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ASOS rolls out augmented reality technology to make online shopping more inclusive

C. True Coleman, a plus-size bride-to-be, found their perfect dress using the new technology that allows customers to view clothes on models in various sizes.

C. True Coleman faced a dilemma all too common for many brides in search of that perfect wedding dress.

The bride-to-be wanted something they would feel special and comfortable in while celebrating their big day, but faced added difficulty finding the perfect gown because Coleman was up against a 3-month time crunch and is also a plus-size bride.

"As a plus-size bride, I always knew I'd be shopping online for my dress and because of the timeline, I didn't have much time for alterations either," Coleman, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, told NBC News. "I was so scared something would arrive a month before the wedding and not fit or need to be seriously altered."

C. True Coleman said they found their dream wedding dress using ASOS' augmented reality tool.
C. True Coleman said they found their dream wedding dress using ASOS' augmented reality tool.Sin Jenkins

Coleman said they scoured the Internet looking for a dress through retailers like ModCloth, Torrid and Boohoo, but didn't find any they wanted to wear on their big day. That's when their friends told them about ASOS and when they decided to look at the British retailer's website, they found their "dream sparkly dress" for their wedding.

According to Coleman, what set ASOS apart from other retailers wasn't necessarily the quality or style of its dresses, it was a feature on its website that allowed potential customers to view how dresses would look on models of different sizes. The tool, which was first introduced last year in partnership with the tech company Zeekit, uses an augmented reality technology to map dresses onto a model, giving customers a simulated view of a product on various body types and helps customers to purchase clothing that fits correctly.

Though several brands have incorporated some form of augmented reality on their websites in recent years, ASOS, a brand geared for 20-somethings has been widely credited as a leader in using this type of technology.

"I got to view the dress on a model that had a body that looked like my body," Coleman said. "It's super rare for me to buy a garment online and it fits perfect. It's always too small."

Making fashion more 'inclusive'

Though ASOS introduced the augmented reality tool last year as part of a trial to largely positive results, many customers called for the company to expand its offerings as the technology only showed the products on four different models — none of which were plus-size.

This feedback became the motivation behind "See My Fit," an expanded version of this technology that allows customers to view 800 dresses on 16 different models sizes 4 to 18, which was released Tuesday.

"With this trial of See My Fit, we're using the latest in AR [augmented reality] technology to put the power in our customers' hands, so they can choose to view a dress on the model that they most identify with, in a way that wouldn't be possible using traditional model-shooting techniques," Tim Carey, senior content manager at ASOS Studios, said in an emailed statement.

The expanded technology, as well as another trial technology released last year which allowed customers to view clothing on models as they moved versus simply evaluating outfits from static pictures, has earned the company widespread praise with many heralding ASOS for being at the forefront of fashion inclusivity.

"ASOS have consistently shown that they are ahead of the trends, from their video models to VR feature," Carrie Rose, founder of the British public relations agency Rise at Seven, wrote in a email. "The fact you can now shop their products comparing an outfit on different sized models is probably the most simplest but useful concepts."

Rose said that she has struggled with visualizing outfits on different body types and that as a "curvy" woman, she often finds herself regularly ordering and returning clothes and "buying a bulk of outfit choices just to try them on in case they don't suit me personally."

She suggests the technology might not only be beneficial to the customer, but that it could also help ASOS cut down costs and all the packaging waste from shipping.

Carlos Galicia, who works in non-profit, echoed Rose's sentiments, stating that the technology is an "amazing step forward in the body positivity movement."

"I’m glad that artists such as Lizzo, Sam Smith, Ashley Graham, Meghan Trainor, etc. have brought this movement to the mainstream and it has trickled down into clothing stores," Galicia wrote in a message to NBC News.

A continued demand for diverse sizing and models

While many agree that the technology marks a major step forward in fashion, an industry that has traditionally omitted models and customers who wear bigger sizes, some say the brand still has room for improvement, including Mel Frisby, who calls the technology a "complete lie."

"The dresses are edited onto each model, therefore giving an unrealistic view of what these dresses will look like on girls or boys of that size or height," Frisby wrote in a message. "I would rather only see one model who is actually wearing the dress rather than a multitude of models who have had the dresses (badly) edited onto their bodies."

Others hope that the brand will expand the feature to include models of various shapes and expressed disappointment that the sizing doesn't go larger than size 18.

"I would definitely like to see them roll out the feature with models of varying shapes - most of the models had small busts and long limbs," Adwoa Boateng, an education coordinator, told NBC News. "I think seeing curvier women with different body types would help people envision outfits on themselves more easily."

Chris Paul Thompson, an e-commerce photographer, said that while the feature is helpful, "it would be great to have more ethnic diversity" among the models so consumers can see how clothing might pair with their skin tones and body shapes.

Whether ASOS will adopt these suggestions has yet to be seen, but the brand wrote that it plans to introduce additional models "reflecting a greater range of body types" in any final product launch for the "See My Fit Tool" in an emailed statement.

"All in all, there's no excuse for all online shops not to have this feature," Coleman said. "Shopping in public stores can be emotionally taxing as a plus-size person, so essentially being able to try on a gown from the comfort of my smartphone made my life and wedding planning so much easier."