Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Anyone who's delighted over a television character's outfit knows the cosmic pull of wanting to know where it's from. If you're lucky, you found WornOnTV.net before going through the agony of searching. WornOnTV's catalogue of outfits, which is organized by characters, has included 137 shows over its three-year lifetime. That covers everything from the cops and detectives on Brooklyn Nine Nine, Rizzoli & Isle, and Elementary to the superheroes on The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Supergirl. Not to mention the lawyers and lawmakers on The Good Wife, Scandal, House of Cards, and Parks and Recreation. And then of course there are the twentysomething women whose lives are full of hijinks and drama: Jane the Virgin, New Girl, The Mindy Project, and Girls.
You won't find much about Linda Wilks, the woman behind WornOnTV, on the website. Simply describing herself as a "fan of fashion," her name and story doesn't appear anywhere on WornOnTV's many social media feeds. The web designer is in her early 30s and has been making websites since she was 15, but when she created WornOnTV in 2012, she didn't expect it to become a full time job. Now, thanks to the time difference (Wilks lives in Australia), her work day starts at 11:00am when the US-based shows start airing and continues over seven days a week. We spoke to her about patterns in show styling, how she finds all those outfits, and her plans for the site.
How did WornOnTV.net start out, and how has it evolved?
WornOnTV started out in 2012 covering only a few shows that I regularly watched. The Big Bang Theory, Community, and How I Met Your Mother are a few of the original shows. Most of the time I never found exact matches (this is an acquired skill, I have found) and was simply there for fashion inspiration — kind of like a Pinterest board, but because I like learning to code, I wanted to make my own site and structure.
I don't know what I would put on my resume, but I've built up skills over the years of being able to Google like a crazy woman.
Then I opened the suggestions page. I got so many suggestions for all of these shows that I never previously watched. I checked them out and it opened up a myriad of outfits to cover each day. I would come home from work each night and play this game of tracking down clothes. It would take me forever just to find one item, but it was so addictive and WornOnTV's visitors couldn't get enough.
Nowadays, I cover over 100 shows with new ones being added all the time. I don't know what I would put on my resume, but I've built up skills over the years of being able to Google like a crazy woman and find items fairly quickly. WornOnTV is now my job and I hope it continues to grow.
Is this your only job? How does that work?
Yes, the site makes enough money to live off. It earns money mostly through affiliate links — so when someone buys a product through my site I get a small commission. Without this income there is no way I'd have the time to update every day.
How many visitors do you typically get?
The traffic fluctuates throughout the year depending on what shows are airing, but it averages around 400k unique visitors per month.
Let's talk about the shows you write about. What are the most popular shows? Do you have a favorite show to catalogue?
One of the most popular shows I cover is Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family. The girls all have their own definitive styles and we can all relate to at least one of them, fashionably speaking of course. It also helps that Mandi Line [PLL's costume designer] chooses a mix of affordable and high-end clothes. The new show Scream Queens is also quickly becoming one of the top viewed categories on WornOnTV. The Chanels' outfits can be over the top but if you just pick bits and pieces they are totally wearable.
Scream Queens is also my favorite to cover at the moment. The outfits are never dull and I'm never stuck looking for "a plain black T-shirt." The more patterns and shapes they wear, the more fun it is for me.
Are there shows that are off the table for any reason?
Game of Thrones is a show that gets requested a lot but is simply not possible to add. You can't pop down to Bloomingdale's to pick up Margaery's wedding gown (which took 5 to 6 weeks to custom create). Other shows that are off the table are old shows. Sex and the City is one of the most fashionably iconic shows ever, but online shopping didn't really exist back then, so there's no online record of items.
I would never have believed that the Olivia Pope was wearing Target.
I love all the Chanels' outfits. I've never wanted so much pastel and jacquard and fur in my life. What are some of the most popular outfits or pieces of clothing people look for?
The most popular items are always those that are bright and stand out. Dresses always get the most attention, probably because it's easier to emulate a full look with one item. Affordable dresses? Better get in quick.
Do you notice any patterns in the shows themselves? A few of the most recent posts that surprised me were Olivia Pope's jacket from Target and Gina's [of Brooklyn Nine-Nine] Alexander McQueen dress — both characters look amazing, but the outfits seem kind of against type, both in terms of the character (though I could see Gina saving to buy a $600 dress) and their previous wardrobes.
I have been surprised at how much pajamas get attention! Mindy on The Mindy Project and Jess on New Girl both always have fun pajamas (and a new pair each time, of course). Even Joan Watson on Elementary got in the PJ game last week with a pineapple print.
Yep, figuring out patterns and trends within a show (or even a character) is half the battle. I love seeing more affordable items being worn and if it weren't for Lyn Paolo (Scandal's costume designer) I would never have believed that the Olivia Pope was wearing Target.
Gina would totally spend that much on a dress, and you just know she'd have the perfect reasoning to back it up too. Speaking of Gina, her wolf sweater is one of the most searched for items! She has such a rad sense of style.
A lot of people gawk at the prices of items (me too!) and wonder how that character could possibly afford so many expensive items. I wish I had an explanation except that the clothes are playing make believe, just like the actors.
So how do you find the clothes that characters wear? You said it was a skill you had to learn — how did that work?
I just got lucky that my self-employment also involves watching TV and online shopping.
Google Images is my main source — using quite specific keywords. If the character wears regular brands, I might pop those keywords in too. I basically keep adjusting the search phrase until I find something. I also regularly browse department store websites and find items that way (my job is just SO hard). If I'm lucky, I might recognize a print or style from something previously worn on another show.
Have you bought any particular items from seeing it in a show?
I only have a few things I've seen on TV but my favorite is this hoodie that April wears on the opening credits of Parks & Rec. It was a rare eBay find. I'm pretty sure I'd save it over my wedding dress in case of a fire.
What motivates you to keep going? How long do you think you'll keep it up? (Especially since you work seven day weeks!)
What motivates me now is that this is my job. I absolutely love working on the site but you know what else I love? Not working for someone else. It has always been my goal to be self-employed. I just got lucky that my self-employment also involves watching TV and online shopping. It is not always so busy, throughout the year there are quiet periods when I get a good break or shorter days. I don't mind putting in the long hours because that just means there is a demand for what I provide.
Where do you see the site going?
In the future I'd love to get a couple of regular employees on board who are just as passionate and hopefully we could cover all of the shows that get requested every day.