Thanks to COVID-19, hitting the high street in a lunch hour has largely been replaced by online shopping and to-your-door delivery. But, convenience aside, finding a stand-out new summer dress or the perfect shade of concealer on your phone all too often leads to disappointment, confusion and multiple returns. Cue the rise in try-on apps and virtual dressing rooms.
Even before the pandemic, brands and stores were embracing cutting-edge technology to improve our shopping experiences. Advanced augmented reality and digital tools may never predict with 100 per cent accuracy what’s going to work in real life—after all, the joy of fashion and beauty products isn’t just about the look, but how we feel when we put them on—they can certainly improve the success rate, not to mention cut down on the environmental impact of packaging and delivery. And they’re pretty fun to play with, too.
We experimented with some of the best fashion apps and tools out there, and this is what we discovered…
The best virtual try-on fashion apps
When it comes to shoes and accessories, Wanna offers one of the best virtual trying-on experiences you could ask for, which is probably why model and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova invested in the fashion tech start-up spearheaded by ex-Googler Sergey Arkhangelskiy.
Wanna Kicks is a digital sneaker store stocked with the usual suspects—Nike, Adidas, Reebok—and more fashion-orientated labels such as Common Projects and Gucci. It’s easy to use: scroll through the offerings to find a style you like, point your camera at your feet and as if by magic, your chosen trainers will appear on the screen before you decide whether to buy them. The SneakerKit from Berlin-based startup Vyking offers a similar service and while it may not have the variety of styles that Wanna Kicks has, it is the only app that allows you to try on Nike Air Jordan Retros.
See your outfit across several sizes
British e-tailer Asos unveiled its ‘See My Fit’ feature in early 2020 and, since the pandemic hit, the online store has fast-tracked its expansion. It’s not quite the full try-on experience, but it certainly makes online shopping more realistic and inclusive for those of us who don’t look like a supermodel.
The idea? Click on the piece that you have your eye on and you’ll be given the option to see it on six women of different shapes and heights (ranging from sizes 4 to 18) to get a better idea of how it’s likely to hang on you. It isn’t available for every product, but the feature is being added to around 500 items a week.
Pick the perfect shade of makeup
The beauty industry is arguably ahead of fashion when it comes to getting the virtual look and swathes of the big beauty brands, from MAC to Maybelline, are making use of technology to help you pick out the right foundation or eyeshadow.
Just visit the brand’s website, switch on your camera and your chosen lip colour or foundation will be digitally mapped onto your face so you can work out which is the perfect shade of red to elevate your loungewear or whether violet eyeshadow goes well with your skin tone.
Get your game on
A genius combination of much-needed fantasy and high fashion, the latest gaming apps are poised to set your inner-child free. For a purely fashion proposition you can download Drest, an app created by former magazine editor Lucy Yeomans that lets you digitally style avatars based on real supermodels and complete challenges by doing your own photoshoots.
Packed with nearly 200 luxury labels from Christopher Kane to Prada and Tabitha Simmons, you can play dress-up with everything from high-impact gowns to chic slides and work out how to wear them. Then, when you’ve really fallen for them, you can click through to buy on Farfetch and get them into your real-life wardrobe.
Alternatively, you can join the lockdown obsession with Nintendo’s simulation game, Animal Crossing, where you can dress your chosen character in must-haves, courtesy of Marc Jacobs, Sandy Liang, Valentino and more. Or capitalise on the current dearth of fashion shows with Balenciaga’s dystopian video game Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, through which the brand unveiled its AW21 collection.
Pay Gucci a virtual visit
You may not be able to experience the deep carpets and rarefied atmosphere of its boutiques, but Gucci is doing its best to give you the full shopping experience from the comfort of your own home. Last summer, the house launched a new service where you can book an appointment to talk directly to a sales assistant in one of their stores via video. They’ll take you on a tour of the space, show you pieces from the rails, and talk you through everything from fit to fabric. It’s particularly useful if you’re in the market for a new bag—you may not be able to touch the new Jackie 1961, but you can explore it from every angle.
For the full makeover
Voir another app backed by Vodianova—is primarily a subscription tool for perfecting and editing your selfies, thanks to its impressive range of touch-up tools and filters. But it also lets you use your photos to test out different hair colours as well as more than 1,500 beauty products. What’s more, you can try out whole looks—a smoky eye with a muted lip, for instance—rather than just trialling individual components.
Hair colour to dye for
Given that salon appointments right now are either completely off the cards or like gold dust, you might be tempted to do colour touch-ups yourself at home. Picking the right shade is crucial and both L’Oréal and Garnier have online tools designed to make it as foolproof as possible: upload a picture of yourself or switch on your camera and, whether you want to perfectly match your existing shade or see what you look like with hot-pink hair, you can get creative with colour. They’ll even tell you which ones work—or don’t—with your skin tone. Just make sure that you nail your lighting to make it as accurate as possible.
The ultimate try-on experience: watch this space
Let’s be honest, the dream virtual try-on app would give you the full Clueless experience and it’s just around the corner. Picture this: a luxury virtual changing room where you can upload a picture of yourself and dress up in the latest runway looks. Israeli startup Zeekit is set to launch what’s touted as the world’s biggest virtual closet and Amazon Fashion is working on a similar service.
Companies including 3DLook and Style.Me, meanwhile, are partnering with labels to modify digital mannequins so they look more like you. Then there’s Meepl, an app that scans and measures every inch of your body so choosing the right size first time is more likely. And keep your eye on Psykhe, an algorithm-powered shopping tool that, once you’ve taken the test, suggests outfits based on your psychological profile.