TECHNOLOGY Virtual dressing room

In recent years, a number of apparel catalogers have added complete wardrobe sections to aid customers in mixing and matching outfits-a trend now finding its way online.

On April 8, casual apparel cataloger Lands’ End added a tool on its Website that allows customers to coordinate more than 24,000 outfits online. “These features allow our customers to save time without leaving their homes,” says spokesman Thane Ryland. “Just imagine trying on that many outfits in a store.”

Visitors to the Lands’ End Website can choose to mix and match clothing from three categories-women’s and men’s apparel, women’s swimwear, and men’s shirts and ties. With “Outfits Online,” shoppers can coordinate 4,750 possible outfit combinations, including tops, sweaters, chinos, jeans and shorts. “Suitable Separates” allows women to choose from more than 216 two-piece swimsuit combinations. And in June, more than 400 shirt-and-tie combinations were made available, just in time for Father’s Day.

Without downloading extra software or plug-ins, online shoppers first choose a category, and then a specific product within that category. For example, in the women’s apparel section, a customer can choose a v-neck sweater, which will then appear on the computer screen. If the customer, however, wants the sweater in blue instead of the black shown on the screen, she need only click on the “view selection” icon to have the system reload the picture to show the blue v-neck sweater.

Directly beside the sweater will be a selection of bottoms, such as chinos, jeans and shorts. Again, the customer can pick the style and color to make a complete outfit. Customers can order the complete outfit or each separate piece directly from the “Outfits Online” section rather than searching through the entire online catalog.

Lands’ End is able to offer the mix-and-match feature using its digital database, which includes photos, product description, colors, sizes, and pricing. The marketer uses this database to produce its print and online catalogs and its advertising materials.

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