Culture, Get the look

Timeline: How Online Style Sharing Has Changed Over the Years

Before #OOTD and #GRWM there was Lookbook.nu and Myspace ‘PC4PC’. If this sounds like a foreign language, look away now!

How we share our style online has changed dramatically over the years. The current battleground between short-form video and static content is just the tip of the iceberg. Today, we’re talking about the lost feeds of Blogspot, Dailybooth, Chictopia and beyond.

So whether you’re interested in the evolution of online style sharing or simply here for a dose of nostalgia, we’ve put together a brief timeline of sorts to show just how far outfit checks have come over the years.

Myspace

Where it all began… The mother of all social media platforms, Myspace, was the place to be in the early 2000’s. 

Myspace granted users a profile page similar to Facebook, Twitter & Instagram – but, unlike modern social media profiles – you had almost unlimited customising options for it. That’s right, we’re learning HTML, baby! Myspace had us flirting with 6 figure salaries and learning to code, purely to get our profile page looking perfect. Long before the boring, grey, uniform backdrops of Facebook, we had pixel art, flashing gifs and (if you were very clever) a customised cursor. Alongside this, you could choose a profile song from a huge library of artists who regularly uploaded new tracks. Everything was customisable and having a Myspace profile that matched your personal style was paramount.

Myspace was mainly hailed as a music hub but we cannot underestimate the power that ‘PC4PC’ had on the fashion world. Essentially ‘PC4PC’ translates to ‘pic comment for pic comment’. Back in the day, you would announce your online status via the Myspace bulletin board (think of an RSS feed meets/Twitter feed), you could then offer to trade picture comments with the thousands of strangers you’d amassed on your ‘friends’ list. Yep, way before tech hubs coined the term ‘gamification’, this is how we created our own fun on Myspace.

As such, the revolving door of profile pictures allowed new trends to pollinate over the platform. From chunky laser-cut jewellery to ‘racoon streak’ hair, everyone wanted the most eye-catching look. Sure, we all probably look back on the Myspace ’emo’ and ‘scene’ fashion trends and cringe, but it’s important to note this pivotal moment in online fashion history.

But of course, this was just the beginning…

Myspace style essentials:

  • Manic Panic hair dye
  • Backcombed hair
  • Babycakes t-shirts
  • Smudged eyeliner

Blogspot

Although Blogspot/Blogger technically came before Myspace, it wasn’t acquired by Google until 2003, which is when it really became part of the mainstream ecosystem. 

Blogspot was essentially a watered-down, more accessible version of WordPress. Blogs were posted to one main feed and you were given the option to share images, video and audio too. Unlike Myspace, you didn’t need to learn code in order to maximise the potential of this platform – although all the best blogs did.

Blogspot was the place where many of today’s top influencers started blogging. Disney Roller Girl and Zoella started with a Blogspot account once upon a time and look at them now! 

Like most social media back then, by creating a Blogspot account, you could post about anything you wanted without playing by algorithmic rules. It was BLISS! And, when Google took over the platform, the addition of a ‘friendslist’ was added for bloggers to connect and collaborate with one another. The addition of a friendslist added fuel to the fire when it came to trending items. There was a real sense of FOMO when everyone began talking about the latest Topshop stock or MAC collaboration.

A key point to remember here: Blogspot hit its peak popularity at a time when we weren’t all glued to our phones. The whispers of ‘mobile web’ were nothing more than a nightmare for bill payers.

Picture us fighting for time on the family computer to post our latest outfit blog.

Blog posts were largely written and read via a desktop computer. Images were uploaded from a digital camera. Rarely did we worry about cross-platform posting, but it was a real labour of love. Content was meticulously crafted, not quickly uploaded from phones with a filter and a handful of hashtags. Blogspot hailed a rich era of authenticity that was lost to the quick-win age of social media… yes, I’m bitter about it!

Blogpost style essentials:

  • Velvet teddy lipstick
  • Peter pan collars
  • Jeffrey Campbell boots
  • YSL turquoise Artsy ring – or close imitation 

Chictopia

The People’s Fashion Destination – that was the motto for Chictopia. 

Created by 3 engineers, Chictopia was a website dedicated to sharing outfit pics exclusively. There were a few different iterations of the website over the years, but the premise remained the same: Share your outfits and let people ‘vote’ on whether they liked them. It sounds more brutal than it was – I swear, I’m not just looking back through rose-tinted glasses.

The website had a chart function, highlighting the outfits that had the most votes by week and day. Think ‘Fashion Week’ meets ‘Top of The Pops’.

When other people voted on your outfit pics, you earned ‘Chic Points’. The more chic points you had, the more stylish you were – apparently.

Ultimately most of us remember this website burning bright and burning fast. It was a fun, cool approach to ‘the democracy of fashion’, but with thousands of uploads a day eventually a heavy hosting bill is going to land in someone’s lap. Not to mention the robust moderation team needed to run such a huge operation. Funds needed to be made somewhere along the way. 

