Recently, I was browsing Pinterest looking at different outfit possibilities for a casual dress that I’d just purchased online, and I started thinking about how to write alt text for casual outfits that I often see online. These images are frequently shared on social media by bloggers and other everyday people, and typically contain clothing that is accessible to a majority of people in terms of cost and style- after all, I’m not going to be browsing social media looking for ideas on how to wear an evening dress in multiple ways, but I’d almost definitely be looking for other ways that people have worn things like sweaters, different colored shoes, and scarves as well. Adding alt text and image descriptions can not only help people make their outfit posts more visible to others, but they can also help people who are blind, low vision, or otherwise visually impaired with learning more about fashion and putting together outfits. Here are my tips for how to write alt text for casual outfits on social media and blogs. Please note that this post does not provide fashion advice or outfit ideas, just tips on how to make these types of posts accessible for a larger audience.
What is alt text? What is an image description?
Alt text tells people what is in an image, such as text, colors, or basic essential details. If an image fails to load, alt text will display in its place. Search engines also index alt text information and consider it a factor when determining search engine ratings.
An image description gives more details than alt text and allows someone to learn more about what is in an image that goes beyond alt text. Alt text gives the user the most important information while image descriptions provide further detail. For example, alt text tells someone that I dropped an earring on the floor, and an image description tells someone that I dropped one of my rose quartz dangle earrings on the beige carpet, and that I look frustrated.
- How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired
- Writing Image Descriptions For Red Carpet Outfits
- How To Write Image Descriptions For Cosplay
Should I use both alt text and image descriptions?
If possible, use both alt text and image description when posting about fashion or outfit details on social media, in order to ensure that all outfit details are included. Alt text is read out loud when hovering over the image, while image descriptions are typically written in a different area or in the comments so that the user can choose whether they want to read the extended description or not. It is strongly recommended that alt text be 125 characters or less to ensure compatibility for popular screen readers. Image descriptions can be longer, but I recommend keeping them the length of a tweet, or about 280 characters whenever possible, though longer descriptions are also okay as long as they have relevant information.
- How To Write Video Descriptions For TikTok
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
- Using Twitter With Vision Impairment
What to include when writing alt text for casual outfits
Helpful information to add when writing alt text for casual outfits includes:
- Basic color/shade names of visible clothing, i.e burgundy dress with brown boots
- What types of clothing/accessories are being used, such as a pink fit and flare dress with a gray infinity scarf
- Names of styles that are used for clothing, i.e a moto jacket, bell-sleeve shirt, or skinny jeans
- Sleeve length, if relevant- no need to mention the sleeve length on a t-shirt, but it can be helpful for dresses or blouses
- The fabric of the clothing, if it is interesting- a green velvet midi skirt or a black leather jacket are interesting, denim jeans are less so
- Any text that is in the image such as a watermark or writing on clothes
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What to exclude when writing alt text for casual outfits
Information to exclude when writing alt text for casual outfits can include:
- Information about the model or background of the image, since the focus is on the clothing
- Over-describing colors or patterns- no need to describe what red or stripes look like
- Brand names for clothing, unless the brand has a unique and distinctive pattern or appearance- think Crocs shoes or Lilly Pulitzer pattern names
- Mentioning clothing or accessories that aren’t visible in the image, such as if earrings are hidden by hair
- Repetitive or large amounts of text- it’s okay to write that a shirt has the word “Fashion” written on it six times in shades of blue and green, no need to write fashion six times
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Where to put an image description
Trying to figure out where to put an image description for the visually impaired? For blog posts, I recommend including image descriptions with the rest of the outfit details or links, so that people can read the text-based description of the outfit and its components before choosing to click on links. Many blogging tools allow users to insert extended image descriptions the same way that they insert alt text, however, I recommend having image descriptions “exposed” so that people who do not use screen readers can still benefit from them.
On social media, I recommend adding the description to the caption of the post if space allows, though adding it in the comment section is also a common practice. If the image description is in the comment section, make note of this within the caption. I also recommend writing the phrase “Image Description:” or “ID:” in front of the description so that users know what it is.
What to include when writing image descriptions for casual outfits
Image descriptions should contain all of the same information that is mentioned in alt text, but can be expanded to include:
- Information about the model or background of the image, if relevant. It can be helpful to include a basic physical description or mention that the image was taken in front of a closet mirror
- More detailed descriptions of clothing and fabrics, i.e a rib-knit yellow and white striped shirt with a scoop neck
- Descriptions of clothing arranged from top to bottom, with accessories noted at the end. For example, if I described what I’m wearing, it would be a pink short-sleeve crew neck sweater, paired with a blue and white floral skirt and brown flats, as well as a gold circle necklace and matching earrings
- Any interesting or unique elements to how the clothing is arranged, such as how it is layered or if it has an oversized fit
What to exclude when writing image descriptions for casual outfits
Image descriptions should exclude the following information, though it can be included elsewhere in the image caption/blog post:
- The cost of items, if it isn’t written on the image
- Comments on the appearance of the model or the clothing itself- make sure that descriptions are written objectively
- Descriptions of clothing that uses opinion-based language, i.e cute dress. Clothing names that have opinion style words are okay, such as an ugly Christmas sweater
- Links to clothing- these should be shared outside of the image description
- Precise sizing information- while it is helpful to know what size clothing someone is wearing, this information should not be included in the image description
- How To Write Image Descriptions About Online Products For Visual Impairment
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Sharing alt text and image descriptions on social media
Whether you’re showing off your new dress on Instagram or promoting a new blog post on Facebook, it’s important to make sure that social media posts also include alt text or image descriptions so that users with visual impairments are able to access this information easily- and yes, there are people with vision loss who use social media for fashion inspiration! I have an entire post about adding alt text to popular social media websites linked below.
- How To Add Alt Text On Social Media
- Tips For Using Social Media With Photosensitivity
- Options For Writing Extended Image Descriptions On Social Media
At first, people may not think that writing alt text for casual outfits is worthwhile, because they don’t think anyone who is blind or low vision would ever visit their website/profile, or they believe that blind/low vision people do not care about fashion. But by adding alt text for casual outfits and image descriptions in the captions/post, content creators can make their outfits and fashion advice available for an even wider audience, and help people who may be new to the world of fashion or visual impairment with creating different outfits. I hope that this post on writing image descriptions and alt text for casual outfits is helpful for others!