Use 'virtual' tape to get perfect-fitting clothes
A web-based system could give your clothes a perfect fit and revolutionise online clothes shopping.

It takes multiple measurements quickly, easily and accurately, to ensure the best possible fit and so saves retailers and shoppers millions of pounds a year in return postage costs, as well as eliminating the hassle involved in sending back clothes that are the wrong size or fit.

The shopper could simply download software which, with its webcam or smartphone, works like a 'virtual' tape measure, taking accurate waist, hip, chest and other measurements and advising the user on which size of garment to buy, when they visit the website of a participating retailer.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the software is currently being developed by London College of Fashion and computer vision experts at the University of Surrey, in collaboration with body-mapping specialists Bodymetrics and digital creative agency Guided, according to a London College statement.

"The potential benefits for the fashion industry and for shoppers are huge," says Philip Delamore from London College of Fashion. "Currently, it's common for online shoppers to order two or three different sizes of the same item of clothing at the same time, as they're unsure which one will fit best."

Body scanning is already starting to make a mark in the clothing retail sector. But because the new system takes measurements at a number of different points on the body and combines these with a person's overall proportions to build up a detailed 3D image, it offers much greater precision than anything available in-store or online.

Moreover, online shoppers buy clothes simply on the basis of waist size, for instance, or small/medium/large categorisation, whose accuracy is limited and often depends on the shopper's subjective perception of their own body size.

The new system avoids these problems.

Once a shopper finds an item he is interested in, he could activate the software, stand in front of the webcam or smartphone in just underwear and take a photograph, then type in his own height and let the software do the rest.

The photograph remains entirely confidential, and is not transmitted over the internet in any way.

The height measurement gives the software the starting point for ascertaining the body size of the shopper.