Recently, Lacey Byrne decided she wanted to dress like an “It girl,” inspired by some of today’s trendsetters, like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. But as it’s been her experience with other internet-born aesthetics, she had trouble translating the digital fantasy to real life. “I see them, but how can I actually put them on?” Byrne says she finds herself wondering when she tries to bring the trends on her smartphone screen into her own wardrobe. This time, instead of agonizing over the details once again, Byrne decided to turn to an unconventional styling tool: ChatGPT.
“ChatGPT comes in to fill the gaps,” Byrne, who is based in Toronto, tells Refinery29. “I can make an aesthetic happen in real life for me.”
Byrne is not alone in reaching for artificial intelligence to fix our everyday styling struggles. On TikTok, searches for “chat gpt fashion” have over four billion views, with creators testing out if the tool is useful for getting dressed. The results are varied. While technology has been helping people style themselves for decades — from the old Polyvore collages to Pinterest boards and closet organization apps — the two-way conversation provided by artificial intelligence tools makes this experiment both fascinating and jarring.
Created by the tech company Open AI, ChatGPT launched last year as the latest stage of an earlier artificial intelligence model, called InstructGPT. Its key feature is the chat interface that allows users to ask questions and request information using prompts. According to the company-provided examples, users can input prompts like “explain quantum computing in simple terms,” to which the AI responds with a 119-word summary.
Many of its popular uses range across a variety of professional fields — marketing, mathematics, software engineering, creative writing, and beyond — with a recent report from the Wall Street Journal revealing that nearly 20% of jobs could see their tasks cut in half, thanks to ChatGPT. (Although it’s disrupted tech recently, the company has also faced controversy amid data breaches that caused Italy to ban the platform temporarily, as well as a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission in the United States.)
But fashion is a subjective and deeply creative field. “I think it’s really interesting because style is so personal and yet there are some things that are pretty practical,” says Rachel Schwab, a New York-based content creator, who recently used ChatGPT to put together an outfit to go for a walk around the city. Schwab explains that while there are factors aligned with taste and personality in fashion, there’s also functional elements like location, weather, and occasion, which make ChatGPT a useful tool.
@justbecauseitspretty @stevemadden ballet flats styled by CHAT GBT and I’m obsessed with the final result 🤯🤯 #stevemaddenshoes #SMSQUAD #SM #stevemadden #balletflatoutfits #stylingballetflats #chatgbt #chatgbthacks ♬ original sound – Rachel Schwab 💖
For her experiment, which she shared on TikTok, Schwab asked ChatGPT: “How would I style ballet flats in NYC?” The AI responded in a detailed, bulleted answer that included tips like “opt for jeans” and “add a statement piece” to match New York City’s “bold and eclectic fashion.” “I really wanted to see if it could get me an actual result, like a good outfit,” she remembers, “and I was wildly surprised.” Schwab ended up with a comfortable, yet stylish outfit that featured a striped sweater, blue jeans, black ballet flats, and a puffer jacket. It may seem like a basic outfit, but Schwab says it got “to a tee” what she needed that day.
Rae Hersey, a New York-based content creator, sees the ChatGPT styling capabilities as “the Clueless wardrobe,” the fictitious computer software that provided the movie’s main character Cher Horowitz with outfit options in the opening scene. Much like Byrne, Hersey says she’s not fond of creating outfits every day, which is why she found ChatGPT an interesting tool to try. “I just dream of being able to have all these combinations that I can’t even think of,” Hersey admits. But on the downside, Hersey says the tool still lacks the kind of personalization that would make her swoon over an outfit formula. “I put in descriptive terms like ‘trendy,’ ‘cute,’ and ‘edgy’ and I wasn’t sure if I trusted ChatGPT’s opinion on what those things were,” she says. “I feel like there’s an acquired taste or look and it’s hard to get that through ChatGPT.”
Siena Filippi, a New York-based vintage seller and content creator, didn’t have high expectations when she first tried the tool to get dressed. “I was mostly trying to have fun with it, but I also wanted to test its ability to take what I give it and actually create something cohesive,” Filippi says. In her TikTok video, she asked ChatGPT to tell her how to dress like “a trendy Pinterest girl living in New York City,” noting that she wanted her outfit to be cool enough to be “Instagrammable.” The AI suggested wearing a pair of high-waisted mom jeans and a graphic T-shirt with a slogan or design on it, styled with a black oversized blazer, chunky combat boots or platform sneakers, gold hoops in geometric shapes, and a black leather backpack. “I was impressed that it could do what it could do, but it wasn’t necessarily something that I was like, ‘Oh, I would totally wear this,’” she says.
To address this issue, Sheena Virmani and Tianna Going have set out to build a chat-based AI styling app — launching in beta version soon — that tailors suggestions to each customer’s taste. “We’ve worked with a team of developers and stylists to create a data set for this model that gives style advice, shopping links, and shoppable moodboards,” says Virmani. “It’s all part of making it accessible for people.” Similarly to ChatGPT, the app, called Lewk, is based on a messaging interface that allows users to have a conversation with the AI, requesting information, providing feedback, and asking questions. But Lewk has an edge: “It’s really important that it’s personalized and actually useful for the customers, so that’s why we’ve brought on actual stylists on the team.”
The human-AI hybrid offered by Lewk may be a game changer for people who are still hesitant to rely on these tools to make personalized decisions. “The goal is that when someone comes on they’re going to actually put in their information: what style do they like, what brand they like, what color do they like,” Going says. “So we can start to understand them and that will help support some of the shoppable guides that we’re actually providing.”
While the AI capabilities of styling are intriguing to many who have tried it, sources interviewed for this story admit that it’s still a mixed bag. “At the moment I would say it’s fun, but not part of my everyday routine,” says Hersey. Meanwhile, Schwab is open to giving it a try as the AI tools continue to improve. “It is of course missing that human touch, so it’s not foolproof, but I think it’s a great resource,” she says.
Byrne, on the other hand, had success with her “It girl” outfit experiment. So much so, in fact, that she says she felt more confident in her style choice when she used ChatGPT, and since then has been able to “expand [her] horizons and be more creative with [her] outfits.” “I always leave ChatGPT feeling inspired,” she says.
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