Meet Kara! She’s February’s Featured Fashionista and one-half of the husband and wife team that has created the virtual wardrobe app, “Dressed.” This fabulous app makes planning your daily outfit a cinch, but we’ll get to the details in a moment.
Kara is originally from the US, and has moved to Australia for her career as a marine biologist (and yes, she will talk about sharks in this feature!). Kara always looks amazing for work with the most beautiful vintage dresses I have ever seen. Her love of fashion is where the idea of Dressed came from; she wanted a way to make getting dressed easier each morning.
Q&A With Kara
Tell me a little about yourself.
Kara: These kinds of questions are so hard! I should start off by saying brevity is not my strong suit. I’m a 34-year-old marine biologist living in Australia with my amazing husband Adam (who is an Apple App Developer by day and a musician/filmmaker/mean-martini-maker by night), my one-eyed dog Willie (whose hobbies include photobombing, guarding a rubber toy aptly named “Rhino,” and fervently hoping for the day when he’s in charge), and my ginger tabby named Finn (whose hobbies include looking concerned, bopping my ankles when I walk past, and serving as Master Techblocker. Just try reading your iPad with Finn around, you’ll see what I mean).
I would call myself a conservationist, vintage huntress, amateur Calceologist*, arbiter of good coffee (and good beer for that matter), and total science nerd.
*Calceology, n., the study of footwear
Can you tell me about your app, “Dressed,” and how it works?
Kara: Every woman I know who has seen the movie Clueless has coveted Cher’s computer program that let her mix and match pieces of her clothing to create an outfit in the morning. Enter Dressed – the virtual wardrobe app even Cher wishes she had!
Dressed is an app for the iPhone that allows fashion lovers to import their own clothing – from images on the web, their own photos, or from included templates – and then plan outfits and experiment with new looks by mixing and matching clothing, shoes, and accessories. You just swipe garments from the rack onto your customized virtual mannequin to create new outfits and try out different styles. We’ve even created a fabric animation – your clothing actually swishes and sways realistically as you interact with them (it’s the coolest thing and needs to be seen to be believed). The app is great for planning what to wear, keeping track of what you own, and is the perfect shopping companion for trying on new garments before you buy. We like to quote Miuccia Prada who said, “Fashion is instant language.” In a nutshell, Dressed helps you speak more clearly.
What inspired you to create Dressed?
Kara: Truthfully, Dressed was born from my own need to organize my overflowing closet! I was faced with the challenge I think most women face each morning – what do I wear today? And, at 5 am with a coffee in hand staring bleakly at my closet, that question wasn’t getting any easier to answer.
What we wear each day is the way we express ourselves. We are all more confident, more decisive, and more effective in our job and personal life when our clothing reflects our personality. But I think we all share the same struggles – lack of time, lack of creativity on too little sleep, and an inability to remember half of what we own, which leads us to throw on the same 10 things week after week.
For me, Dressed solves all of those problems – It allows me to try on outfits and experiment with new looks without ever actually having to try anything on. I flip through my virtual racks of clothing when I’m standing in line to get coffee; I plan and schedule my outfits for the week when I’m sitting on the sofa sipping wine; I experiment with different shoe options on my virtual mannequin when I’m snuggled in bed, and I carry my whole closet with me while shopping to see if, yeah, those red pumps WOULD perfectly match that dress. The app keeps track of details like dates worn, brand, price, color, season, function, custom tags, and more, so finding things is ridiculously easy. It is literally the most fun and functional app I own.
I personally would not know where to start with creating an app. How were you able to bring your idea to life?
Kara: For us, the first step is always: Identify a Problem. The next 12,000 steps involve a lot of planning, sketching, programming, and rethinking. A lot of people think about the “What” – as in what the app does, but the real challenge is more about “HOW does it do what it does?” Adam and I spent years in brainstorming sessions sorting out the “How” way before we started writing the app. Putting thought into the user interface, the pathway a user will instinctively want to take to accomplish a task, the design of each and every button – the end goal is to have an app that is deceptively simple, with a huge amount of back-end going into just how to make it that simple.
Right now, Dressed is only available on iPhone. Do you plan to bring it to Android in the future?
Kara: At the moment, we’re focused on the iPhone version. We’re definitely listening to our followers, several of whom have pleaded for an Android version. Although there aren’t any immediate plans for an Android version, it’s definitely on our radar.
I’ve seen a couple apps that are similar to Dressed. What sets Dressed apart from the rest?
