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The future of fashion: How 3D body scanning could impact consumers

3D body scanning just might be the answer to all your ill fitting clothing problems. The relatively new technology is being rolled out by fashion brands to combat the buy before you try culture. The massive movement towards online shopping has created some problems.

Clothes may be cheaper and quickly produced by online retailers but there’s no way to try them on. For shoppers there’s nothing more disappointing than buying clothes that don’t fit. Online shopping can be frustrating when it often results in repackaging and sending back clothes. This is bad for the shopper and the retailer, who both lose out on money and time for shipping. But 3D scanning could be the solution to this.

The technology was rolled out into stores as early as 2011. But as the machines become cheaper and more accurate many predict they could be the future of the fashion industry; completely changing the way shopping works, decreasing the carbon footprint of retailers and offering shoppers a more satisfying experience. Clothing and body image have significantly strong psychological affects on our overall mood. So there is a big debate surrounding whether this new system will actually be a good thing for consumers.

What is 3D body scanning?

3D body scanning works by using infrared depth sensing and image technology. It measures and creates a digital copy of the surface of the human body. This provides an accurate silhouette of someone’s shape and a list of their body measurements. The machines data, paired with computer aided design applications, can simulate how clothing would look on that body.

Buying more and returning less

By using 3D scanning, retailers like Amazon are hoping to get consumers to buy and keep more clothing products. The idea is that 3D scanning will make online shopping simpler for consumers. It’ll do this by getting rid of the need for fitting rooms.

Instead the machines will accurately show how clothes will fit their bodies and predict the correct sizing. All this results in an easier and more successful shopping experience. This leaves the consumer with a positive view of the retailer. The data gathered could also give designers a better idea of what real women’s bodies look like. This would result in better fitting clothing.

Positive effects on consumer mindsets

There’s no doubt that better fitting clothing = a more confident person. Finding a piece of clothing that you love the fit of can really change your day. 3D body scanning could lead to designers making clothing to fit more body types. This would be a great step forward for creating positive attitudes towards body image. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve gone into a changing room only to leave deflated after not fitting into an item of clothing designed for the stereotypical model’s body shape.

But 3D scanning could mean that generalised sizing, that often varies across different retailers, could become a thing of the past. Instead we could revert back to more tailored clothing. With 3D scanners making it easy to measure and order the perfect fitting clothes. Creating clothes that fit consumers better, as well as allowing consumers to purchase clothes online that they know will look good will result in shoppers feeling more positive about themselves.

Consumers might not like what they see

But some studies suggest that 3D body scanning could have bad psychological effects for consumers. Some people feel less satisfied with their bodies after seeing 3D images of themselves. Instead the results negatively affect their mood and lower their self-esteem.

Healthy women who exercised regularly and maintained a balanced diet still felt they needed to do more after seeing the 3D images of themselves, one study found. Instead of offering a more relaxing experience, 3D scanning has the potential to make consumers scrutinise their own bodies more. This can result in more serious problems in which healthy people could choose unhealthy options because they feel dissatisfied with their body.

More than just impacting the consumer

There’s more to 3D scanning than the impact it has on the consumer. It could also have a massive impact on the environment. Have you ever thought about what happens to clothes you return? I hadn’t and I was shocked to find out that quiet often they don’t get put back on the shelf. In fact returns generate 5 billion pounds of waste every year. Many of your unwanted clothes actually go straight to landfill.

The most common reason people return clothes is because they don’t fit right. So 3D scanning enables people to see what clothes will actually look like on them before they buy them. This stops people buying before trying and could significantly reduce the amount of returns.

The future for 3D body scanning

3D body scanning machines could be a huge success for retailers. They’re still in the first stages of being rolled out with the potential to; make shopping a more positive experience for consumers, change the way the retail industry works and reduce clothing waste drastically.

But the success on these machines relies heavily upon how consumers view them. They could equally make shopping experiences worse by damaging people psychologically. Research has begun on these issues but the affects still aren’t certain.

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