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The Digital Wave Of Fashion

Published: September 18, 2017

Nursing students on stage

Family and Consumer Sciences’ Myunghee Sohn knows the future of fashion could lie in the use of digital avatars.

To explore the impact on fashion by graphical representations, which allow individuals to try on clothing, virtually, Sohn joined researchers Jessica Ridgway of Florida State University and Jean Parsons of University of Missouri as co-authors.

Their paper, titled “Creating a More Ideal Self Through the Use of Clothing: An Exploratory Study of Women’s Perceptions of Optical Illusion Garments” recently appeared in the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal.

Sohn is interested in understanding women’s perceptions of optical illusion dresses and whether their body shapes affect their opinions of the dresses. For the study, the researchers created avatars for each survey participant based on a 3-D body scan using TC Body Scanners. Participants were shown seven optical illusion dresses fitted to avatars and asked to evaluate each option.

Overall, those who had an hourglass shape were least likely to find optical illusion dresses appealing. Women with a rectangle shape were most likely to appreciate the optical illusion garments. However, the majority of women in the study could not correctly identify their shape.

For example, none of participants identified themselves as having a spoon shape—also called a pear shape—though researchers categorized a third of participants as having this figure. Of 15 women participants, nine said they had an hourglass shape while researchers only found five had that body shape.

“If a woman doesn’t know her own shape, it makes it difficult for her to identify garments that will help her look her best,” Sohn said. “Digital scanning tools could help consumers find clothing that works for their unique shape in the future. This technology is especially appealing for online retailers and could help online shoppers wary of buying clothing they can’t first try on.”

The usual product development process makes multiple samples before a final garment. The body-scanning program and virtual simulation tool can reduce the cost and time of making these samples.

“Many garment manufacturers today are in China,” she explained. “American manufacturers must talk to their Chinese counterparts when changes are necessary. Now both sides can talk about the same sketch at the same time.”

Issues contributing to women’s confusion about body shape include the many terms retailers use to describe body shape, such as apple, V-shape, H-shape, rectangle and square. The idea of an ideal body shape is elusive. Before she did the study, Sohn believed most women knew and accepted their body shapes.

“Now, I believe not many women know their body shape,” she said. “If they are asked, they would pick the hourglass or skinny body type.”

Body scanners used to pose challenges to smaller boutiques.

“In 2005, body scanners cost as much as a small house,” she said. “Now, I have heard of the development of a $500 version. Small boutiques purchase them to keep their customers. This strengthens the bond between customer and shop. I see the day when everyone has his or her own body scan.”

Sohn feels these digital avatars will change the way we shop for clothes.

“It helps shoppers to make better choices,” she said. “There are websites where shoppers can familiarize themselves with digital avatars even down to skin color and hairstyles. They can see how the clothes will look without actually having to wear them. This software reintroduces fun to online shopping.”