Kara: For me, fashion is so personal and exists as a tool to make us feel good about ourselves. Dressed is differentiated from its competitors because, truthfully, many of the apps with similar functionality are very static and rather boring. It’s like planning your outfit using a spreadsheet (trust me, I’m a scientist. I KNOW spreadsheets). We think fashion should be fun, and everything about Dressed was designed with fun in mind—from the way the clothing swishes and sways realistically like real cloth, to the way the virtual mannequin can be customized. We don’t skimp on the functionality, as Dressed is a very powerful app—but we make common actions very intuitive and inject whimsy wherever possible.
Dressed Promotional Video
What do you hope the future is for Dressed?
Kara: We are overflowing with ideas about what the future holds for Dressed. We would love to get the app into the hands of every woman in the world, a goal that takes time and some serious determination. We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from our customers, so our next steps are to focus on adding some of the most commonly requested features to the app. Additionally, we are looking into ways Dressed can integrate into other existing fashion services. There are exciting times ahead!
Switching gears a bit, now. What made you decide to move to Australia, and where are you originally from?
Kara: Before I start with the move, it’s important to give a bit more detail on what I do. I’m a marine biologist, but my specialization is on the central nervous system of cartilaginous fishes (ie, shark brains). So, as you might imagine, my skills are not as ubiquitous as say, someone who specializes in accounting or web design. In my profession, you generally go where the job is. So, the move to Australia came about because I was offered an amazing job, in an amazing lab where I could focus on exactly what I love. My husband was incredibly supportive of this new adventure and we packed up ourselves, our house, and our dog and cat, and made the trek all the way to Perth, Western Australia.
What has been your biggest adjustment to living in Australia?
Kara: I think the biggest adjustment is the distance from family. We have friends all over the world, but our family is based in the States. It’s very difficult to know they’re a 36 hour flight away, especially where there are major life events – like my new niece being born, the passing of my grandmother, family weddings – that aren’t paused simply because we’re not there. And even more than the big things, I hate missing the minutiae of their days – the little things that happen in their lives that, despite Skype and the wonders of technology, we simply can’t be a part of.
I think it is absolutely fascinating that you are a marine biologist! Could you tell me a little about your job, and what a day typically looks like for you?
Kara: My first love has always been science. Since I was 5-years-old, I’ve wanted to study sharks and, as a Professor, now focus specifically on their brain (weirdest job alert – but I love it). A typical day for me involves hitting the snooze button multiple times (I am SO not a morning person). My husband usually wakes up first and makes me a latte (he’s the best). I open Dressed to my daily outfit and set about starting the getting ready process and then head into work. I work at a large University and have my own tiny office (I call it The Cupboard Under the Stairs – but it’s allll mine). One of the greatest things about my job is that it changes daily – depending on the day, I’m either lecturing, running experiments, performing dissections, in a meeting, training a student, prepping for a conference, traveling to said conference, writing a paper, writing a grant, analyzing data, prepping for field work, out in the field diving/sampling/boating, interacting with the media…it keeps me on my toes!
If you had to pick, what would you say has been your most exciting experience as a marine biologist?
Kara: Ohhhh….so many to choose from! While I was living in New Zealand for my PhD, we were working with local fishing competitions for their tag and release programs – instead of landing and killing the shark, they catch it and a judge measures it for entry into the competition, but it’s then released back alive. During one of these trips, a juvenile great white shark (~2.2m) was caught. We were able to fit it with a special satellite tag that would send back critical data on its movement patterns following its release – the first juvenile white shark ever tagged off mainland New Zealand. However, because it was exhausted from the original catch, we scientists had to hang over the side of the boat and hold the animal in our arms (I was on the non-bitey end), aerating its gills, before it was strong enough to swim away. After about 20 minutes, with a surge of power, it was off. I can honestly say, on top of a part of a large historical moment in science, holding a great white shark in my arms was a true highlight of my career.
You always wear the most amazing dresses every single day, even to work. Have you always been so stylish?
Kara: Absolutely not! And I have the photos from high school to prove it. Truthfully, I’m not sure when the change happened. I used to walk past shop windows and see a beautiful dress and, like many of us, walk away thinking “I have nowhere to wear that.” I’d succumb to the notion that there was clothing I would wear only when I lost 5 pounds, focus on the parts of me that I thought were imperfect, and listened the subtle message that, to succeed in science, I would need to defer to a more masculine identity to survive in a profession dominated by men.
Then one day I wore a pretty dress. I bought the sparkly heels and then MADE an event to wear them to. And the rhinestone necklace that was sitting in my drawer collecting dust because I was ‘saving it for a special occasion’ – I wore it on a Tuesday. And then I did it the next day. Not only did it make me happy, it made me BETTER. I felt more powerful and more myself in a dress and heels than I ever had in jeans. I had more confidence, created more opportunities for myself, and walked into rooms looking people in the eye. I suppose that evolved into a personal philosophy: “Every day is an excuse to look and feel fabulous.” Why waste a single day conforming to what makes other people comfortable? Why fulfill a stereotype that simply doesn’t feel like me?
