The Dress Spot
September 27, 2013 by Christine Scaman
Picture this: a search engine for your colour palette!
I believe that we are most beautiful when we wear the colours we already are. Knowing the precise colours of our own pigmentation, all the reds, greens, blues, yellows, and so on, that we were painted with is what a Personal Colour Analysis provides. Wearing the hues of your very own colouring really does make your life better than if you wear the colours that I am, or some other person, or both of us at once. You look better and you feel better Â to us when we look at you.
I want to solve the problems in PCA. One of them is that the user experience needs improving. Finding our colours in clothing should be far easier and faster than it is. No wonder so many people are stuck in black. It’s right there on all the racks. Locating one’s colours, let alone putting an outfit together, takes way, way too long.
If consumers had more available choice, they could make the colour decisions that they know are best for them. This would put some dollar pressure on the fashion industry to provide us with yet more of our colours. We would return less. We’d be happier. Win-win.
I’ve learned that giving a man or woman a swatch book containing their most exceptional colours and hoping they’ll find them at the mall or online is not enough. Part of the fix is education. Time is taken with clients, and even more time with students training to be colour analysts, to learn to harmonize solid and printed coloured fabrics to each Season. The public needs some teaching in how to do this.
The other part of the fix is making items easier to find. The Internet’s power is in its search capacities, most of which are free. The Internet should be working for you, not the other way around. The Internet itself should go around the web for you finding your accurate colours. That capacity to search is already in place.
I send clients newsletters containing items in their colours, with some discussion about why that garment would enhance them so well. This takes me hours and hours. If it’s May, I barely search for Dark Winter, it’s just so hard to find.
Enter Jeremy, the technology member of the team at The Dress Spot. When he got married two years ago, he couldn’t believe how hard it was for his fiancÃ©e to find slate blue bridesmaid dresses with capped sleeves. Right there with you, Jeremy. My friends and I are looking for 60 to 65 colours all the time.
He describes his passion as solving consumers’ issues with technology. The Dress Spot is dedicated to connecting your colours with real-world clothing quickly and accurately. Image analysis is used to determine an item’s true colour as exactly as possible. There are great filters for colours, design features, retailers, and price.
The colour filters are the most thrilling. Open the window linked above. See the colour fan at the upper left? Click it and watch it open up. Now click on one of the colour words across the top. This is about when I started getting excited and thinking “Finally. Finally.”
I picked a very bright green. No solid colour choices. I was offered 6 alternative choices! Looked at the choices, picked a Soft Autumn-looking brown. My choices were green-based, a colour which many Autumn browns contain, because the original colour was green. Found this dress. I mean, this is just lovely. Took me less than 5 seconds.
The dress is here at Nordstrom.
The colours are as accurate as possible. Comparisons are easy. The site is free.
What about Polyvore – a great, great site that we know and use a lot? It’s so gigantic that it’s difficult to actually buy from, and not highly colour-selective. Since fashion is based on crowd direction, the beauty of that community is in the sets that members can create.
I asked Jeremy 4 Q:
1. The alternative choices were impressive. How does the software pick alternatives? Does it keep to a certain hue and give options along the saturation axis? In the alternatives, value seems to remain pretty constant.
Jeremy: It simply moves to a closest color in the HSL space that has a dense pocket of in-stock dresses. Â So it will often keep the Value consistent and shift hues or lightness slightly. Â Usually one or the other, not both. Â I wouldn’t say it necessarily stays within the Season.
2. Once an item is sold out at the retailer, how does your site manage it?
J: We update our inventory twice a day to ensure that nothing is ever more than a few hours from live data. Â Additionally, most dresses on our site are sold by larger retailers who don’t go in and out of stock with any volatility. Â They’re pretty slow to go out of stock. Â I’d estimate at least 98% of our inventory is current at all times. Â We drop retailers who don’t update their inventory status frequently enough for our quality standard.
3. What about prints, of which I see a few, and solids?
J: Right now we support ‘multi-color’ vs. ‘solid’ (which you can toggle with the ‘multi-color’ checkbox under the other filters on the left). Â Multi-color basically means anything that isn’t a solid color. Â Things like stripe and specific pattern filters are new technology we’ll be rolling out in the next few months.
J: We have many formal dresses from Nordstrom et. al, but we’ll be adding Dessy (a leading bridesmaid dress manufacturer)Â next weekÂ and hopefully David’s Bridal soon (again, for their bridesmaid dresses). Â Bridal gowns, on the other hand, will likely not be included for a while. Â Bridal gown designers are particular about their dresses’ distribution and have strict agreements with their chosen distributors/retailers. Â That industry is very non-digital.
My suggestion was professional wear. I asked Jeremy if he foresaw a site that could analyze the colours of a skirt, and suggest shoes and a blouse based only on the colour matching skill of the software, skills that this site appears to already have in place anyhow. He said, “Hmm. That’s interesting.” Good start, ay?
Here’s a question for you, dear readers: What’s your most frustrating part of finding clothing in your palette colours? If your brother were a coding genius on sabbatical, looking for something to do, with no limits on what he could design, what kind of colour shopping app would you ask him to build?
If you played with the site, what impressed you or didn’t work so well? If you had Jeremy’s job, what’s the first thing you’d do?
Someone might say, “Could my Season colours be coded in specifically and grouped together?” I agree! It is high time you had access to that. I am so happy to tell you that it’s in the works.
You are a hugely intelligent and creative group. Please do help to shape The Dress Spot into a tool kit that is expressive of how consumers like yourself, with exact knowledge of their own colouring, could benefit even better from the online clothing purchase experience.