The tech industry has kept every industry on its toes with its rapid innovation and fashion is no exception. It has been able to convince even the most stubborn luxury companies to embrace e-commerce while simultaneously allowing newer brands to keep costs low by not requiring a storefront. This new movement is utilizing new technologies to create custom, made to order garments for the average consumer.
In the 1900s, individual dressmakers or tailors who would make clothing and décor for aristocrats and royals dominated the clothing industry. Generally these were “made-to-order” so dressmakers rarely came up with their own ideas. Instead, they would create whatever the client requested. This was also a time when most women knew how to sew and would make garments for themselves and their families.
In 1848, Charles Frederick Worth became the first fashion designer – as women came to him for his designs instead of commissioning their own ideas. He also had connections within the textile industry, which gave him access to the most elaborate fabrics. His success as a designer opened up a whole new career for many people and gave rise to the designer names we know today. Note that these were still couture, made-to-order garments that required many fitting appointments and possibly weeks to months to produce.
In 1937, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a study of women’s body measurements for the purpose of creating a standardized sizing system. This led to the opposite of couture: prêt-à-porter (ready to wear) standardized off-the-rack clothing.
Now there is a new movement of online-only made-to-order clothing that uses new technologies to bring us back to the careful craftsmanship and nonstandard sizing of pre-industrialization. A meeting with a tailor now utilizes quick shipping and computer vision to create custom made garments. Here are just a few of these companies:
- FitzGerald Morrell (gloves): custom made gloves by sending the customer a quick fit sheet that includes a few instructions on measurements as well as tracing your hands on the included paper.
- Margaux (women’s flats): similar to FitzGerald Morrell but for women’s flats. The fitting kit contains everything you need to take your measurements for your made-to-measure order.
- Trumaker (men’s suits): measurements don’t occur online but they have a large network of “Outfitters” that will come to your home to make measurements then the suit styling is ordered online.
- True & Co (women’s bras): Using large dataset for custom bra sizing for women by answering a questionnaire of how various brands fit you and where your pain points are.
Not only can this movement help alleviate some of the negative social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry, but it can also enable greater individualization as opposed to wearing whatever the industry decides is trendy. It may also help people develop a closer relationship with their clothing by purchasing it with greater intention via customization. The longer waiting period would hopefully encourage repairing and caring for clothing instead of throwing it in the garbage when a button falls off.