Virtual dressing rooms give you the full shopping experience, minus the unflattering lighting.
by Mike Albo // Illustration by Edward McGowan
SHOPPING FOR CLOTHES ONLINE is an exercise in guesswork. Those jeans may seem perfect, but often as not, when they arrive, you try them on and they look terrible. It’s enough to keep a potential e-shopper from buying. So for the past few years, retailers have been devising ways to lure hesitant customers into buying clothes without even touching them. There are a few different approaches. One site, Tobi, offered a feature that let customers interact with their real images via webcam, sliding clothing onto their “bodies” like paper dolls. Another, MVM.com, lets you build an avatar by selecting options for height, weight, hairstyle, coloring and facial features. Both show you how diff erent ensembles look together, but they still won’t tell you how those jeans are going to fit.
But two new programs rolling out this year will. Fits.me and Styku.com are likely to revolutionize online clothes shopping by creating 3-D avatars using shoppers’ own measurements. Fits.me is a virtual dress form made up of panels that stretch and contract to create thousands of sizes and shapes. A prototype on the website can be tested on Hawes & Curtis shirts. (There’s only a male mannequin, but a female mannequin is on the way.)
Styku’s version goes further into Na’vi territory. The concept is similar to MVM’s, but your avatar moves in 3-D, so you can see a virtual you, with your measurements and face (via uploaded photo) trying on clothes and then walking with stompy runway attitude, showing off the drape and movement of the garment.
Styku is an offshoot of Tukatech, a company that has been creating fit simulators, garment pattern rendering programs and other software for clothing manufacturers since 1995. “Hundreds of manufacturers around the world are already using our programs to create prototypes of sample garments,” explains Styku CEO Raj Sareen in an email. “Our customer base gets to utilize this data in a whole new way.” The company launched a “micro-site” last month. A full-fledged version is due this fall.
Whether or not these virtual dressing rooms will make purchasing clothing online the norm remains to be seen, but it does point to the continued trajectory of fashion becoming more and more customized, without the couture pricetag. At the very least, someday in the near future, maybe you will finally be able to answer the question, “Does this make me look fat?” from the comfort of your home.
Fashion writer MIKE ALBO thinks asking sales associates how clothes look is half the fun.