Blane’s Style Files: The Problem With Digital Fashion

Once hailed as the saviour of the fashion industry during the pandemic, where no in-person fashion shows and brand launches were taking place, digital fashion has fallen by the wayside over the past year.

The premise behind digital fashion is relatively simple – you submit a picture of yourself, choose a digital outfit, and then someone edits the outfit onto you.

What sounds on paper like every influencer’s dream is, unsurprisingly, a bit too good to be true.

Thankfully, most digital fashion brands give you an idea of what your final photo will look like by placing a mock-up of the outfit onto you in a way that’s similar to a filter on Snapchat, but ultimately, the users have to place a lot of faith in the people who actually edit the photos. Effectively, you have to hope the person editing your photo has the same vision as you for the final product.

Of course, the unavoidable fact of digital fashion is that its digital-ness is always noticeable. 

Sometimes, the evident editing is good – where else would you have the chance to ‘wear’ fantastical sci-fi outfits that defy gravity and otherwise don’t exist?

However, despite advancements in computer-generated graphics over the last 20 years or so, digital fashion photos tend to have an uncanny quality to them that draws attention out of more of a morbid curiosity than genuine adoration. This is evident in many Instagram comment sections, where some followers are more confused by the ‘clothes’ than amazed by them.

Digital fashion brand DressX, who have recently branched out into NFTs and metaverse avatar creation too, offer the typical digital fashion service of having ‘clothes’ available to buy, and an editing service to digitally dress you up in them. Browsing through their catalogue, you can buy a hat or a t-shirt for $15-$20, but most of the articles of clothing promoted by the site range from $75-$110. The most expensive thing I could find was the ‘Intergalactic Freedom Dress’ at a whopping $1,500. 

The biggest benefit of digital fashion has always been its eco-friendly status. There are no fast fashion sweatshops involved because you aren’t buying a physical product, instead you’re buying into a very niche piece of art; an NFT that’s slightly more useful than all the rest of them.

As someone who spends hours browsing for clothes online, I know what I expect when I buy something – the money leaves my account, I wait a few days, and then I feel the rush of excitement when I unbox whatever I’ve bought and (most importantly) I get the feeling of confidence and excitement when I get to wear the thing I’ve bought.

The core problem here is the massive sensory disconnect between real clothes and digital ‘clothes’. Clothes can be so empowering (I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché about looking great and feeling great too!), and the fact that the digital clothes never touch your body denies you any confidence you may have had if you could wear them in real life. Digital clothes then are almost a hollow façade of what clothing really is.

100% digital fashion would be a great idea if we lived 100% digital lives, but, in an era where fashion-lovers are trying to be as thrifty as possible, and bring down the cost-per-wear of every item they own through repeated use, clothes you can only ‘wear’ for a photoshoot or two just don’t cut it.