What is digital fashion?

Computer-generated image of fuzzy pants, from two different angles, being worn by someone on the street

["pants made from pastel teddy bears, for adults, harajuku street style" | generated by Craiyon]

I'll admit, when I first heard about digital fashion, I didn't really get it. How did I go from a skeptic to an enthusiast? What is digital fashion? And how does it work?

What exactly is digital fashion?

Broadly speaking, digital fashion is any visual representation of clothing that was created using computer technology.

I like to think of digital fashion as being divided into three main categories:

  • concept fashion
  • metaverse fashion
  • augmented reality (AR) fashion

So first, let's take a look at each of these categories. (I don't know of any "official" classifications of this stuff, so this is all just based on my own opinions and experience!)

Concept Fashion

Much like a concept car, I consider concept fashion to be the for-display-only variety of digital fashion. It's the stuff that's interesting to look at, but can't actually be "worn" in any capacity. Like these garments (and their, uh, models) generated by artificial intelligence:

A grid of 9 computer-generated images depicting cats wearing dresses

["cat wearing a victorian dress" | generated by Craiyon]

...in case you ever wondered what a cat would look like in a Victorian dress. My favorite is bottom center! (I've spent endless hours feeding silly prompts into Craiyon as entertainment. It's free so you should definitely check it out!)

Is it fun? Heck yes! I could scroll through cool fashion art for hours!

Is it useful? It can be. Think of it as a modern version of fashion sketching! 

Can it be worn in any way? Not as-is. But with some skillful work, I have seen plenty of examples of concept fashion being turned into metaverse or AR fashion!

Metaverse Fashion

First, can I just say that the term "metaverse" is super cringe? I hate even typing it. *shudder*

I consider this category to be anything worn in digital worlds like Roblox or Decentraland. I'm not really into any of those kind of things, but I do enjoy dressing up my Bitmoji, so this category of digital fashion does still hold a bit of interest for me.

Example of Bitmoji fashion. Cartoon woman wearing a green floral jacket and pink pants, posing for a selfie in front of a tripod with ring light.

[outfit by Bitmoji Fashion]

Honestly, I find the idea of a future where we primarily interact via virtual avatars to be a bit dystopian, so I'm glad the whole metaverse hype is dying down. But if I do find myself visiting a digital land one day, you know of course I'm gonna have to be well-dressed!

Augmented Reality Fashion

This is the segment of digital fashion that interests me the most! With AR, it looks like you (the real you, not a virtual version) are wearing the digital garments.

There are two ways that AR fashion elements can be applied to your photos: as an in-camera experience (like a Snapchat lens) or as an overlay on an existing photo.

While AR camera technology is advancing at a very rapid pace, with clothing it's still not quite a seamless experience yet. (Though I look forward to that day, hopefully in the near future!) So I prefer the overlay method. It's fun to plan a physical outfit for styling a digital garment, and I love any excuse for a photo shoot!

Polaroid-framed image of a woman wearing a pink digital dress. The image has been edited so that the woman has white angel wings and is walking through pink clouds.

[digital dress: Anna Tsvell via DRESSX | leggings: Amazon (affiliate) | boots: Wish]

What is the point of digital fashion?

My first experience with AR digital fashion was through DRESSX. When I excitedly posted about my first DRESSX photo, I was met with a lot of confusion, and even a bit of cynicism. (Is this a try-on for a physical product? No? Then what's the point??)

But to me, it just made sense!

There are a variety of reasons why people choose digital fashion. Traditional fashion is wasteful, expensive, and limited to what's possible in the physical world.

  • With digital fashion, nothing ever ends up in a landfill!
  • A growing number of free or reasonably-priced digital fashion apps available, so anyone can afford to be photographed in designer garments.
  • Digital fashion can push beyond the boundaries of physics to create some truly out-of-this-world outfits.

For example, using the free ZERO10 app, you can apply digital garments to photos from your camera roll.

On a visit to the Saginaw Art Museum back in the fall, Adam took a fun shot of me in the garden. I later used ZERO10 to add a bubble dress over the top of my physical outfit. In reality, this garment could never exist!

Before and after images using the ZERO10 digital fashion app. In the before photo, a woman is wearing a floor-length two-tone pink dress while standing in a formal Victorian garden. The after shot is the same photograph, but with a short digital dress made of bubbles added over the physical dress.

[physical dress: Christopher John Rogers for Target | digital dress: urbanpeppermint via ZERO10 | hat: KAVU | sunnies: Zenni (affiliate) | boots: Bamboo | belt & necklace: thrifted]

How can I try digital fashion?

If you're interested in wearing some digital fashion yourself, I currently use the two apps I've mentioned in this post, DRESSX and ZERO10, and recommend them both!

Both apps offer an AR camera experience as well as photo dressing.

ZERO10 is totally free, and they have some really fun garments! The photo overlay feature isn't always 100% precise, but once you figure out what makes a photo with the best results you can get some pretty convincing images.

On DRESSX, the AR camera is free, and you can purchase editorial-quality photos either individually on their website or via a subscription on the app. (The subscription is a MUCH better deal if you do choose to order any photos!) They also offer free NFT drops from time to time that come with a free photo look, so even though I'm not really much of a web3 person, I do pay attention for those! (And I'll be styling a couple soon, so stay tuned for that!)

Would you try digital fashion? If you have any other favorite apps I should check out, please let me know!

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