Clothes shopping online has long been a hit or miss experience for many consumers; without the ability to try on jeans or bras, we’ve had to rely on what size we think we are to make the best-fitting choices. And many of us base our size on what’s already in our closet, not how much we weigh or what our measurements are at that moment. Sure, you may wear a certain pant size and that’s what you usually look for when scouring a rack, but that doesn’t mean that your first choice will fit like the jeans you’ve worn in and stretched for the last three years.
Every bra company’s website will tell a woman that currently, 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong bra size and offer their own calculations for a true fit based on their sizing scale alone. There is no universal bra design that every manufacturer follows. Shopping in-store offers a key component to the experience that online shopping has not: you instantly know whether or not the bra, jeans, or top you’ve tried on fits. There is no waiting period to find out if the item you want is going to become permanent in your wardrobe. But then again, trying on clothes in a store comes with its own unique sets of challenges.
We (reluctantly, in my case) trudge into the cramped, sometimes dirty dressing rooms across the nation and try on our purchases for the sake of knowing our fit. The lighting is never great, the mirrors magically seem to add extra bulk in areas we hadn’t previously considered—the dressing room should be a comfortable place and it never seems to deliver anything but anxiety. Online shopping does not instill fear the way a dressing room does in my heart–except when I’ve made it to the checkout queue and see my total charge. And what if your pile of selections doesn’t fit? The thought of sifting through racks of clothes again can be enough to end a shopping excursion empty-handed.
How can we personalize online shopping so some of the “will it or won’t it” fit mystery is taken out of the experience? Some retailers have launched 3D body scanning programs as part of the online shopping experience and hope to demystify the experience for curvy fashionistas across the globe.
New start-ups across the internet are relying on emerging technologies and algorithms to provide the same service as the dreaded dressing room. Companies that use this innovative technology are seeking out women in the plus size clothing range because it is well documented that women have a hard time finding cute, stylish clothing in a size 14 and up. The same is true for women whose bra size falls outside the main-stream bell curve. These sites bill themselves as stand-ins for the traditional salesperson role. Instead of a well-dressed woman quietly suggesting tops and pants, websites take on the concierge role and offer “customized” lists of garments for our browsing pleasure.
These websites make the 3D body scanning an integral part of the shopping experience. Once the site knows your exact measurements, the only clothes offered to a customer will be those she can actually buy—a much happier shopping experience than the disappointment that follows once you realize a store doesn’t carry your size. Now, picking clothes to suit a curvy body is not about buying the first clothes that fit, it’s about developing style and having a wider range of selections available.
Online retailers are releasing well-developed fit technology to keep customers comfortable and happy. Bra websites across the board offer fitting advice, tutorials, videos, and bra size calculators so customers do not have to rely on professionals for fit advice. With a true fit professional, the bra sizing experience can be more valuable than watching a video, but that is if you should cross paths with a fit expert whose opinions about your shape and build offer insight you did not previously have. Videos carry more authenticity in the marketplace because it is harder to fabricate fit and appearance (especially in apparel) the way photographs are commonly altered beyond recognition.
Will customers miss the personal touch a salesperson can provide? If established stores are more reluctant to carry a wider range of sizes, then the online sector might pull ahead and establish firm footing in the plus size clothing market. 3D body scanning technology will only replace traditional shopping practices if it consistently sizes a consumer accurately. Traditional retailers should look at these online vendors and rethink their own selling equations if they expect to keep business up and customers happy and looking good. Good customer service exists on the internet. Email conversations can resolve a return or customer service issue swiftly, and social media sites allow brand representatives the opportunity to speak directly to consumers. Shoot us an email or tweet us at Leading Lady if you want to talk about bras, fit, or anything curvy lifestyle or otherwise. We’re just a mouse click away.