Since ModCloth launched in 2002, it hasn’t been your average online retailer. The site features vintage styles, high-waisted swimsuits (before they were mainstream), and models of every shape, color, and size (tattooed and untattooed).
The site’s managed to remain a popular shopping destination while also avoiding common online shopping faux pas (Photoshopped thigh gaps, missing body parts, and wildly hurtful fat jokes that were never supposed to go live). Fashion has always been a body-obsessed industry, and the Internet just made it easier to further upgrade and disseminate that image—and it’s something that ModCloth has been happy to avoid.
ModCloth hasn’t just avoided this stigma, but proactively pushed against it. In September 2014, the company took things further with an anti-Photoshop campaign. The pledge wasn’t to eschew the software altogether, but to use it for simple retouches versus digital plastic surgery.
Before this campaign, though, ModCloth had another reason for asking non-models to show off its clothes. “When ModCloth first started, the decision to use non-professional models was about cost,” the site’s creative director, Joe DeFerrari, said via email. “There wasn’t money for models, so [the founder of ModCloth] Susan would invite some friends over to model & pay them with pizza.
“As time went on, it became more about showing a more diverse range of women and bodies. We wanted to show our community something they could relate to and fashion they can see themselves in. If they see women that look like them, they’re more likely to understand how something might look or fit on their own bodies.”
Of course, it’s all fun and games until your photo is the one going un-Photoshopped.
As an extension of this real-people mission, the company recently announced a year-long open casting call, asking people to use the hashtag #fashiontruth. Each month, ModCloth will choose someone to get a spotlight on its site (check out a few of the recent winners). When the all-lady tech team here at the Daily Dot was asked to participate, we got on board with a “Sure, why not?!”
On a surprisingly sunny, freezing January day in Portland, Ore., the three of us assembled, post-CES and moderately ill (which only added to how very “real people” we were). ModCloth sent a photographer named Kristen Cofer, and we spent the day pretending to be models, or something like it. It was about as awkward a start as you can imagine: Kristen was kind enough to let us plunk away at our keyboards until the last moment, when we threw on our garb and had no idea what we were doing.
Naturally, there were some feelings of self-consciousness; we knew these photos weren’t going to be overly retouched, and I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I know part of me wouldn’t have hated that.
I won’t bore you with the details of the day (TL;DR: We walked around the most Portland of Portland neighborhoods and eventually ended up taking some lovely photos!), but afterwards I realized why this campaign and ModCloth’s anti-Photoshop (or, more appropriately, respect-the-Photoshop) movement is important.
See, I’m trying to find a dress for an upcoming dinner event, and I’m looking through ModCloth. I realize the only photos I’m stopping on are those with girls in them—real girls, wearing the dress, taking mirror selfies, and writing honest reviews about the items.
I don’t even think of these photos as refreshing, they’re just plain helpful. Sure, it’s a great way to infiltrate a superfluously edited industry, but more than anything… it just makes sense. I know I appreciate seeing actual women wearing clothes I’m considering buying.
Browsing the #fashiontruth photos, it’s clear that ModCloth’s mission to find real models who come in every shape and size won’t be disappointed. And the rest of us will be able to see what our clothes might actually look like once we order them.
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For my #ValentineBirthday, Steph and I were decked out in our new @Modcloth dresses, which we got especially for the occasion! She rocked the "Poised To Enchant" frock, while I sparkled in this sequined number called "Must Be Lustrous" by @bbdakota. @ssweany #sequin #sequins #sequined #iridescent #iridescence #bbdakota #modcloth #fashiontruth #jewelry #clutch #purse #fashion #designer #valentinesday #birthday #birthdayoutfit #thisis30 #outfitoftheday #OOTD #LBD #partydress #dress #birthdaydress
Of course, when you browse ModCloth’s site or Facebook photos, you will no doubt notice there are more white models with conventionally beautiful faces, and while they might not have Victoria’s Secret-level bodies, they’re thin-to-athletic-sized. Certainly, ModCloth doesn’t defy all fashion site stereotypes, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another major retailer that pays attention and showcases diversity like it does. There might be fewer plus-size, minority, and tattooed models, but there are more than I’ve seen in my years of online shopping showcased in one catalog shoot.
ModCloth is an Internet-first company, and one of the Internet’s jobs is to democratize things that have traditionally been controlled by a hierarchy. Fashion is no exception, and ModCloth has no intentions of letting it be.
Screengrab via ModCloth/Facebook