BODY SCANNER THAT PICKS YOUR PERFECT DRESS; (... Whatever Your Shape)

Article excerpt

FINDING the perfect party dress to flatter your figure can be a daunting challenge, but a new 3D body scanner claims to have the solution. You step into what looks like a photo-booth and, using digital white light, a scanner takes measurements from 16 angles to create a map of your body shape in seconds (see left).

Using this profile, the customer's figure falls into six categories, including triangle, hour-glass and apple. An on-site stylist then uses this information to help pick the perfect frock for the shape the scanner has profiled.

So far, the technology has been trialled only at Manchester's Arndale Shopping Centre.

But can a machine really beat a woman's own intuition? To find out, we sent five women -- in their usual style of clothing -- to submit themselves to the scanner and choose a new outfit with the help of stylist Deborah Hatfield.

PETITE

BARBARA WOOLFSTEIN, 46, an administrator, lives in Manchester with her husband Nigel, 47, a dentist and their four children Alex, 20, Jake, 19, Adam, 16, and Sophie, 13. The scanner said: Petite shape. The stylist chose: A navy Monsoon dress ([pounds sterling]150).

BARBARA SAYS: I was really surprised when the machine said I was petite because, while I'm naturally skinny, I've always thought of myself as more of a pear shape.

I hate the top of my legs, which seem disproportionately big and fleshy. When I was little, my brothers teased me about my bottom, which is why I've always believed it was bigger than it is.

I'm careful with what I wear on my top because I think I look bony around the collarbone and shoulders and I haven't got a bust.

My best feature is definitely my flat stomach.

Once I'd got my reading, stylist Deborah chose this navy dress. I normally wear black, but I was surprised to find that I really liked this because it's smart, elegant and flatters my figure. If it hadn't been picked for me, I'd have probably walked right by it. 8/10

STYLIST DEBORAH SAYS: Petite people like Barbara benefit from well-fitted dresses. Anything less structured and they are swamped.

Slight women need a hemline above the knee to make the legs look longer. If you want to wear pattern, rely on vertical details to create height.

RECTANGLE

SARA BASSO, 42, a freelance artist and stylist is married to Elliot, 48, a businessman. The couple have three teenage children, Louie, Georgia and Olivia. The scanner said: Rectangle shape. The stylist chose: Red off-the-shoulder dress from Warehouse ([pounds sterling]75).

SARA SAYS: I was quite flattered with the result. I always thought I was a pear-shape -- that my bottom was much bigger than my bust. It's a boost to be told I'm actually in proportion!

My best assets are probably my 34D bust and my flat stomach, whereas I hate my legs because although I am 5ft 9in tall I feel that they are a bit chunky.

I hated the look of the red lopsided dress when I first saw it. I thought it was way too short, too tight and would make me look flabby and tarty.

I've been dressing myself all my life, so I know what suits my shape. I've got a DKNY stretchdenim dress, which is my favourite. It's slim-fitting, strapless and ankle length and I always feel great in it.

This dress was dreadful -- and with its one-shoulder detail and over-complicated structure, there was far too much going on. I could hardly bear to wear it for the photo-shoot. 3/10

STYLIST DEBORAH SAYS: What struck me about Sara was her height. I wanted to show off her legs and shoulders, as I thought her stature could take it.

One thing rectangle shapes like her need is to accentuate curves, which is why I picked a dress that nipped in at the waist. I don't think she was showing too much flesh -- even if Sara does.

HOUR GLASS

MICHAL MASLIN, 32, a company director, lives in Salford. …