fashionimage1.jpgOnline sites targeting women are among the hottest on the Web.

Two fast-growing women-centric media sites —Glam and iVillage — are battling it out. And lately, there’s been a lot of action among sites catering to women’s fashion.

Inspired by back-to-back news from FashMatch, a network for young women who want to make matching outfits, and myShape, a site that asks women about body-types to suggest form-flattering clothes (and which has just raised a second round of financing), I decided to write a summary. Welcome to my hell.

Here goes:

fashmatchlogo.jpgFashMatch — Miami’s FashMatch’s main feature is what it calls a “virtual closet,” where women can browse through more than 7,000 matching outfits with apparel from the a large range of mid-priced brands (sorry, no Gucci or Prada here). Conversely, women can put together outfits themselves and have other people vote them up or down. At long last, the world has a place where women with dysfunctional fashion senses or no instincts for color can find the help they need.

shareyourlooklogo.jpgShareYourLook — Those seeking fashion affirmation can also check in at ShareYourLook, where women (and the occasional dude) can upload photos of themselves in their favorite clothes, get ratings and comments on their outfits and see the most popular “trends” in styles ranging from classic and hip to gutsy and sexy. However, I found many of the same people in the same outfits represented in multiple categories, and came away as clueless about fashion as I’ve always been.

But these types of services are just the beginning: online shopping for clothes has become a nearly $20 billion industry, and there are a few companies that want to change the way women shop online.

myshapelogo.jpgmyShape — myShape’s big idea is that finding flattering clothing takes more than personal measurements; it also requires a full understanding of a woman’s figure, and so before delving into myShape’s shop, a woman answers a series of questions about her proportions: is her waist smaller than her hips? Approximately equal? How about her shoulders? Her bust? On it goes. myShape then proceeds to ask about preferred fit and style, and will then recommend apparel that matches all these criteria. According to the company, the percentage of people returning clothes purchased on myShape is less than half the industry average, but one hardcore online shopper we talked to said “I don’t want to acknowledge my shape in such a formal manner. I just squeeze into size 8, even if myShape tells me something else. I wonder how many of my friends would really want to learn the (bad) things about their shapes.” The Altadena, Calif, comapany’s venture round is said to be in middling size, somewhere in the high single-digit millions.

zafulogo.jpgZafu — This San Francisco company takes a similar approach, but is entirely focused on jeans and bras. For example, to determine the distance between your breasts, the site asks you how many fingers you can fit between them. In asking how much your breasts “drape,” it questions how many pencils you can hold underneath them. After a three-to-five minute inquisition that includes questions about how you want your breasts to look (maximum cleavage, pushed up?) you get a list of bras that should meet your needs. There’s a similar, but less bizarre process for jeans.

intellifitlogo.jpgIntellifit — Philadelphia’s Intellifit also wants to help you find clothes that match your “fit,” but instead of quizzing you about your body, it has set up outlets in a handful of malls and cities around the country.  At these outlets, there are “Virtual Fitting Rooms” that use low powered radio waves to measure you through your clothes.   You than have a private “Fit Print” that you can use on Intellifit’s site to find clothes guaranteed to fit you well.  Intellifit targets both men and women, and I must admit that I am now contemplating a visit to its SoHo, NY, location for a run through the radio waves.

3blogo.jpg3B – London’s 3B is on a different plane altogether. It believes that women want to shop online in a radically different way — one that takes the real-world experience of browsing the aisles and brings it to the web. To this end, the company has created a 3D environment that lets you create an avatar and walk through virtual stores. Pictures the of items for sale are emblazoned on the wall and clicking on one takes you straight to the store’s regular, 2D purchase page. The company is aiming at teenage and twenty-something women, and while we don’t fall into this demographic we could not see the point. Also, there was no way to have our avatar try on a watch or a pair of shoes.

Updated to include Intellifit

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.