EVERY woman knows the frustration of buying a piece of clothing in her exact size, only to try it on and realise . . . it doesn't actually fit.
The solution used to be spending hours in changing rooms. But now, there are clever ways to get the perfect fit without ever leaving home.
'Fit tech' ranges from 3D body-scan apps to websites that use surveys of past customers to tell users what size to buy.
With Covid rules meaning changing rooms are often out of bounds, there's more demand than ever for virtual fitting.
But do these new services actually work? Four writers put them to the test . . .
NO MORE MULTIPLE BUYING SIZES
By Radhika Sanghani
The Asos Fit Assistant promises to help me 'find the perfect size, first time'.
For me, this is the online shopping dream — especially from a site such as Asos that's home to dozens of brands, from Topshop to French Connection, and DKNY to Karen Millen, that all size differently.
When I've bought clothes there in the past, I've had to get each garment in several sizes, only to then return three-quarters of them.
Asos Fit Assistant promised to help Radhika Sanghani 'find the perfect size, first time'
So I'm keen to try the free Fit Assistant service, available on the Asos website and app.
It asks questions about your body and fit preferences and every time you buy an item, it recommends the perfect size.
It uses information on what thousands of shoppers have bought — and returned — to work out what you'll be happiest in.
When I sit down to fill out my information, I have a tape measure at the ready. But to my surprise, the app doesn't require my measurements.
All it asks is for my weight (8 st), my height (5 ft 7 in) and what kind of fit I want. I choose an 'average' fit on my upper body, and 'on the loose side' for my lower body, because I hate it when high-waisted clothes dig into my stomach.
It's so much simpler than I thought it would be that I'm now doubting whether it will work.
Normally when I shop, I can be anything from a size 6 to a 10. When I start using the Fit Assistant, I'm surprised to realise the majority of my purchases come up as a size 6 —including an Asos Design khaki trench coat that I would have ordered in a bigger size.
Playing around with my preferences, such as saying I want upper-body clothes 'oversized' (so I can fit a big jumper under that trench coat, for example) affects the sizes, but not as much as I'd thought.
And some suggestions are really confusing. With my lower body fit preference set to 'on the loose side', I'm recommended a size 6 for a pair of brown faux leather trousers from Mango.
Then, without changing my preferences, I'm recommended a size 8 in a similar pair of black faux leather trousers — also from Mango.
This makes no sense to me, but I put my trust in the Fit Assistant.
I'm recommended a size 6 for two dresses and, for tops, I'm told to buy a size 8 at & Other Stories, and a size 6 at Asos Design.
Then I just order as normal through the Asos website.
When they arrive, the Fit Assistant has done better than I could have imagined. I would have bought my dresses and trench coat in at least a size 10, but the 6 fits perfectly.
The only time the Fit Assistant gets it slightly wrong is with those Mango trousers. The size 6 is perfect but the 8 is too loose on the waist.
I want to blame the Fit Assistant, but then I remember I had my preference set to 'on the loose side'.
I suspect I'd need to adjust my choices each time I buy, based on what I'm looking for.
Still, I'm impressed. Though I don't understand exactly how its algorithm works, I'm going to keep using it.
Not only does it stop me buying multiple sizes, it's helped me learn more about how to buy the right clothes for my body. (asos.com).
CLEVER TAILORING TO GET CATWALK READY
By Emily Hill
'Good things come in small packages,' my grandmother used to say, soothingly, when I was a child and complained about being so tiny.
But 30 years later, I can wander in and out of clothes shops until my feet fall off and still find no outfit minuscule enough for me.
I'm barely 5ft and have spent the whole of my adult life improvising.
Daring mini-skirts make perfect office attire, reaching demurely to my knees. Maxi skirts swish in my wake like Meghan Markle's veil.
I could have saved a fortune shopping in the children's section, except that dresses labelled '150-152cm' cannot accommodate boobs.
Emily Hill was thrilled when she heard about a new service called Toshi that lets you shop online, then sends the clothes to your home along with an expert fitter to pin whatever dress you pick. It's then tailored to your body and returned by courier
So I was thrilled when I heard about a new service called Toshi that lets you shop online, then sends the clothes to your home along with an expert fitter to pin whatever dress you pick. It's then tailored to your body and returned by courier.
It's not cheap: Toshi's brands are essentially a Who's Who of the catwalk, from Chanel to Erdem, Galvan, Christopher Kane . . . but Toshi takes commission on whatever you buy so, personally, you don't have to pay a penny for fitting, alterations or delivery.
CEO Sojin Lee, who's previously worked at Chanel and Net-a-Porter, says it's the kind of service couture brands offer just a few, super-wealthy clients.
She wants to bring it to a wider audience.
'If you go to a luxury brand, they offer this type of service to their top VIPs. But in our heads it was like, 'why can you only offer it to 50 people? This should just be a normal way of shopping'.'
There is one particular designer whose dresses I've always dreamed of, but never thought I could wear at my small size: Roland Mouret.
