Nothing beats real shopping!

By Liz Jones Time of article published Nov 15, 2011

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London - A decade ago, I went to a fashion conference in Paris. Glenda Bailey, then editor of US Marie Claire and now editor of Harper’s Bazaar, gave a lecture.

She had lots of whizzy slide shows to demonstrate that, one day, women would buy their clothes online, even click on an internet page of a magazine and voila!

We heckled, we laughed. Bah! It will never, ever happen.

But it did, of course, and buying clothes and accessories online is the fastest growing sector in the marketplace.

It’s easy and almost instantaneous. We can shop late at night or at work. We can browse through thousands of clothes when, on the real High Street, we would have long since given up.

So shopping online can work. But there is one huge drawback: often, the clothes arrive and they are not quite right. They don’t fit, are too long or the colour is not quite what we expected.

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,, 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 mom? 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!

It then asks my age. Oh dear, I hate this. I’ll be given winceyette nighties from Per Una.

Then, at last, their recommendations swim before my eyes. Denim jeans from Forever 21 (are they insane?) with a cheetah-print belt! For £19.75. I’ve bought loaves of bread that are more expensive.

Shapeless capri trousers from Zara. No. A pair of skinny pants from Forever 21. No. What was the point in typing in Prada, Bottega and Reiss?

Next, an orange blouse from Topshop. I’d told the website that I wear only black, white and neutral! Finally, a long belted cardigan by Temperley. I think that of all the garments in the universe, a long belted cardigan is the worst.

I am told to rate everything so they can improve - but, honestly, they got me totally wrong.

More hideous outfits: another belted cardigan, a leather and wool coat, awful draped tops. I wonder if they would have shoved this stuff at me if I hadn’t typed in “1958”.

My “fingerprint” says to avoid boxy - yet I’m shown lots of boxy jackets and cardies. I’m recommended funnel collars, which I hate, because they itch and get make-up on them.

This is a nightmare! Endless awful outfits that bear no relation to my answers to the quiz.

Nothing goes with anything else or is presented as a complete outfit. And if they are trying to dress a minimalist fiftysomething who is a size eight to ten, why does the curvy Asos net prom come up? Why? Why? This site has no idea how to style me. None. Yet I’m probably the easiest shape of all to dress. How about a few questions asking which part of the body do you want to show off, and which do you want to hide? (I hate my knees, so it’s no to mini skirts.) They need your arm length, too (so many coats cover half the hand), what you already have in your wardrobe, the occasion and your budget.

This experiment proves that nothing beats going into a store and trying things on. There is no easy route to being stylish: know your body, your taste and the occasion, do your homework, and then go shopping. Real shopping.

The only good parts of the site are the effort they’ve put in to trying to navigate the size minefield on the High Street and the useful guide to help you understand which shop’s size 14 is another’s size ten... - Daily Mail

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