This is where online retailers, even super-sophisticated ones, lose money — in the numerous returns. They lose loyalty, too. And often the shopper loses out, as a not-quite-right garment languishes in the wardrobe (I was too lazy to return a too-long Alberta Ferretti wool cocktail dress).
To address this problem, there are websites that offer styling advice. Fairly new is Stylistpick, launched by Juliet Warkentin, former Marie Claire editor.
You answer a quiz, choosing which outfits and celebrities most appeal — and get your verdict (I am elegant, classic, sophisticated). The fashion editors then create a showroom, which takes seconds.
The problem with this site is it offers only own-brand bags and shoes, all at £39.95. It feels too quick and sketchy.
There is a more sophisticated rival, dressipi.com, a bespoke digital dressing service that promises a solution to the minefield of buying the wrong size online.
One retailer’s 12 is another’s 14, so the website’s founders — Sarah McVittie and Donna North — have used software that matches a user with their correct size, according to their height and weight, chest-to-waist and shoulder-to-hip proportions. You can also search via price, colour, brand, likes, dislikes and shape.
So, does it work? First, I enter my weight (9st) and my height (5ft 8in). Next, I am asked whether my shoulders are wider than my hips, of equal proportions or are my hips wider than my shoulders.
Um, I am pretty much straight up and down. My chest is small and my waist is undefined to the point I can’t even say where it is.
I then have to give what size I am in different shops: I’m an eight in Jil Sander, which always comes up big, but a 12 in H&M, which is a bit tight round the hips.
Then, I have to choose which photo represents my personal style. Here, the site converges with Stylistpick, though is much more thorough: there is Alexa, Rihanna, Kate Middleton and Helen Mirren.
I don’t want to dress like any of them, frankly, so opt for Kate Moss because she’s shown in a mannish tuxedo.
Then, how do I spend my weekdays? Am I an at-home mum? A student? I choose the woman in a music studio. Though I am often in a field (there is a photo of a woman standing by a gate), I always wear jodhpurs and riding boots.
On a girls’ night out, do I wear a tarty mini-dress, big old sack or tuxedo suit? It’s the last one.
When buying clothes, I tick ‘very confident’. And how into fashion am I? I tick ‘obsessed’.
But the site won’t take me to the next step no matter how many times I click. Noooooooooo! I have to start the whole process again! I tell the site my favourite colours, plus my skin, hair and eye colour.
Next, I must name which brands I love most. I choose Reiss and Uniqlo, Seven For All Mankind, Cos, Jaeger London, Prada and Bottega Veneta.
It tells me I am understated, contemporary, polished. Great!
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