How would you describe your personal style?
Kara: Hmmm… I’d call my style Vintage Modernism. Fit and Flare for the Dramatic. Floaty. Feminine. Donna Reid meets one of those Bond Girls with an evening gown under her wetsuit.
If you follow my Instagram feed (which was originally my husband’s, but I commandeered it and he’s not getting it back!) you will know I love vintage, especially the 50’s and early 60’s. I love dresses and very VERY rarely wear trousers, unless they are (a) exceptionally cute (b) necessary due to some sort of physical labor or (c) a symbol of a REALLY bad day.
My style came about from simply embracing what made me feel great. Instead of focusing on the parts of my body I hated, I started to celebrate the parts of my body I love and looked for silhouettes that complimented it. I love a super fitted waist and a twirly skirt. I love texture and details and intricate applique. I love print and color and sparkle. I also love putting a modern twist on vintage style – whether it’s a statement necklace or a quirky shoe. I love dressing for me, wearing things that make me feel amazing, and I’m no longer afraid of the stereotypes for a “scientist” or “normal” I’m supposed to adhere to. My favorite moments are when I come downstairs and my husband appreciably takes in my look for the day and says, “Baby, no one could pull that off but you.”
What is your favorite store?
Kara: Given my love of vintage, I simply don’t have a favorite store. I actually love the variety and the hunt the most – discovering a new Etsy shop or a vintage store in the city that just opened. I travel a lot for work, and there’s always boatloads of research that leads to an intricate map of the best vintage haunts in my newly discovered city. I always plan on an afternoon in whatever town I travel to and spend the day solo, skipping around town, seeing what new treasures I can find, with no one to answer to but myself.
I must admit, I am a bit intimidated by vintage shopping. This is mainly because I do not know where to start, and I always seem to like things that aren’t my size. What tips do you have for finding the perfect vintage outfit?
Kara: Vintage shopping can be intimidating, but there are ways to navigate the waters:
(1) Think about the clothes you have that make you feel the most beautiful – what features do you want to play up? This will go a long way towards directing you to an era that will make your heart sing. A good guide to vintage silhouettes and what they emphasize/deemphasize can be found here: http://www.vintagevixen.com/pages/vintage-clothing-style-guide-silhouettes-by-decade
(2) Next, hit up a few local vintage stores. They have knowledgeable, passionate shop owners who are ready and willing to help! Plus, once you have relationships with them and they know what you’re looking for, they’ll let you know when they get new stock and can even source specific items for you.
(3) I can’t stress this enough: TRY IT ON! If you hear yourself saying, “I can’t wear that because…” stop it immediately! You never know until you try it on.
(4) Consider learning how to sew. This doesn’t mean you have to suddenly become ready to sign up for Project Runway, but learning the basics of tailoring can be very empowering. Suddenly, it’s not about changing yourself to fit the clothes, it’s about changing the clothes to fit YOU.
(5) I’d also recommend getting a good friend or tailor (or hey, that new sewing teacher you just discovered!) and get your measurements. Understanding your body will go a long way to determining if a garment will fit. When you know your measurements and body type, then you can venture into the treasure trove that is Etsy. There are SO many wonderful vintage sellers on Etsy – with the bonus that you’re supporting small business owners and shopping green.
I know it can be disheartening when the most perfect vintage dress doesn’t fit. But, the beauty of vintage is that, when it DOES fit, it feels as if it somehow traveled through time just to meet you.
Can you tell me a little about the outfit you picked for this post?
Kara: This is a vintage sundress I’ve had for years – I chose this look because I think it embodies everything I strive for when I’m getting dressed in the morning: Perfect fit, a beautiful print, a pop of color. The best way to guarantee a successful day is by knowing you’re worthy of beautiful things. That you’re ALWAYS worth the effort.
Where to find it:
Clutch Bag: Alannah Hill
Any final thoughts you would like to add?
Kara: Life is too short to be doing the things you don’t love. To be wearing things that don’t make you feel good about yourself. To have people in your life who aren’t lifting you up. Everyone deserves to feel beautiful and embrace what makes them unique. If you have a moment of self-doubt, write me and I’ll tell you how awesome you are.
Featured Fashionistas is a section I’ve added to Have Clothes, Will Travel that will highlight one lovely, fashionable lady each month. The Featured Fashionista can have a business, blog, etc. they would like to share with my readers, or just a love of fashion, or all of the above! I will spend some time putting together a highlight of the Fashionista, and if they happen to live close to me, I will also do a photo shoot with their favorite outfit. If the Fashionista does not live nearby, they can send me pictures they took of their fab outfit. If you would like to be my next Featured Fashionista click here, and tell me a little about yourself.