post up a picture of yourself and people comment with things like, “Your hosiery are amazing!” and “Yeah, those tights are the bee’s knees!” (Both of these are real comments, by the way. Thanks, Zahara22 and spencerjacobs!) A cynic would say that Chictopia.com is a massive cesspool of narcissists. We judge each other based solely on our outfits and make friends with the people whose outfits we like. Of course, we talk cyber-trash about people in ugly outfits, right? Wrong.
Contrary to popular belief, fashion nerds, at least the people who are truly interested in fashion rather than shopping, appreciate quirkiness. We are less interested in Louis Vuitton monogram purses than we are in clothing that is unique, eccentric and often anachronistic. Take drop-crotch pants for example. I go on Chictopia to see users proudly don pants that would look horrendous on me and have an extremely slim chance of being seen in Orange County (the land of year-round flip-flops), and I admire them for it. I crave the eccentric. Chictopia users are more encouraging and praising than someone would expect a community of the fashion-obsessed to be.
One could argue that this is shameless self-promotion, and I agree completely. In fact, that’s entirely the point of fashion. Dressing is a form of self-expression, and showing it off online is akin to an artist showing off her portfolio on deviantART. I’m not ashamed to admit that on most days, I put thought into what I put on my back and getting feedback — especially if I’m trying something new or particularly quirky — is very much appreciated.
Having a place like Chictopia, where people can ask for advice by creating polls and posting in the Chictopia forums, is also helpful for the style-challenged. I log on when I’m feeling uninspired or bored with my wardrobe. This brings me to the one qualm I have with style websites — the notion of originality.
Everyone knows the adage, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So what happens when people are inspired by each other’s outfits? Everyone starts to look the same. This is simply the nature of trends; they may seem obscure at first, but they gain popularity and soon you can’t escape them. Posting on Web sites like this with the expectation that people will like your “original” outfit often guarantees that people will copy elements of it, which led me to realize that people are rarely, if ever, truly original.
We take inspiration from each other, from art, from movies, from the runways. Chictopia is a place to see how this inspiration shows itself in our everyday lives.