When my editor suggested I check out a new body scanner that's supposed to take the guesswork out of finding the perfect-fitting jeans, I figured it would be a blow to my ego.
Ten years ago, I wrote about the debut of one of the first body scanners in North Carolina. Much like the "Mybestfit" scanner at the King of Prussia mall, it generated thousands of points of measurements to create a 3-D image of your body. Back then, shoppers could take the picture - and their measurements - and someday, somewhere, use them to have a perfectly tailored garment made. I was handed a computer-generated picture of what was supposed to be my body, and after one look at the chunky figure, I threw my printout away.
So when Mybestfit by Unique Solutions Design made its mall debut at King of Prussia during September's Fashion's Night Out, I bristled. Even when publicist Lindsay Thompson called and invited me to check it out with company owners Tanya Shaw and Bob Kutnick, I remained hesitant.
"This is different," she told me.
For one thing, she said, I could leave all my clothes on. (Back in North Carolina, I had to wear a very flattering black bodysuit.) And after being scanned, I would receive a list of jeans perfect for my body and the stores in the mall that sold them.
"I think you should do it," my editor said.
So on a rainy Thursday afternoon, I made the trek to the second floor of the Plaza (the only mall to house the $100,000 contraption), where the pink-and-silver, 10-by-15-foot kiosk stands - think futuristic Barbie dollhouse furniture.
Kutnick explained that this machine employs millimeter radio waves - the same technology used by airport security scanners - that penetrate clothing and bounce off the moisture in the skin, taking 200,000 measurements to create a 3-D picture.
The beautiful part: Instead of receiving a blobbish image that does not resemble what you think your body looks like, you are handed a bar code. Scan the bar code, and within seconds you have a printout of all the stores that sell jeans - including styles, washes, and prices - that are just right for you. At the time I went, only 22 brands were included in the database, and it served only women. But eventually, Unique Solutions hopes to help men and women find the perfect shirts, jackets, trousers, and even bathing suits.
"We do three things," Kutnick said. "We get measurements of the body, measurements of clothing, and we play like a Match.com and find the clothing that looks best on you."
The service is free to shoppers, and Unique Solutions makes money by charging individual brands every time they are mentioned in a report. Kutnick assured me that jeans are not recommended unless they are a decent match. The printout includes a graph that places each pair on a fit spectrum: Green is best; red, not as good.
"So you are telling me that there won't be any jeans on my list that won't make it over my hips?" I asked Shaw before entering the machine. Shaw, the company's CEO, is curvy and understands the perils of buying jeans. Her company is 14 years old, and before she was in the scanning business, she modified manufacturers' sewing patterns to produce better-fitting women's clothing.
"Nope," she said. "We are dedicated to fit. Those jeans won't even be on your list."
I slipped off my ballet flats and spread my feet. Holding my stomach in, I spread my hands out, palms open. A wand moved around my body twice. It was over in 10 seconds.
I was eager to see which jeans the machine deemed right for me. I was sure Gap Curvy would be there. I've had some luck with Paige Premium Denim, even Joe's Jeans.
But instead of receiving my own personal denim nirvana, I got nothing - as in blank. Due to my measurements, the sheet said, there were no matches.
That's right. Hang it up, shorty. Nothing fits you here. I felt like I had failed my driving test.
"Does this happen often?" I asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
Shaw showed me printouts from other women - one in the 4 to 6 size range, another at a size twentysomething. Each matched with at least six jeans. Then Jenelle Laws, 25, of West Oak Lane, and her friend Sanithia Scales, 21, of Germantown, were scanned, and both left with a list of at least half a dozen labels. In fact, Scales said the Abercrombie & Fitch suggestion was her fave jean.
"It is hard to fit women who are very petite, and average-height women who are particularly curvy," Shaw said, trying to soften the blow.
Of course, Shaw is right. Nobody knows better than I do how hard it is to find a pair of nice-fitting jeans. But that makes something like Mybestfit all the more necessary for someone like me. Average-sized hipless people don't have trouble finding jeans, especially when brands use boyish figures as their fit models. That said, I am a size 8, not 80.
Still, Shaw asked me not to give up. She was sure that in the next week or two, more brands would sign up with the database.
On Friday, I received word that Mybestfit had, indeed, found me a pair: The CJ by Cookie Johnson Grace Midrise Bootcut, size 30, which could be mine for $112 at Nordstrom. I have had success in the past with this brand, in a size 29, though, and especially with boyfriends and skinnies. Maybe this was a different cut.
My printout did come with a disclaimer. "Based on your body profile, some measurements may need tailoring."
Some measurements? The waist gapped so badly, I could place both hands down my pants. The jeans bunched in the groin. My booty was sagging. If they had had a 29, I would have tried that, but none were in stock. I hightailed it out of there.
Mybestfit? It's not.
Until the database expands, I'll continue to put my search in human hands. Sebastian McCall, owner of the well-known Center City boutique Charlie's Jeans, doesn't take 200,000 measurements, but he can still find a pair that fits me perfectly. And my feelings won't get hurt.