Polyvore and the Case of the Disappearing Data

“Polyvore is Not Coming Back,” confirmed Racked less than one week after the popular platform for creating online collages and inspiration boards was shut down. After its closure in early April 2018, Polyvore’s shut down catalyzed confusion, distress, and anger throughout the “#PolyFam.”

Claiming to have the “largest style community on the web,” Polyvore allowed users to create collages of clothing & accessories from a variety of online retailers, such as Asos and Net-a-Porter. Users said that this feature allowed them to find and explore designers and trends that were either out of their comfort zone, or were too expensive for their lifestyle. Allowing users to interact with aspirational goods strengthened Polyvore’s user base; in 2016, the website attracted “more than 20 million unique users per month.”

Following its acquisition by Ssense, Polyvore users were only given one month – from April 5th through May 10th, 2018 – to download their collages representing years (for some, over a decade) of inspiration. In this time period, users also had the opportunity to opt out of a data transfer of their usernames, email addresses, and “other Polyvore data.” Yet, in their apology to the Polyvore community, Ssense declared that they do not “have the ability to bring the website or its functionalities back.”

The PolyFam – the name bestowed upon the Polyvore community – continues to question why and how Ssense could have been so careless with their community. Though each member is able to download their personal collages, Polyvore users lose the context of each creation as well as the comments and discussions surrounding them. Ssense’s dismantling of an active, longstanding community and their insistence that there is no way to get it back destroys the larger context in which each individual creation is made.

This leads me to question how we, as librarians, can support born-digital communities such as Polyvore that host creative works which are dependent on a website’s existing structures. Is it possible to offer archival support to living communities that change minute-by-minute? Especially because, in the case of Polyvore, we’d want to preserve the communities themselves in addition to the content. And, most importantly, who is going to pay for it?

We must remember that we are often hired as support systems for physical communities (public institutions, universities, museums, etc.), but we do not normally have the opportunity to operate in the same capacity for online communities. As we consider these questions – for which there may not be strict answers – I end with one more question: how can we move toward supporting online communities in the future, and what opportunities can we create for ourselves?

Further Reading:
“Online Retailer Ssense Acquires Polyvore and Immediately Shuts It Down,” Sourcing Journal
“Polyvore is Not Coming Back,” Racked.
“Polyvore Users Mourn One of Fashion’s Most Creative Online Communities,” Dazed
“SSENSE Apologizes to Polyvore Users Over Recent Acquisition,” Hypebeast.
“Some Big News for our Polyfam,” Polyvore.


Call for Presentation Proposals: Fashion: Now & Then

Launched in 2011, Fashion: Now & Then is a three-day event in which participants discuss the past, present, and future uses of fashion information. Presenters are drawn from academic institutions, museums, libraries, archives, publishing and the fashion industry to represent a full range of expertise. The conference attracts speakers and attendees from throughout the globe, with themes that have included sustainability, fashion and art, and the global landscape of fashion.

This year’s conference theme is “Fashion and Culture.” We look forward to receiving proposals for 15-minute presentations or hour-long panels that will examine both the current and evolving relationship between fashion and culture.

Fashion: Now & Then will be held Thursday, October 18 – Saturday, October 20, 2018 at LIM College, Maxwell Hall, 216 East 45th Street, New York, NY.  The proposal submission deadline is Monday, June 4, 2018.

You can find the full call for presentations here.

Fashion Photoshop Tutorials

A faculty member asked me about video tutorials for teaching Adobe’s Photoshop to fashion design students. She had been charged with developing a new course and wanted to find resources to support her curriculum. The goals was to find video tutorials that taught Photoshop techniques that used fashion to teach the technique. For example, there is one tutorial from Adobe that highlights a fashion student’s work, Design a Fashion Textile (2017).

I’m not a heavy Adobe user so I’m not certain how quickly a software tutorial may become outdated. I’ve included dates below for quick reference.

I started my search with Lynda.com. While my institution does not subscribe, our public library does – and yours may too! Students can often get a public library card for the system that supports their institution’s region. Fashion tutorials for Photoshop include Photoshop for Fashion Design: Rendering Techniques (2013), Photoshop Retouching: Fashion Editorial (2013), Fixing Teeth in a Fashion Photography (listed as covering Photoshop) (2016-2018), and Changing Makeup Color on the Lips (from Learning Photoshop: Portrait Retouching) (2017).

