The union between fashion and tech has finally taken a major step forward. The fitting room, formerly nothing more than a heinously lit closet with a full-length mirror, can now offer useful information on the clothes you're trying on — from pricing and sizing to accessories you may also want to check out. Be still, my beating heart. Iconic fashion brand and household name Ralph Lauren is the latest to embrace high-tech fitting rooms with new "smart mirrors" from software company Oak Labs. Last year, Bloomingdale's outfitted some of its fitting rooms with iPads for a better shopping experience, but this takes things to a whole new level. So, what exactly is a smart mirror, and is it really going to help my shopping? I headed down to the Polo Ralph Lauren flagship store on 5th Avenue to check it out for myself.
After grabbing a dress that I sort of liked, one size up from the size I usually wear, I headed to the fitting room area. From the outside, it looks like your average dressing room with a full-length mirror. But once you walk in, the mirror recognizes exactly what item, in what size and what color, you brought in — via a small RFID chip. First, the lighting changes. Then the mirror shows you how many items you have and presents you with a touch screen. The interface is clear, clean, and easy to use. I was given three lighting options to choose from: Fifth Avenue Daylight, East Hampton Sunset, and Evening at The Polo Bar (how very Ralph Lauren). After I selected my desired lighting scheme (I went for the Polo Bar), an image of my item popped up on the mirror. I then had the option to see what other sizes were available, what color I had selected, and whether there were other color options — followed by recommended items to complete the outfit head-to-toe.
Admittedly, when I grabbed it, I wasn’t particularly fond of the dress — but in the dressing room, I suddenly began to love it. I watched as the whole outfit come together; it was oddly reminiscent of the magic mirror from Snow White.
Since I brought the wrong size dress in with me, I pressed on the mirror to see if there was a smaller size in stock. There was, and I requested it. The lovely sales associate who first led me to the room instantly got a notification on her iPad and quickly brought me the same dress in the right size. So much better than peeking your head out and shyly asking for a different size, right? But then, a little too like Snow White's magic mirror, the thing suddenly had a mind of its own. The light changed. The interface no longer showed the dress I had so loved five seconds ago. The mirror reverted to its default resting state and played branded content on a loop. I pushed and pressed all over the mirror to try and get back my personalized screen. The only fix I came up with was to walk out and re-enter, so the mirror would "think" I was a new customer. I did this about five times throughout my 15 minutes in the dressing room. It was definitely frustrating. Although I ended up loving the dress, I wasn't ready to buy it just then. Conveniently, the mirror offered the option to text myself the details of the item. I tapped my number in on the mirror and instantly received a text that read, “Thank you! Follow this link to see your fitting room items.” Tapping the link led me to a page that said “My fitting room” and showed me my dress. Overall, it was a great shopping experience that was really enhanced by technology. It made me feel like Cher from Clueless. (Who can forget the opening scene, when she picks her outfit on the computer?) My only problem with it was that I couldn’t get enough magic-mirror time before the interface changed back to a neutral state playing branded content. Even so, I loved it. This certainly feels like the future of shopping and fashion, and hopefully it will catch on. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of a future in which I have my very own smart mirror at home. It would be way better than a "Dress Me" computer program.