His clothes tuck in tummies, hoist up boobs, and flatter the hell out of us. His signature Galaxy dress is possibly the only garment in existence capable of making Carol Vorderman look as good as Rachel Weisz.
I opt for the Tikal dress on the Roland Mouret website (a shocking £850, but Toshi also works with brands that cost around half that — and is exploring offering its services for lower-priced clothes).
When my Toshi stylist, Eugene, arrives with my frock, the hem meant to skim my calves dangles perilously near my ankles.
But this does not present a problem.
He pins it expertly, chatting throughout, taking photographs so I can look, and offering options.
(Do I still want a slit at the front? He thinks it will suit me better to get rid of the one at the back).
I've had dresses shortened before, and would expect to pay around £50 for the privilege, but this process is free and makes me feel like a supermodel.
I walk up and down so Eugene can check the dress moves right with my body and hits my leg at the most flattering point.
When I get the dress back fully altered, it's perfect. I'm so short I could never have bought it off the peg, but now I've got the perfect Roland Mouret silhouette.
I would very much recommend this service. It's in high demand right now due to coronavirus.
And post-pandemic, it's hard to see why — if you're lucky enough to be able to afford the brands Toshi works with — you would ever return to the old changing room experience. (toshi.co).
MIRROR TO MEASURE YOUR PERFECT BRA
By Jess Wood
Mirror, mirror, on the wall…help! Which bra will give me the perkiest boobs? Lingerie company Rigby & Peller is famed for its rigorously trained fit experts — or 'lingerie stylists'.
But now it has gone digital with an innovative 3D 'fit mirror', installed in their Cambridge store.
Stylist Jessica leads me through to a plush cream-carpeted changing room and stands outside the curtains with a tablet device she uses to activate the mirror.
Jess Wood tested Rigby & Peller's innovative 3D 'fit mirror', installed in their Cambridge store
Naked from the waist up in the privacy of the cubicle, I tell her my height (5ft 5in) which she taps into her tablet so the cameras can capture my upper body.
Then she asks me to stand on a red laser dot on the carpet, with my arms held out to the sides.
It's a bit like using the 3D security scanner pods in an airport; except I'm just peering into a normal-looking mirror fixed to the wall.
Behind it lies new-fangled camera tech, developed specially by the label's owners Van de Velde.
It's all so futuristic. Instructions flash up on the mirror, telling me to do a slow 360-degree turn.
Once complete, Jessica receives the information through her screen outside. The camera doesn't store snaps of my naked bust, I'm relieved to hear.
It scans me and gives her a suggested bra size (36D), as well as styles and shapes of bra that will suit my exact shape.
She stood on a red laser dot on the carpet, with her arms held out to the sides. She was then scanned and given a suggested bra size
Jessica says the mirror information doesn't replace her expertise — rather, it offers shy customers a way to be fitted without having to stand topless in front of a stylist. It's also perfect timing for the contactless Covid restrictions.
The bra Jessica selects is a black-and-cream balconette style with a deep band and a wide row of hooks at the back.
At £104, it's more than I wanted to spend, but the quality and fit are perfect, so it's worth it.
Jessica is at pains to tell me that at the end of the appointment, all customer information is deleted — and shows me her screen to prove it.
So I can sleep easy knowing my boobs aren't on file. Phew!
TO BOOK free 3D fit-mirror appointments (at the Cambridge store only), call 01223 488 460. See rigbyandpeller.com/en-gb/ rigby-and-peller-mirror.
3D BODY SCAN YOU CAN DO YOURSELF WITH A PHONE
By Clover Stroud
When I learned that Meepl, an app that claims to harness AI to record your measurements, required me to take my own 3D body scan using only my mobile phone, my heart sank.
The last time I had a scan, it was to find how far along I was in my fifth pregnancy, and although I love my children fervently, I don't care to do it again.
But as I downloaded the free app, I was curious to see how it worked.
The instructions are brief, but when I looked it up on the Meepl website, it told me the scan would be used to create a digital 'avatar' that would give me a truly accurate 3D picture of my measurements.
Clover Stroud was curious to see how the app Meepl worked
This could then be applied to different brands for shopping, so I never need buy the wrong size online ever again.
Although I love the idea of online shopping, I am irritated by the amount of time I spend returning clothes that are the wrong size.
I am a size 10 at M&S, Hush and Mint Velvet, but a 12/14 at Topshop and Jigsaw, which means I never know quite where I stand.
I'm also tired of wrestling sticky tape, scissors and returns envelopes out of the hands of my younger children to make yet another trip to the Post Office.
So I decided to give the 3D scan app a go. I needn't have worried — it was easy to use.
I had to dress in skin-tight clothes such as leggings and a tight top, stand against a plain background, then let my phone do the work.
I asked my daughter to take the two shots the app needed — one side on, one face on, arms out to the sides — but you could easily prop the phone up on a shelf and do it yourself.