Chictopia was around long before fashion brands would spend big money on influencer marketing and even then, some brands were still more focused on bricks-and-motor retail than online ecommerce. Chictopia was in some respects both a product of its time and ahead of its time.

As the online world of style sharing changed, Chictopia was left behind.

Chictopia style essentials:

  • Vintage-inspired fast fashion
  • Lace skater skirts
  • Statement necklaces
  • Infinity scarves

Dailybooth

Though not directly fashion-focused, Dailybooth is another website that cannot be overlooked in the timeline of online style sharing. After all, any website that invited users to document their daily activities to the public has a lot to answer for in today’s world.

Dailybooth was essentially another daily blogging website. Similar to Twitter, all updates appeared on a user’s home feed in chronological order. For fashionistas, this meant that once you uploaded an outfit picture to Dailybooth, your post was shared on their huge internal live feed. Sweet, sweet, instant gratification. 

Caught between the transition between desktop computer and mobile popularity, from a fashion POV Dailybooth was quite limited. After all, a grainy webcam image of you awkwardly showing your outfit at a desk simply wasn’t going to cut it. Believe it or not, despite the setbacks this website lingered around until 2012 when the development team were taken over by a little company known as AirBNB.

Lookbook.nu

This website is still around today, but if I’m being honest – it’s a shadow of its former glory. 

Once upon a time, you needed an invite to join Lookbook.nu. Whether it was faux scarcity or not, it drove interest by the thousands. Anyone who was anyone in the world of online styling had an account on Lookbook.nu.

In a similar fashion to Chictopia, Lookbook.nu encouraged the sharing of outfit pictures and gave users the power to vote on them. Only this time, voting was called ‘hype’.

One key difference in this website was A) its lack of accessibility and B) its popularity with brands. At a time when SEO executives went mad for link building, Lookbook.nu creators thrived. Why? Well, once an outfit was posted on Lookbook.nu, users would provide direct links to every garment or a similar ‘dupe’ item.

This is where Lookbook.nu started to rival Blogspot. To get a little geeky, Lookbook.nu had far more credibility and power in the eyes of Google than the average blogspot domain. Thus, with the advent of brand gifting, Lookbook.nu creators became the top choice for many brands.

Lookbook.nu style essentials:

  • Skull print Alexander McQueen scarf
  • High-waisted denim shorts
  • Wooden beaded Jesus bracelets

Bloglovin

Bloglovin’ was once the BFF of all fashion bloggers. The site was (and still is) a content aggregator first and foremost. 

Bloggers who had set up their own websites via Blogspot or WordPress, used Bloglovin to amass a following by sharing snippets of each perfectly crafted post, in the hope to siphon traffic. Over the years, the platform has changed but it has largely served the same purpose.

Bloglovin was once the perfect space for readers to stay subscribed to all of their favourite bloggers in one space, regardless of the original platform. It may seem simple, but this was unique at the time before content creators were required to cross-post and announce content drops across a myriad of social media channels.

Again, to get a little geeky, Bloglovin fell out of favour a few years back within the blogging community during something we like to call ‘canonical-link-gate’. The less said about that, the better.

The Hunt

The fashion finder underdogs. If a fashion stylist, blogger or celebrity was unwilling to share the finer details of their outfit, The Hunt would always prevail.

Back in the day, this website was another backlink builder’s dream but it was also a firm favourite for celebrity fashion hunters. The Hunt didn’t invite people to share their own outfit photos, instead, it became a place to share images of outfits you wanted to replicate. The hivemind of users would then scour the internet to find where the poster could purchase the garments featured in the outfit – or a close dupe.

Tumblr

We approach this one with caution because you’re either going to have great memories of this website or a traumatic tale to share. We hope it’s not the latter!

Tumblr was of course another key blogging platform in the world of online styling. Hidden behind extremely creative usernames, Tumblr users shared content that generally catered to a niche ‘aesthetic’ or fandom. Before the website was taken over by media giant Yahoo, Tumblr was a rather lawless space. You could post anything, which was excellent but also too much freedom for most.

Some would argue that Tumblr was actually too good at creating fashion trends. Owl necklaces, pastel hair, indie kid revival and for some ungodly reason – moustache-everything. These are just a handful of trends that Tumblr was responsible for.

Due to the nature of ‘reblogging’, it was easy for fashion posts to amass huge traction without the original post even realising. Posting an outfit on Tumblr became a bit of an engagement lottery. Let’s say you shared a picture of your favourite new dress. Before you know it, someone could have ‘reblogged’ your post (which was essentially forwarding the post to their followers). Original posters would be able to see the engagement on these reblogs, but as soon as this was shared again from the secondary source the paper trail of engagement quickly became fuzzy. 

Some posts on Tumblr had thousands of mini-threads within each other; a Russian Doll of online content.

On occasions, users would find out – to their surprise or horror – that they had gone viral on the website months or years after the fact!

Tumblr style essentials:

  • Stocking tights
  • Moustache tattoos
  • Dip dye hair
  • Wedge platform creepers

Polyvore

The purest of all fashion-sharing websites. Polyvore was simply a vision-boarding platform where users would create outfit mood boards comprised of garments shot on invisible mannequins. There was nothing more to it than that… it was actually a bit boring if we’re honest.

