Do you need an online stylist?

By: Tara Nolan

Author: Canadian Living


Do you need an online stylist?

By: Tara Nolan

It all started with an e-mail newsletter. A headline caught my eye about the world's first personal digital stylist at As someone who has spent many a morning staring at a closet full of clothes and agonizing over what to wear, my curiosity was piqued.

To me, technology should make life easier, so a virtual stylist would help me choose what to wear in the morning. I used my search engine to see what style-savvy sites are out there. Here are some worth checking out, plus a primer on how to become your own virtual stylist.

1. My Virtual Model
All you have to do is enter your personal characteristics before trying on some outfits. There are a variety of participants, including online retailers, like Sears, and websites, like iVillage ( I chose H&M first since I enjoy shopping for the latest trends at this popular retailer. Even though you can't purchase the clothes directly from the Canadian H&M website, showing the different apparel on my model displayed the clothing in a way that you just can't see on a hanger.

Next I scanned the "sexy, fun sleepwear" at iVillage. Calvin Klein offered some cute styles and you could actually buy them online! For outfits you want to purchase, be sure to check the Help section of the e-tailers' sites to confirm they ship to Canada and at a reasonable price.

The program you can download from this website promises "a journey of personal style discovery." Based on a very extensive set of measurements, the software will help you determine which styles to embrace and which to avoid based on your body type. There is a free virtual makeover available for download if you want to check it out, but the full version will cost you US$69.95.

Hot tip: Take advantage of the free stuff. Avoid fashion faux pas by sending questions to a real personal stylist; read the free tips, such as how to dress for a job interview; or sign up for the Style Basics 101 newsletter.

Page 1 of 2 - Read page two for more tips on looking great!

More tips
• Take advantage of the free features on the sites mentioned above for apparel advice that will help you on your next shopping trip. You can narrow down the styles that best suit your body type and the colours that will best complement you.

• Regarding virtual dressing rooms, use these services more as a guide that shows you how different clothes may appear on the body. Narrow down your favourites and find them at the store to try on in person.

• Scan online fashion magazines for put-together outfits. Anthropologie ( offers "Complete Looks," the New York Times' Style section ( often has slide shows of the hottest trends and ( allows you to put together a "Look Book" of your favourite runway shots. Use these sites as inspiration when putting together your seasonal shopping list or to pull together a similar outfit from items you already own.

• Sometimes you forget what's in your closet. You may be able to pull out a vintage piece that's come back in style and pair it with something you just bought for the season.

• Print copies of your favourite looks and take them with you on your shopping expeditions.

You can also take your own pictures and put them on your computer to mastermind your own outfits, without trying them on.

Take pictures
• Lay out your different tops and bottoms on a neutral surface -- like a white duvet.

• Snap digital photos of each piece.

• In your photo-editing program, crop each one so that the tops can be matched up to the bottoms. Make sure each image is the same size and taken from the same angle.

• Snap a few accessories, too.

• Save each image to your computer as a separate jpeg.

Pull outfits together
When you want to select an outfit, open a new 81/2- x 11-inch document in your photo-editing program and import each piece that you want to match. Use the object tools to drag and drop your clothes together to create complete outfits. Or with a stack of photo paper at hand, print out each garment and match tops and bottoms from your stack of pics. You could also just physically snap each outfit together, complete with accessories and shoes and keep them in a little album to consult during your time-crunched mornings.

Lastly, try selecting your outfits the night before. This is easier said than done, but can give you a few extra precious minutes of beauty sleep.

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Do you need an online stylist?