Andrea Wetherald and Sara Longo love to talk and swap clothes.
The friends and co-workers surf social media and fashion sites for pictures of outfits they want to show each other. Sometimes, they bring bags of jewelry and clothes to browse and borrow to their workplace, the VA hospital at the University of Pittsburgh.
"There's got to be an easier way for us to do this," said Ms. Wetherald, 25, of Highland Park.
Since last fall, they've been developing a solution, an app called Share Closet (www.sharecloset.net) that will help people show, swap and sell apparel, shoes and accessories without the trouble of hauling bags to traditional clothing swaps.
The app, which is slated to debut later this year, will work similarly to Google Plus. Users can upload fashion images and determine how much someone can see of their wardrobe based on which group they allow that person to join. Lending clothes will be limited to those who are accepted as actual friends, whereas someone can sell items to any Share Closet member. Share Closet will help facilitate shipping by providing a label and adding a flat rate onto the total transaction.
Another feature is a series of reminders the app sends as it gets closer to the time for someone to return something she's borrowed.
"Share Closet kind of does all the dirty things behind sharing," said Ms. Longo, 23, of Hampton, the partnership's chief operating officer.
For example, it tells friends not to loan borrowed apparel to someone else and to make sure they dry-clean something before returning it.
"We would love for it to be a Web app, a mobile app, something you can use on your iPad or iPod or Android phone," Ms. Longo said.
Neither creator hails from a technology background: Ms. Longo majored in biology and CEO Ms. Wetherald is a social worker. So they've enlisted the help of a programmer and looked to local startup groups, such as AlphaLab and the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship, for advice. Ms. Wetherald also enrolled in the Kauffman FastTrac program for entrepreneurs through Chatham University and shared what she learned with Ms. Longo.
The course was a "big step," Ms. Wetherald said. "I just wanted to have a better understanding of how to build [the business] smart and become an entrepreneur."
The pair researched existing fashion apps and websites, such as Poshmark, Threadflip and Piperlime, for tips on what works and for design ideas. They also turned to potential Share Closet users for development advice.
"We administered a short, easy survey on several college campuses across Ohio and Pennsylvania, just to get a sense of what people who were close to our age were doing in terms of sharing," Ms. Wetherald said.
The idea received positive reviews, including from mutual friend Matt Pritchard, whose enthusiasm and ideas for the project earned him a spot on Team Share Closet.
"He's helping us a lot with our business model and developing our concept and app features," Ms. Longo said.
For Ms. Wetherald, the app is more than just a fashion aide. It's a tool for promoting a more sustainable, giving lifestyle, something she witnessed during a college trip to Botswana.
"In their culture they just shared everything," she said. "It was a cultural faux pas if someone needed something, and you had it, not to share it with them.
"They were so happy and they had this incredible sense of family and friendship, and I kept thinking there has to be a way for this culture to be more approachable in the United States."
She hopes Share Closet will be part of the solution as its users exchange outfits for everything from first dates to graduation days and more.
"We really think we're bringing people together for events that are meaningful or important."
Contact Share Closet at email@example.com.
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SaraB_PG. First Published March 26, 2013 4:00 AM