AOL plays dress-up with catalogers

America Online (AOL) is now a fashion adviser, much to the benefit of apparel catalogers. The Dulles, VA-based Internet service provider has launched Chic Simple Wardrobe, which AOL describes as “suggested wardrobe solutions.” AOL subscribers can access Chic Simple Wardrobe through the service provider’s home page; nonsubscribers can reach it through its own URL.

The wardrobe suggestions are culled from a variety of online apparel marketers, including J. Crew, The Gap, and Levi’s. If a Web user likes a particular item, she can click on it to be linked immediately to the online catalog page featuring that item. “For example, if she likes the J. Crew shoes and clicks on them, she will be taken directly to the page on which the shoes appear,” says AOL spokeswoman Wendy Goldberg.

To create the site, which launched July 26, AOL entered into a content partnership with Kim Johnson Gross and Jeff Stone, creators of the Chic Simple series of lifestyle and fashion books, and authors of In Style magazine’s monthly “Chic Simple Solutions” column. The online catalog, which is updated seasonally, features outfits for work, entertaining, and travel, as well as maternity outfits, health and beauty products, and home decor items. “Merchants submit specific items for review, and Gross and Stone see what style solutions they can create with the pieces,” Goldberg says.

Catalogers affiliated with Chic Simple Wardrobe include Lillian Vernon and One Hanes Place. The price of products, says Goldberg, ranges from less than $10 to more than $200. AOL does not have a record of the average order size. “We aren’t the merchant of record,” she says. “We’re really just a promotional tool and traffic driver for these other sites.” Goldberg adds that AOL takes no financial cut from sales generated by Chic Simple Wardrobe.

At this point, Goldberg says, Chic Simple Wardrobe has no plans to extend its scope of wardrobe suggestions to men. “Right now we’re just putting together a variety of clothing items with an eye toward helping women create their own style.” Such help includes an “Ask Kim” feature that allows women to submit wardrobe and style questions to Gross

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