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of tutorials to plow through on YouTube. I selected videos based on the creators and I’ve included links for additional information about them. I selected creators who focus on Photoshop tutorials and had a large subscriber base. LinkedIn Learning Tutorials (website) is connected with LinkedIn and Lynda.com (2009-2015). Easy Beauty Photoshop Retouching Tutorial from PSD Box Official (2015) (website) only does Photoshop tutorials and also includes videos like Realistic Fabric Folds Effect in Photoshop (2007). Photoshop Tutorial for Fashion Design from Designers Nexus (website) says it’s developed by two professional fashion designers (2011-2012). How to Change Clothing Texture in Photoshop (2017) and How to Smooth Skin with Dodge & Burn (2017) are by Nemanja Sekulic who also as a few tutorials related to hair (2016-present). Dansky has tutorials on hair (2016-present) and Adding Digital Makeup (2015). Michael Woloszynowicz is a fashion photographer with tutorials related to fashion (2013-present) and makeup (2012-2015).

I also searched Vimeo but much of the content was older than what’s on YouTube. And, though the faculty member was looking for videos, I did send along a few book titles that might be useful in developing curriculum. These link to WorldCat; see if your library has them.

Fashion and Textile Design with Photoshop and Illustration by Robert Hume (2016)
Fashion drawing : illustration techniques for fashion designers by Michele Wesen Bryant (2016)
Fashion designer’s handbook for Adobe Illustrator by Marianne Centner & Frances Vereker (2012)
Adobe Photoshop for fashion design by Susan M. Lazear (according to publisher, this is the latest edition) (2010)
Essential fashion illustration : digital by Loreto Binvignat Streeter (covers Photoshop and Illustrator) (2010)
Digital textile design by Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac (covers Photoshop and Illustrator) (2009)

Know of more Photoshop tutorials focused on fashion? Please share!

ARLIS/UK conference website live…

Hi everyone,

It was amazing to see some of you at ARLIS/NA last month, and I’m so hoping I’ll see some of you again if you decide to come over for the ARLIS/UK conference in London this summer…

It’s on Thursday 26 – Friday 27 July, although we’ll be having a fancy evening reception on Wednesday 25 to welcome everyone too. Our website is now live, so bookings are open! Have a look and feel free to contact me if you have further questions about venues/programme etc (please note for now the programme is provisional although it’s shaping up to be a great one).


Could someone who is able please re-post this to the main ARLIS/NA email list? Unless anyone beats you to it.

Thanks all,

Alexandra Duncan

Assistant Academic Support Librarian

Fashion // Textiles // Material Futures

Central Saint Martins


Co-Editor of ARLISmatters, the UK art libraries and archives blog


New Book: Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man

Inspired by Celia Hartmann’s lightning talk Charles James at the annual conference, I poked around Amazon and landed on the new biography Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man: Fame, Fashion, Art. Sounds like a must for anyone fascinated by this incredible designer!

Free Event: The Seventeeth Annual Richard Martin Costume Studies Symposium


What: The Seventeenth Annual Richard Martin Costume Studies Symposium

When: Friday, April 6th 6:00-8:00pm

Where: Einstein Auditorium, New York University
34 Stuyvesant Street
New York, NY 10003

Guest Speaker:
Vanessa Friedman
Fashion Director, The New York Times

Presentations by M.A. Candidates in Costume Studies:
Laura Gust – “The Spectral Female: The Semiotic Function of the Nightgown within Gothic Visual Culture”
Nicole Truscinski – “Smoke & Mirrors: Dressing the American Woman in Freedom and Virginia Slims”
Lauren Richter-Suriñach – “The Last of the Fashion Illustrators: Women’s Wear Daily in the 1980s”
Olivia Warschaw – “’Disney Fans Are Their Own Breed’: An Exploration of DisneyBound”

Free and Open to the Public

Further information may be found at this link.


ARLIS conference in Salt Lake City 2019

We hope that everyone got a lot out of this year’s conference in New York City.

Were you moved or inspired by our Fashion and Textile Lightning Talks?  Do you have a fashion, textile, or costumes-related paper or a project that you’ve been working on and would like to share?   Do you know of any librarians, archivists, historians, scholars, or curators who you think would want to attend and speak at the conference?  Are there any SLC-area sites that fashion, textile, and costume librarians would be interested in visiting?

Let us know!  Officially calls are not yet open for the SLC conference, but if you have any ideas, please share them with us by commenting below, by emailing Jen Weinraub, or by going to the SLC conference page.