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Remember the Butt Factor

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Same measurements, different needs

So if I can stay in the comfort of my own home and point and click my way to an updated wardrobe, I think, I just might be able to enjoy the experience of shopping. But my model, who I affectionately named KeyBee, really looked nothing like me. The measurements of my size-10 Black woman's butt translated into size 14 or 16 hips for the virtual KeyBee. And yes, I was completely honest about my measurements (okay, only after first trying to virtually trim myself down). Besides, we may both have the same measurements, but the virtual woman may not be trying to find a pair of jeans that will contour her butt and hips, just as I'm not looking to hide mine completely with a closet full of long shirts. Looking at KeyBee, I realized that I needed to be there in that fitting room.
The one thing about services like these is that you can shop from the comfort and convenience of your home -- that is, if you've got a shape that allows for such luxuries. For me, I've got to get jeans that curve just right, pants that nip and tuck just right, and skirts and jackets that hang just right. The designers of this service didn't factor in the almighty butt factor. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to brave the throngs of people at the stores. And I guess I'll just have to deal with the unflattering light and fun-house mirrors in the fitting rooms. But I also guess that's the price I have to pay for a little vanity. I ain't mad. Now let me hurry up and get to this little store before it closes. They had the nicest pair of jeans ...

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I gotta say, I don't like shopping all that much. It's so frustrating and tiresome trying to find things that will add that perfect touch to my struggling wardrobe. With all the crowds and battles for that cute little item at sample sales and department stores, it often takes a full day to recuperate from my shopping fatigue. Sure there are the times when I find sensational deals, like the long, butterscotch belted leather coat I got at a flea market for only $65. Or that $40 70's-style, chocolate, shin-length leather coat with the diagonal suede stripes that I still get compliments on ("Girl, that coat is hot!! Where'd you find it?") Oh, and the vintage Gucci bag I found in a thrift store for 30 bucks.

Okay, so maybe discovering things isn't all that bad. But I found those finds all on a whim. I wasn't really shopping. I just kinda lucked up on them. It's when I go to get the basics--jeans and pants in particular--that I often leave disappointed.

One reason is that I'm not endowed with the "perfect" 36-24-36 measurements. Don't get me wrong, I have what I think is a pretty nice shape: a quite-adequate bust, a small waist, thick legs and plenty of that stuff that make our men cry. But it makes me want to cry, too, when I have to buy a size 10 or 12 (even a 14 once) to fit these ample hips while my size-8 waist is swimming in extra fabric.
ot to mention the fact that I'm only 5'3" and most of the jeans I like sweep the floor (thank goodness those big cuffs are in now). I know I can't walk into a store thinking I can quickly find a pair of jeans or even some basic black pants. By the time I leave -- 27 or so try-ons later -- I'm depressed. So when I look in on-line and off-line catalogues and see all these wonderful outfits modeled by the thinnest women with the longest legs, I'm more than a little skeptical.

The latest "customer service" by one of the companies is the virtual model. Land's End's My Virtual Model lets you pick from a series of pictures to help build a model that will look like you. It asks your face shape, hairstyle, skin color and even the shape of your eyes. It then asks the size of your hips, your height, your bust size and the width of your shoulders. Finally, it asks for your weight (and yes, if you lie to the model, she'll lie right back). Then -- voila! -- a model that is supposed to look like you appears on the screen. You then use this model to try on various Land's End outfits.

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