Buying anything online that you'll put on your body requires a little bit of guesswork, even if it's a thing you plan to carry instead of wear. Online retailers have a vested interest in demystifying that guesswork as much as possible because it encourages purchasing, makes shoppers less likely to return what they buy and paints them as a reliable consumer resources instead of just another store. You'd think that would translate to abundant product information, especially at high-end e-commerce sites who are already selling luxury and comfort as concepts, but the reality of the situation is almost always terrible: maybe you get to see the bag in the hand of a 5'10, size zero model. Maybe. But these companies have vast resources and can give us more, and we should start demanding it.
Last week on Twitter, someone alerted me to a feature on Rebecca Minkoff's website I hadn't noticed before: not only does each bag's product page show the piece at scale next to the kinds of things normally kept in bags (a wallet, a magazine, Apple phones and laptops, a bottle of water), but Minkoff also lets shoppers adjust the size of the bag's modeling figure between a pretty vast array of sizes, from 4'10" to 6" and size zero to size 28.
It's easily the most complete set of contextual information I've ever seen a designer or retailer provide about its fashion products, and it should absolutely be the norm. For much of it, the only information required is the dimensions of both the bag (which retailers already provide) and the standardized objects and body sizes, and then a good piece of software can take care of the rest.
There are likely a mixture of reasons for why retailers have lagged behind on providing this information to shoppers, but for luxury brands and retailers, it probably has something to do with the pedestal they work hard to make sure the products stay on. A brand that spends millions on elaborate ad campaigns to show its products in the hands of supermodels in exotic locales probably doesn't want to see those same bags tossed next to an image of a water bottle or computer for scale, lest customers be reminded that a purchase—even a luxurious one—doesn't actually get them out of the drudgery of everyday life. Also, giving shoppers the ability to see the bag in comparison to their own body size would force designer brands and retailers to admit they know luxury customers beyond a size ten exist, and they all seem more than willing to continue feigning ignorance of that fact even if it costs them sales.
That Rebecca Minkoff readily admits non-thin women buy her products should not feel like progress, given that she also declines the opportunity to make clothing that would fit those customers: she stops at a size ten, despite acknowledging that her customers don't. Still, though, I'll take the practical information Minkoff is now providing where I can get it, and hopefully one day soon, that will be a lot more places. And if brands and retailers are hoping to connect with millennial shoppers now becoming more established in their careers and stable financially, they might have to concede on this sort of practicality. For a generation shoppers weaned on Amazon Prime, ease and confidence in online purchases counts just as much as spotting a bag in a glossy ad.
Check out some examples of Minkoff's sizing feature below, or play with it for real via the brand's website.