Whether algorithms, webcams or body scanners are solving the fit problem depends on whom you ask.
Guillaume Orain, 23, who works at a New York software start-up, has suffered several sizing mishaps while shopping online. On a friend’s suggestion, he tried Frank & Oak, which uses Clothes Horse technology. He liked that the site used his favorite J. Crew label for comparison and he ordered a $40 shirt. When the shirt arrived, “it was right,” he said.
I registered with True Fit on Nordstrom.com this summer, filled out the questionnaire and ordered a size 4 Rachel Roy dress for $398 and a size small Tory Burch knit sheath for $345, based on the program’s size recommendation. Both also received a rating of 4, which means the fit should be excellent. The Rachel Roy was short-waisted, slightly big around the shoulders and longer than I expected. I returned it; the Tory is hanging in my closet. (There’s no fee for using any of these sizing technologies.)
D.C. orthopedic surgeon Denis Harris, who faces problems finding clothes to fit his 6-foot-5 frame, ordered two pairs of pants and a sports jacket from Alton Lane. “The pants fit fine,” said Harris, “but the jacket came up a couple of inches short.” Alton Lane remade it.
Former White House assistant press secretary-turned-entrepreneur Josh Deckard, 31, ordered an Alton Lane shirt in February. He has since ordered three more. “They are fantastic. I wore one and literally every person I was with commented on it.”
Booze Allen consultant Blair Winston, 24, prefers brick-and-mortar shopping. “I’ve bought unfamiliar brands online before because I thought I was getting a good deal, but often they fit strangely. I’m comfortable buying a Nanette Lepore suit on the Web because the sizes are consistent. I won’t buy jeans, though. You have to try them on.”
Madison Riley, managing director of retail consulting firm Kurt Salmon, is in a watch-and-wait mode. “If a retailer knows your sizes, it will do a lot to lock that consumer loyalty into a retail brand, but we’re not there yet,” Riley said. “Lots of people are interested in testing. We’ll see where they go.”
A good fit is a critical component of the online shopping experience, but it’s not the only one. No technology can determine how an item of clothing will look on you. It’s impossible — at least for now — to tell the texture of a fabric, or to determine if the shade on your computer screen matches what shows up at your door. Coming up with solutions to these online-buying dilemmas may make solving the fit problem seem as easy as putting on a pair of pants.