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Cyber couture
Fashion for a market of one -- you!

Haute couture. Bespoke. Made-to-measure. Impeccable fit and style are easy when you're rich.

But even on an off-the-rack budget, customized fashion is within reach, thanks to mass customization, which is corporatespeak for merchandise that is made to order, on a large scale.ABKN_front.gif (10084 bytes)

BlackFrock.com, (see graphic, left) a UK site launched in April '00, is one of the new breed of virtual merchants that believes women should be in total control of the sale.

With the little black dress as the star of this site, you can choose the neckline, sleeve and length of your very own dress, which is available in sizes 6 to 18. It'll be manufactured to your tastes and on your doorstep  within 12 days, for between $85 and $110.

Managing Director Fiona Davies says BlackFrock.com has a distinct advantage over conventional retail: "We concentrate on stuff that really adds value, like material, manufacturing quality and customer design."

The customers will even control which products are added in the future. Feedback on the "Make a suggestion" area will influence the product line, which will change significantly every three months, says Davies.

Bonus points:
- A gizmo that lets you email your virtual design to a friend for a second opinion
- Fabric is blend of wool, viscose and lycra - seasonless and drapes well
- Option of having the dress lined or unlined
- Free delivery

Americanfit.com, (see photo, left) launched in February, offers classic bottoms, including shorts, skirts and pants, all cut exclusively for each customer. 1975-Stretch_Cotton-Khaki.jpg (19970 bytes)

While they offer only certain styles, the fit is entirely up to you -- you enter your measurements, which are then stored in the company's database for future purchases.

"By allowing our customers to design the product according to their choices they become
emotionally involved in the process; it's their creation," says Jonas Tamir, president of Americanfit.com.

Customers who seek out Americanfit.com are mostly women's sizes, petites and hard-to-fit bodies for example, if the weight is not distributed proportionally between the waist line and the widest part of the hips, says Tamir.

The styles include stretch cotton pants, walk shorts and skirts that are priced just over $100. The company will also introduce tops and jackets in the future, says Tamir.

Bonus points:
- You don't pay more for larger sizes. "Every body is equal," says Tamir.
- Great graphics aid the measurement-taking process.
- Generous return policy
- Also sells men's clothing
- One week delivery

The leader in online mass customization is New York-based Interactive Custom Clothing Company, launched in 1996.

IC3D Jeans gives you the control over both the design and fit of your custom-made bottoms. Choose from a huge variety of fabrics (stretch denim to faux python to leather) and details (you can even choose the thread color on your jeans).

Things to know before you go custom:
- This is labor-intensive shopping. Measurements require concentration, time and accuracy for perfect fit.

-You may get spoiled. "Women's experience of fashion will change because they'll get exactly what they want and they'll get it faster," says Davies of BlackFrock.com.

An 11-step measuring system lets you ensure fit by measuring everything from hip size to bent knee. That info is stored so that you can later order more items, including skirts, and soon, jackets and more.

If you're having a "fat" day, skip the measurements altogether and just whip up a custom handbag, say in faux snakeskin for about $90.

Prices range from about $65 for basic denim to $300 for leather.

Bonus points:
- Total control over style, fit and fabric
- Updated styling
- You can do "copy cat" styles by sending in your favorite jeans and IC3D will do the measuring instead

All photos used with copyright holder's permission.





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