Last spring, Christine Yang (SFS ’18) and Jennifer Simons (COL ’18) were eating pizza during a midterm study break when they fell into a discussion about the many problems that college women face. Both women are interested in fashion and began to consider the difficulty of always wanting to wear a new outfit but not wanting to spend money excessively in order to do so.
That discussion sparked the creation of Dressmate, a fashion-oriented social media startup aimed at helping female college students borrow and lend professional and party clothes.
Set to launch at Georgetown University in late September or early October, Young and Simons’ startup has a key demographic: college women who are on a budget and are seeking an opportunity to wear affordable, high-quality clothes.
Yang cited the pressure on college women today to adopt a mentality of constant consumerism in order to keep pace with current fashion trends as a reason for Dressmate’s development.
“There’s more pressure to feel like you have to buy clothes all the time, especially with social media,” Yang said. “We understand that college students are on a budget.”
Yang and Simons began working on the startup last summer and were able to expand through hiring 16 campus representatives from Georgetown as a primary team to run the company in its initial stages.
In an effort to make Dressmate more accessible, Yang and Simons are currently seeking to develop a mobile app for iOS and Android. The app will be similar to Instagram, allowing users to have their own profiles with bios on which they can link to their own social media accounts and post pictures of the clothing they are willing to lend to other users.
On the app, clothing will be available for a three-day rental period for a one-time fee of $5, $10 or $15. Users will be held accountable if the clothing is not returned or is returned in poor condition.
However, according to Yang, a large part of Dressmate’s mission is social connection. For instance, when users have to coordinate with each other to pick up and drop off clothing, the app facilitates new relationships.
“The overall arching mission of Dressmate is to bring people together,” Yang said.
Maddie Westrick (SFS ’18), a campus representative for Dressmate, is looking forward to the convenience and the possibilities of a wide lending and borrowing system.
“It’s really exciting to try a different look one day, have different clothing options that I wouldn’t normally think of and make connections with other girls with similar interests,” Westrick said.
As well as personal style and party outfits, Dressmate provides a resource for women entering the workforce. Professional clothing is especially expensive and students frequently cannot afford to buy suits, skirts and tops. A shopper could easily spend over $200 in purchasing the components of a mid-priced suit for an interview from the online catalogues of brands like Ann Taylor or Nordstrom.
Lisa Liu (MSB ’19), another campus representative for Dressmate, is looking forward to the launch because of its support of professional development with a supply of work attire.
“Dressmate means an opportunity to try out things you don’t have the opportunity to,” Liu said. “As a sophomore who’s just starting to look into the professional world, I haven’t built up my business wardrobe yet, so I personally will be using Dressmate to get work outfits.”
According to Yang, after Dressmate’s launch at Georgetown, the company will seek to expand to other universities in D.C. and then to universities in New York City, and, if Yang and Simons’ goal is met, to 40 universities nationwide.
“College is a really important time to development, not just as a person but also to your style,” Yang said. “It’s right before you enter the real world. This is your last time to try different things, and I don’t think your budget should determine what your style is like.”
Jeff Reid, an adjunct professor of strategy at the McDonough School of Business and the founding director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, commented on the dynamic entrepreneurial culture at Georgetown, of which Dressmate is a part.
“The fact that we have a lot of companies that have thrived is a great tribute to Georgetown students,” Reid said. “Georgetown students are likely to see problems in the world and want to solve them. Our entrepreneurial culture gets stronger every year.”
Victoria Santiago (COL ’19) said the professional attire and formal aspects of Dressmate appeal to her and that the startup presents college women with an opportunity for additional income.
“I definitely see the value in attaining a professional wardrobe that you wouldn’t otherwise,” Santiago said. “I don’t know personally if I would use the going-out clothes, unless it was for a formal event, but I do think it’s a good way, even as a college student who might have a decent wardrobe, to make a little money on the side. I’d strongly support it.”
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