Despite the fact that awesome online clothing stores are rather ubiquitous, visiting physical fashion retailers remains the preferred method of shopping for many people simply because at the store, you can try before you buy. After all, nothing is more frustrating than buying a shirt online, waiting patiently for it to arrive, and tearing open the package only to find that you should’ve ordered a bigger size. To avoid this problem, some e-shoppers will go so far as ordering the same item in different sizes before returning the ones that don’t fit. This might be a working method, but wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to waste all that time for one good-looking sweater?
Enter UPcload: the robotic digital tailor. Unlike other services that require you to manually enter your sizing information (good luck finding that tailor’s tape in your junk drawer), UPcload uses your webcam and a software program to gather your measurements with astonishing accuracy. It works by guiding you through a series of four poses, one of which requires that you hold a CD for the program to use as reference point for proper calibration. Once it’s gotten you all sized up, it compares your measurements with a database of sizing information for various clothing brands, and helps you find clothes that are more likely to fit.
Setting up an account is extremely easy; it’s clear that UPcload’s creators have put a great deal of work into making the service quite user-friendly. Just enter in your email address, create a password, and follow the directions onscreen. Before it sizes you up, there’s a short video and a set guidelines that’ll help you get the most accurate measurement possible. Basically, the software works best if you wear dark, form-fitting clothing while standing in front of a well-lit background of uniform color. It takes a bit of effort to set up correctly and ensure your camera is at the proper height, but it’s no more difficult than say, re-packaging an oversized shirt you need to return.
How accurate is it? In one review of UPcload’s service, the reviewer stated that “measurements were within 1.5 cm of a professional tailor’s.” Now, we didn’t pit ours against a professional tailor per se, but the measurements UPcload gave us were startlingly close to the ones we took ourselves. About 80 percent of the measurements it took were dead on, and the other 20 percent were only fractions of an inch too big or small. For all intents and purposes, it works beautifully. The only measurement it got wrong was the neck diameter — probably because our test dummy intern was wearing a collared shirt for the first measurement, which slightly obscured his neckline. Fixing this was just a matter of re-taking the measurements in a different shirt.
After your profile has been set up, you’re ready to start shopping… sort of. This is where UPcload falls short. Despite how easily the service is embeddable into any retail site, UPcload hasn’t been embraced by many online stores just yet. Unfortunately, this well-executed idea has only been picked up by 13 different retailers — most of which are German. The service launched back in 2010 after getting a six-figure grant from the Investment Bank of Berlin, and has spent most of that money on research, development, and streamlining the user experience — which reflects on the shortage of marketing and brand partnerships.
Still, UPcload’s future looks promising. Now that it’s worked out all the kinks in the software, UPcload’s creators have obtained more funding and are working on expanding their partnerships with big-name clothing stores. The company recently partnered with The North Face, and other brand collaborations are in the works. The North Face is part of the VF corporation, which includes brands like Vans, Lee, Wrangler, and Nautica, so we won’t be surprised to see UPcload coming to those sites and many more in the near future.