There's a lot to like about buying clothes online. But it's a drag when you open a box and find that the clothes you ordered don't fit. Maybe that's why only 25 percent of shoppers prefer to buy clothing online, according to research, and 70 percent of apparel returns are due to poor fit.
Our colleagues at ShopSmart magazine reviewed website features and apps that can help you find flattering clothes without ever stepping into a dressing room. These tools come in two main categories: garment first, where you select the item you want and then use the tool to deterime the right size, and size first, where you input your measurements and preferences and then the tool finds the best-fitting garments for you.
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Here are the ones we tried out.
Where to use it: More than 15 retailers, including Gilt, Garnet Hill, and the online stores of Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, and Brooks Brothers.
Look for: "Find Your True Fit" or "View Fit Details" on the page of your selected garment on the retailer's website.
Men or women: As with most of these tools, True Fit is offerred mostly for women's apparel. But you can find it at a good number of men's retailers too. Those include Arc'Teryx, Belk, Macy's, and Guess. Nordstrom offers the tool only for women's clothes; Lord & Taylor offers it for women and men.
How it works: First, select your body type, then provide some information about a brand you like, including sizes you wear in pieces you own. That's it! It will tell you the size you need for the selected garment—and it will save your information for future shopping. Every time you shop for a True Fit-rated product, your recommended size will pop up, along with information on how well the garment will fit you in the bust, waist, or hips. Also, you can browse items that offer True Fit ratings (we found more than 3,000 at Nordstrom.com.)
Our take: We adore this easy-to-use tool—no measurements needed! And though sizes are helpful, fit tips tell you even more.
Where to use it: More than 20 retailers, mostly international; U.S. sites include The North Face and QVC.
Look for: "Size Adviser" after you select the garment.
Men or women: On thenorthface.com the tool is offerred for men's and women's apparel.
How it works: Enter your height, weight, bra size, and age. The tool matches your body's dimensions to the garment, taking into account the fabric, style, sizing, and other variables. Then the Size Adviser gives you the results, including best size to buy and how the item is likely to fit you.
Our take: This is a useful tool, and we like that it saves your information for next time. We just wish it worked on more sites.
Where to use it: More than 30 retailers, mostly international, including Acne Studios, Asos (its U.K. site), and Esprit.
Look for: "Virtusize" or "Fit Visualizer" on the retailer's website.
Men or women: Esprit is offering it on select women's styles. I Love Ugly is a New Zealnd Men's retailer offering the tool. Other retailers offer it mostly for women's apparel, but some of the overseas stores—such as Asos, Acne, and Monsoon—include a few men's styles.
How it works: This tool compares the size of a garment you already own to the size of the garment you would like to purchase. You can either find an item you own that's already listed on the site, or measure something you have in your closet and enter the information. Our reporter picked a skirt from her closet and entered its waistband measurement (across the skirt when laid flat, not her waist measurement) and the distance from waist to hem. Virtusize then showed a silhouette of the skirt she was considering overlaid on an outline of the skirt she already owned. You can click into different sizes to see how each one stacks up against the already-owned sample garment. You then choose your size based on the comparison.
Our take: The Virtusize models offer a cool way to see how things really fit, and you don't have to measure yourself. We can't wait for this to roll out on the sites of more U.S. retailers.
Where to use it: More than 30 sites, including Heels.com, New Balance, Nordstrom, and Shoebacca.
Look for: "Show me how it fits!"
Men or women: Both.
How it works: Shoefitr used 3D scanners to analyze shoes from hundreds of brands. It uses the data to show you how a particular shoe will fit and to recommend the best size for your feet. You answer just a few questions, such as, What size do you usually wear in a similar-style shoe? Do you usually have to go up or down a half-size when your shoe size varies? Then it not only tells you what size your should buy, but also shows you a graphic of how that particular one will fit compared with the average shoe of this size, how the arch compares, and how much toe room the shoe provides.
Our take: We would use this tool every time we bought shoes online if we could! With just a couple of steps, our reporter felt confident that she could pick shoes that wouldn't kill her feet. Just one question: Why aren't more retailers using it yet? (Zappos, we're talking to you!)
Where to use it: Five Bloomingdale's stores in California, Maryland, and New York. After you get your scan at the walk-in store, you can use it to shop online for well-fitting clothes at more than 150 sites (in addition to Bloomingdale's), inclduing Banana Republic and Vince Camuto.
Look for: Sign in at Me-Ality.com to access your information after you get the in-store scan.
Men or women: Both.
How it works: Head to a participating store and register using the computer outside the Me-Ality kiosk. Then step into the Size-Matching Station for a free scan. Inside, a wand circles your body twice, collecting 200,000 points of data. Seconds later, your best-fitting styles and sizes for items designed by partner brands are displayed on a touch screen. Print it and go shopping. To shop online, use the "Shop Now" tab on the Me-Ality website to view your sizes for the retail partners.
Our take: We wish the service were available at more locaitons. Also, the scanners at the Size-Matching Stations use the same technology as the full-body scanners used at airports.
Levi's Curve ID Fit Finder
Great for: Finding the perfect fit of Levi's Curve ID jeans. Take the two-step quiz at us.levi.com/quiz to see jeans that take into account the ratio of your waist to hips, and the curve of your bum, Our reporter found 25 pairs that the site promised would fit and flatter her shape. It even lets you select the inseam length—no more guessing whether you are short, regular, or tall.
Men or women: Women.
Shipping: Flat $7.50.
Returns: 60 days from purchase; unlimited for defects, without excessive garment wear.
Great for: Short and tall shoppers. This site has you covered with inseams 16 (for shorts) through 38 inches. Enter your desired inseam and see pairs from tons of sites across the Web. You can also sort by rise, brand, and price.
Men or women: Both.
Shipping: Varies, based on the site.
Returns: Varies, based on the site.
Great for: Smaller- and bigger-chested women. Tired of peekaboo blouses that gap at your chest? Or ones that sag at the chest? Try one of the four blouse styles at InStyle Essentials (shopinstyleessentials.com). They are sized by bra measurements, ranging from 32A to 40H to help ensure that the shirt contours your body correctly. You can choose a classic button-down, a tuxedo style, a tunic, or a blouse with a neck bow. All the shirts are white. The button-down includes an extra button at the bust.
Men or women: Women.
Shipping: Flat $10.
Returns: 14 days from receipt.
Great for: Women who hate shopping for bras. Take the quiz at trueandco.com, and this tool uses an algorithm to find what you will like, from style to size. Then you receive five bras in the mail to try free for five days. Pay only for what you keep; return the rest with free shipping.
Men or women: Women.
Shipping: Free for home try-on orders; flat $8 for other orders, free for orders of $50 or more.
Returns: 30 days from purchase.
This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of ShopSmart magazine.
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