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This Year, Custom Wardrobes Became Affordable

Made-to-measure, exhaustive style quizzes, and data have all made shopping online a lot more personal.

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A model wearing camel colored pants and shoes and a white sweater
Shoes from Margaux’s Limited lookbook

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Though made-to-measure brands certainly existed before 2016, a handful of them really hit their stride at the same time this year, right alongside other retailers whose main prerogative was to get you the perfect fit — whether that be for a pair of shoes, a bra, a suit, or a wedding gown.

It’s not that surprising that the service of offering custom apparel really peaked in the menswear industry — retailers like Bonobos have built entire brands around helping men find one specific article of clothing (in this case, pants) that fits just right without the fuss of having to go to an actual store. Made-to-measure suits, though, was perhaps the biggest category to take off, thanks to companies like Indochino, J.Hilburn, Black Lapel, and Proper Suit. (Hey, finding a good suit is hard.)

Three of the big categories in womenswear that were ripe for “disruption,” as any good e-commerce startup would say, were footwear, bridal, and lingerie — all industries that have cumbersome in-store shopping experiences. Luckily, improving those shopping experiences was a priority for women’s brands in 2016.

For as low as $215, the shoe brand Margaux will send you a kit in the mail so that you can measure your own feet; in about two weeks, a pair of custom flats will be sent your way. The new bridal brand Floravere will send dress samples to your door, and then build you a gown based on your exact size and style preferences.

And though they’re not creating their own, lingerie sites like True & Co. and ThirdLove offer exhaustive quizzes that will help you find a bra that actually fits perfectly without having to get measured in a department store.

For both of those brands, the key to providing you with the right product recommendation is the data you supply. The same is true for subscription-type services like Le Tote and Stitch Fix, which collect hundreds of data points from information you willingly give up (through style profiles and voluntary reviews) and build algorithms off all that intel. After a few rounds, finding something that you love, and fits just right, becomes an afterthought.

With Stitch Fix, the real selling point though is the personal stylist: Shoppers are able to connect directly with a human to talk about the outfits they’re going to receive and how to wear them. What sets that type of interaction apart from the dialogue you get in a retail store (besides the fact of not having to leave the house) is that with Stitch Fix, a personal stylist is part of the package — not just an add-on. It’s a reflection of how crucial customer interaction and direct feedback has become.