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Virtual Fashion for High-End Style on the Cheap

If you can’t stomach the price tag for a real-life luxury trench coat or hoodie, perhaps a virtual high-fashion piece is in your future. Thanks to a growing emphasis on fashion in video games, you can get your styling and logo fix digitally. That emphasis comes in several forms, from unbranded customizations to designer content from names like Balenciaga, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and more.

From the perspective of a budget fashionista, this virtual styling trend could be another resource in your toolbox of saving money. Read on to find out why.

Virtual fashion headline above image of runway models.
Source: Canva.

Why we shop

In a 2023 survey by Anagram, shopaholics identified these top shopping spree motivators:

  1. Lift the spirit
  2. Relieve anxiety
  3. Filling the time
  4. Entertainment
  5. Gaining confidence

Even if you’re not a shopaholic per se, you can likely relate to some of these motivators. After all, there’s a reason the term ‘retail therapy’ exists. Shopping feels good. It can take your mind off other worries. It’s also an immersive experience that taps into your creative side.

Virtual fashion to scratch the itch

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Virtual shopping, whether within a video game or in a fashion app, does check some of the same boxes as real-world shopping. It certainly fills the time and entertains. If you’re a true lover of fashion, virtual shopping can also boost your mood and distract you from worry spirals.

To be clear, I don’t advocate gaming as a treatment for compulsive shopping. But you could use gaming and virtual fashion to delay or reduce unnecessary shopping splurges — especially those that come out of boredom or anxiety.

To use this strategy effectively, couple it with a spending freeze. A spending freeze is a predetermined time you will postpone discretionary purchases. Say you come across a nice handbag you adore, for example. You might say you’ll wait 48 hours before buying it. The point of the delay is to ensure you really want it. Often, the urge to buy that piece fades quickly and you can skip the purchase entirely.

In that 48-hour freeze period, try filling your open time with virtual styling activities. Customize a character in your favorite shooter game or complete styling challenges in one of the apps below.

Apps and games with virtual shopping and styling

Here’s a look at some apps and games that provide a taste of high-end shopping on the cheap.

FashionVerse

FashionVerse is an iOS and Android app by Tommy Hilfiger and game developer Tilting Point. You complete styling challenges and earn virtual cash and gold to access more garments and accessories. The community provides feedback on your looks in the form of votes.

Drest

Drest is similar to FashionVerse, but you pick your model and your style catalog includes branded pieces from Prada, Versace, Valentino, and more. Drest also is more realistic than FashionVerse, which I like. The pieces are also labeled by season, which is interesting.

In the first few uses, I see that the clothing and shoe options are limited to 2020 and 2021 collections. I’m hoping that expands as I continue to use the app.

Drest is doubling down on the gaming and fashion crossover. The app recently appointed former Candy Crush Saga GM as its co-CEO and another gaming industry veteran as Chief Technology Officer.

Covet Fashion

Covet is my favorite of the styling apps. As with the others, you complete styling challenges for rewards. The challenges are staged as occasions. So the Get Emma Ready for Brunch asks you to choose hair, makeup, and shoes for Emma’s brunch date.  As with Drest, the fashion pieces are actual branded items.

Saints Row

Follow The Saints street gang in Santo Ileso, a made-up city somewhere in the American Southwest. Styling and clothing options run deep in Saints Row. You can choose the obvious outfit pieces like pants and shirts, plus socks, underwear, and hats. You can also customize makeup and hair.

Minecraft

Minecraft invites you to explore a world made of blocks. You can engage with Minecraft in creative mode or survival mode. Creative mode gives you unlimited resources to build with blocks. Survival mode is challenge-oriented and requires you to manage your health.

The game has character customization options in the character creator, but you can also download extra content for more options. Search for fashion mods in Curseforge or the Minecraft marketplace. Sadly, the Burberry collection for Minecraft announced in 2022 is no longer available.  

History’s most interesting fashion and video game collabs

Here are a few notable collaborations between luxury fashion houses and video games from recent years:

  • Louis Vuitton and League of Legends (2019) featured in-game skins and a physical capsule collection of bracelets, boots, and bubble skirts
  • Gucci and Sims (2020): Sims characters could try on pieces from Gucci’s sustainable Off the Grid line
  • Balenciaga and Fortnite (2021): Balenciaga designs were featured in the game’s Item Shop and real-life pieces inspired by Fortnite were available in Balenciaga stores
  • Prada and Riders Republic (2021): Game characters could partake in their favorite adventure sport wearing technical gear from Prada’s Linea Rossa line
  • Burberry and Minecraft (2022): Users could download the Burberry: Freedom to Go Beyond content for use in Minecraft and purchase pieces from Burberry’s Minecraft capsule collection IRL

According to CyberGhost, luxury labels see video game collabs as potentially more cost-efficient than traditional forms of advertising. If that’s the case, we can expect to these branded deals ramping up in 2024 and beyond.

Maybe sometime soon we’ll see Chanel pieces in Overwatch or Victoria Beckham designs in Call of Duty. I wouldn’t mind role-playing as a high-fashion shooter. That certainly sounds more entertaining than shopping $10 sweaters from Old Navy.

Take the poll

So what do you think? Can virtual styling help you manage your real-life spend on clothes? Weigh in using the poll below.