Youtube

And then came Youtube… The mega platform for shopping hauls, outfit inspiration and everything else under the sun. 

Youtube changed the game for online fashion. Finally, people could see real examples of how something looked when worn without the risk of sneaky Photoshop use. Video content felt more authentic. Videos of candid chats, shopping trips and ‘try-on hauls’ became standard practice for the rising stars of this budding platform.

Youtube took small-town, amateur fashion sharing to another level. As with most modern platforms, maximalism reigned supreme. The game of click-baiting extended to the fashion realm in the shape of huge shopping hauls, luxury press trips and crazy challenges that interrupted the flow of once-organic content. 

Videos that once gave viewers a warm and fuzzy feeling became corporate and pushy, with a big focus on affiliate discount codes (think: “This video was sponsored by Squarespace“).

Today, fashion is still popular on Youtube, but it’s certainly lost the magic from yesteryear.

Pinterest

Pinterest presented a real curveball in the world of fashion. Another vision-boarding website, users had the option to ‘Pin’ (a.k.a save) content from around the web on specially curated moodboards.

This platform was adopted by a slightly older demographic, with a little more spending power. Cue brands taking a keen interest! 

Pinterest also offered a second chance to text-based fashion bloggers who had seen their audience dwindle with the advent of new, exciting social media platforms. The combination of rich visuals, simple functionality and brand integration made Pinterest a fashion stronghold, but it wasn’t just that which appealed to most users. Pinterest represented a break from all the noise. It was (and still is) a platform where people are not bombarded with irrelevant hashtags, extreme content and advertising. The minimal interface ensures that you interact with exactly what your heart desires.

We can see this one sticking around for a while.

Instagram

There is no denying that Instagram changed the game for fashion sharing. This behemoth platform had humble beginnings; a chronological feed and simple photo-sharing options. 

That’s all Instagram needed at the time.

Like Pinterest, the original idea of Instagram cut out much of the noise you’d find on other social platforms. It existed for you to ‘instantly‘ share moments with a short caption. Niche communities popped up overnight, congregating under hashtags. Users interacted more publically as Instagram – if you can believe it – did not offer a direct messaging function at first!

Instagram made it easier than ever to find trending fashion and share daily outfits.

But all good things must come to an end… When Facebook (see, META) took over Instagram, many changes were made that washed over Instagram’s individuality. Features were added, but nothing that couldn’t already be found on other apps. Stories, boomerangs, video, lives, shops… and the final nail in the coffin – an aggressive algorithm that meant you wouldn’t always see posts in real-time.

This hit the daily fashion sharers where it hurt. As the community dried up, content creators spread to other platforms in search of an alternative social dopamine hit.

Tiktok

Originally called Musically, this video-sharing website first became popular with music fans and cosplayers who created their own short lip-syncing videos. 

Honestly, at this point, I feel like I’m writing about an alien world.

When Tiktok rebranded, it cornered a space left behind by Vine. Shortform video content was a landscape that Instagram over-complicated. Whereas, Tiktok created a platform that made video sharing and video editing easy and accessible to anyone with a smartphone. 

What propelled Tiktok’s popularity around the world wasn’t necessarily a unique offering – after all, there are plenty of places to share videos online – but it was perfectly placed to capture our attention during a time of great boredom… the Covid19 lockdowns.

As we all closed our doors to the outside world, Tiktok became a place of solace. The content was brighter and less dramatic, with a focus on short comedy skits that were lead by ‘trending audios’. 

Where other social media platforms were ruled by a mysterious algorithm, Tiktok seemed like the total opposite. Simply put, Tiktok finds out what you like to watch and shows you more of the same. It doesn’t get more complex than that really! After using the platform for a week, Tiktok aggressively profiles the user to feed them content perfectly curated to their unique taste profile. It may sound creepy, but this is where fashion content began to thrive.

If you like online shopping, Tiktok knows about it. If you shop somewhere in particular, Tiktok knows about it. If you’ve been looking for the perfect party dress that references a niche 90’s movie… yeah, you guessed it – Tiktok knows all.

The omnipotent Tiktok algorithm became a catapult for niche trends. Every fashion-sharing video became somewhat of a heat-seeking missile that Tiktok guided to the precise target audience. Creepy to some, ingenious to others. No matter how unique your taste in fashion may be, Tiktok will make you feel as if you’ve never had an original thought in your life.

Though it isn’t just content that we’re interested in here. Tiktok has paved the way for a whole new world of app-based shopping. Whilst this has been hugely popular in Asia, it hasn’t quite taken off in the western world… yet!

And beyond…

It’s hard to predict what the future of fashion sharing may look like. Perhaps we’ll be more concerned with how our metaverse avatars look like 10 years from now? Maybe, if I keep praying, chronological feeds will make a triumphant return.

Either way, the state of play for online fashion sharing is sure to continue evolving and we can’t wait to see where new technologies take us!

 

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