Clothes clubs

Buying clothes is a chore. There are two main problems:

  1. Finding clothes that look good (separately, and in combination).
  2. Picking the right size.

The first problem seems hard, but the second problem is genuine drudgework: given a piece of clothing, pick the size that fits best (or conclude that none of the available sizes fit well enough). In some cases, it’s quick and easy because the fit doesn’t have to be particularly exact (e.g. socks, t-shirts), while other cases are significantly harder and require trying on several different sizes (e.g. pants, shoes).

But does it have to be this way? If the shop knew my exact measurements—say they've previously recorded the exact shape of my whole body with a computerized laser gizmo—buying clothes should become equivalent to buying books: just browse the available selection (oh yeah, I’m talking about a web shop in case you hadn’t noticed), pick what you want, and the shop makes sure you get the right size. (Items not available in a good-enough size are simply not shown while you browse.)

I’m sure this idea would work well for many types of clothes, but maybe not for stuff like tight-fitting pants and shoes. But that’s OK—as long as it works in enough cases, someone could get a business started and improve gradually from there.

This would make buying clothes more convenient, but probably not enough to compete against the incumbents—the extensive measuring is somewhat of a threshold. But what if we could solve the first problem as well: finding clothes? Because if size issues are eliminated and buying clothes becomes as easy as buying books, all the techniques for automating book purchases become available for clothes purchases too. In particular, the book club model. Instead of having to choose individual items yourself, you’d be able to subscribe to clothes picked by someone with good taste who’s actually interested in clothes. And subscribing to clothes might well be more popular than subscribing to books—after all, books are mostly purchased by people who are interested in the books in question, but everyone has to buy clothes.

This can’t be a new idea. I wonder why no one is doing it—or are they, and I just haven’t found them?