Mirror, Mirror on the Wall Do I Want to Buy Them All? 

A few months back Amazon patented a blended reality mirror. A mirror that allows you to try on clothes virtually, blending a reflective model of yourself wearing digitally imposed clothes against a virtual background; presumably of your choice.

But why?

This all seems like a lot of technological effort to essentially try on clothes [and sell them]. Reviewers of the new yet to be fully launched product claim that it will take the hassle out of trying on clothes. No need to lift a finger let alone hop around on one foot as you try to wriggle your way à la caterpillar, into a pair of skinny jeans.


Will we get the same “I feel good in this” factor if we can’t feel the garment?


But what about that?

Surely such blended reality solutions cannot tell you how easy or difficult it is to get into the garment, how much give they have around the waist, whether the buttons pull across the bust or how soft or scratchy the fabric feels on your skin. Will we get the same “I feel good in this” factor if we can’t feel the garment?

The 19th century thinker in the field of dress studies Thomas Carlyle said of his hat that, when atop of his head it took on a new life force. Clothes, when on our bodies become a second skin, a part, or if not yet purchased, a potential part of us. We try on clothes as though we were trying on personalities or auditioning clothes for the role of identity portrayer, extension of self. But for something so close and intimate as clothing, virtual reality gives a sense of distance akin to speaking with a friend via Skype compared to in the flesh. We as humans are all about the unspoken, unconscious reactions of being in the presence of and feeling, with all five senses, and the sixth.

The now famous Adam and Galinsky study showed there is a cognitive difference between merely seeing an object and physically wearing it. In this study, the effect of the garment on subjects’ cognitive abilities differed depending on what was attributed to a white coat (painter or doctor/scientist) and whether it was seen by the subject or worn. The biggest positive effect was seen when the coat was worn and believed to be a scientist’s lab coat. 

Will virtual reality become the way forward in shopping?

Will the reduced effort encourage us to take more style risks? Will blended-reality mirrors reduce online shopping returns by giving us more of a sense of the garment than online shopping currently does?  Or will such developments be the straw that broke the high street Camel’s back?

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