Image: dress shirt
If you actually want an aqua shirt with a white collar, you can customize one at Blank Label. The company lets shoppers specify details including fabric, pocket, cuff and collar styles.
updated 5/19/2010 3:57:04 PM ET 2010-05-19T19:57:04

Can't find the exact swimsuit you had in mind for summer? Design your own.

Shoppers with exacting tastes can now customize an array of products, including dress shirts, handbags, jewelry and sneakers.

Just how much creative control you get varies depending on the company. But prices often aren't far off from pre-made items of similar quality. In some cases, what you pay is tied to how elaborate your design gets.

The biggest surprise? Customized items are typically refundable, even if they were monogrammed.

A look at some options.

1. Handbags: 1154 LILL Studio
How it works: The website lets shoppers pick from around 40 styles that include casual, dressy, travel and work bags. Shoppers can pick from 150 or so fabrics; selections can be made for the body of the bag, lining, straps and pockets.

Another option is a "Design a Bag" kit, which includes a sample bag and fabric swatches. The idea is to let customers play around with designs before placing an order.

Those who want to host a handbag party can schedule a representative to come by at no charge with sample bags and fabrics. There's no requirement to buy, but the party host gets a discount on her purchases for that day.

Orders arrive in three to four weeks.

Cost: About $120 to $200 depending on the style. Wallets and other accessories are cheaper.

Return policy: Returns must be made within 45 days. Shipping costs aren't refundable.

Alternatives: If you like the styles of better known brands such as LeSportSac and TimBuk2, those companies also allow for similar customization.

2. Dress shirts: Blank Label
How it works: The site starts with a basic men's shirt, then lets shoppers tailor it to their tastes.

After picking from about 50 different fabrics, shoppers make a series of choices about the collar, cuffs, pocket, shoulders, buttons and more. Monograms and labels can be added too.

For sizing, there's classic or slim fit. Customers are also asked to pick a body type, then enter height, weight and neck and sleeve measurements.

Orders typically take three to four weeks to arrive.

Cost: A basic shirt starts at $45. But the price can go as high as $140 or more depending on the design. For example, it costs $2 extra for a single front pocket and $6 extra for an inner collar lining. Monograms cost $6.

Return policy: Shirts must be returned in the condition they arrived within 30 days. Shipping costs aren't refundable.

Alternative: Lands' End also lets shoppers design men's dress shirts, with many of the same design specifications.

3. Jewelry: Zales 
How it works: A wide variety of pendants, bracelets and other jewelry can be customized or engraved. This time of year, however, parents might be interested in rings for high school graduates.

The rings can be customized with the graduation year, mascot and an activity. For the stone, there are 15 colors and six styles to choose from. The inside of the ring can be engraved with up to 18 characters and spaces.

Rings bearing college names aren't available, because Zales doesn't have the necessary licensing rights.

Cost: Rings range from $79 to $779. Most are under $400, however.

Return policy: Returns must be made via mail within 100 days. Shipping charges are not refundable.

Alternative: For fine jewelry with precious stones, check out online jeweler Blue Nile.

4. Sneakers: Nike
How it works: The company has let shoppers design sneakers for more than a decade now. But the level of customization was greatly expanded in the last year.

Beyond design, shoppers can now tailor sneakers for comfort and performance as well. For example, runners can opt for firmer or softer cushioning, or pick soles for roads or trails. Outdoor runners can opt for a waterproof mesh for the sneaker's exterior.

Of course, you can also specify the colors you want for various parts of the shoe, including the Nike swoosh logo.

If you're in New York City, you can also make an appointment at select Nike stores for help designing your sneakers. Orders are delivered within four weeks.

Cost: Prices range from about $100 to $300 depending on the sneaker.

Return policy: Returns must be made within 30 days after the order is received.

Alternative: Converse, owned by Nike, also lets shoppers design their own sneakers.

5. Swimsuits: Lands' End
How it works: To let women build two-piece suits catered to their bodies, shoppers can mix and match from dozens of separates.

So for the bottom piece, ladies might want swim shorts or a tummy control wrap. Then they might pick a halter tank top or a tunic. Each style comes in different colors and patterns, too. The site also lets women shop by body shape and "anxiety zones."

Sizes can be mixed and matched, because it's common for women to wear different size tops and bottoms. They could also save money by getting one basic colored bottom piece, then getting a couple print tops to go with it.

Cost: Each piece ranges from about $30 to $75.

Return policy: The company has a very generous policy; customers can make returns at any time, even if the item has been worn for years. Items can be mailed back using a return label for a flat fee of $6.95, or shoppers can mail the items on their own. Purchases can also be returned at Sears stores where Lands' End merchandise is sold.

Alternatives: Some department stores or chain stores, such as Gap, also let you mix and match separates.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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