beauty

The newest trend in fashion

Only on rare occasions do I shop alone. Too easily influenced by skinny mirrors and pushy sales assistants, I find safety in numbers and bank on the honesty of my friends to tell me if the shirt or shoes I’m about to buy are truly fabulous or a total train wreck.

Last month I failed. In desperate need of a new pairs of jeans and without a fashion-forward friend in sight, I put on my fearless face and took to the shops. And before I knew it, I was deciding between two pairs of dark-denim jeans – identical in look and not so identical in price. I asked the saleswoman for help. She dropped the word “flattering” and told me to take the more expensive pair. I listened. I purchased. And I left the shop wondering whether I’d just been completely taken advantage of. Did the jeans really make me look taller or was Flattering Fiona just dishing out the compliments to get my money?

In the time since said purchase, I’ve discovered a world of social fashion websites that could have been the answer to my angst. “Post a photo, ask a question, get advice” is the catch-cry from US website Fashism, which invites users to upload images of themselves – usually taken using an iPhone, a mirror and an awkward change room angle – and viewers to comment on their look and help with their style. They pose questions to the trawling audience, ranging from “Wat you think?” to “How do I look for my fourth day of high school?” Sometimes they ask for advice on a wedding dress or, as I discovered yesterday, opinions on appropriate attire for a great grandmother’s funeral.

The feedback is instant, anonymous and often brutal. While some users are spoilt for comment on their stunning looks and “totes cool” style, others are left with remarks intended to be constructive but bordering on hurtful. However judging by the follow-up comments, public opinion is appreciated. I can only imagine the advice seekers would leave with a smile – knowing they’ve got it right or narrowly avoided disaster.

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When I asked my friends if they’d consider using the site, the overwhelming response wa

Fashism website

s no.  “How can someone give a considered response without knowing your personality, style and what makes you, you?” one asked. “They don’t know anything about you,” was the answer from another. “When I want an honest opinion from someone,

I ask my friends; only friends really tell the truth,” she said.

But can your closest friends really tell the truth? It’s like the age-old “does my bum look big in this” dilemma. Either way, both parties are screwed. Say no and you’re lying. Say yes and you’re dumped. When a friend asks me for an opinion, whether it is fashion related or otherwise, I don’t always tell the absolute truth. Not if I know the answer will hurt the person’s feelings. So I err lightly on the side of caution and hope that everyone’s happy. The difference with these sites, and counselors for that matter, is the dishing out of no-strings-attached advice. There’s less emphasis on hurt feelings and more on honest and productive answers.

I’m yet to guinea pig myself to the world where social media meets fashion. But I wonder, next time I’m shopping – friend or friend-less – could I be doing myself a favor by asking a stranger for help? And if the answer was negative, would I be more or less offended?

Do you shop alone or with friends? Do you ask the sales assistant for their advice? Would you ever go to a website to get a stranger’s advice on your outfit?