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Create custom clothes in cyber shopos

By Erin Weinger
Los Angeles Times
Custom fashion once required a meeting in Karl Lagerfeld’s atelier. Now all you need is a WiFi connection.
Cyber shops allow shoppers to personalize clothes and accessories from a palette of options. We’re not talking about sketched-from-scratch couture. These pre-designed goods only become “custom” when set options are changed ó you pick a shoe sole from a lineup or a dress fabric from swatches.
But if you’re looking to take customization beyond the monogrammed tote, mix-and-match Web sites may be the ticket.
I surfed six sites that let shoppers personalize handbags, sandals and even a swanky cocktail dress down to the tiniest detail. Some were more user-friendly ó and fashion-forward ó than others. If the design options are dowdy in the first place, there’s very little chance of creating something magnifique.) But for the price, the quality of the goods was on par with what you’d find in stores.
Still, it’s a safe bet Karl doesn’t need to watch his back just yet.
Styleshake.com
The Goods: This London-based site lets you create shirts and dresses, offering stylish options such as a one-shoulder silhouette or a bubble hem, designed by creative director Romina Karamanea, whose work has appeared on the London catwalks. After choosing black stretch cotton as the base fabric from a small but high-quality selection of 16 different cottons and silks, I clicked through six simple steps to choose my neckline, sleeves and hemline.
My selections instantly appeared on a virtual mannequin. It was mildly annoying that I was forced to start the process over after changing fabric colors mid-design, but no biggie. Finally, after adding box pleats, removing bow-ties and deciding that a frilly collar was too adorable to pass up, I was ready to check out. The tedious task of measurement-taking was skipped in favor of selecting a standard dress size ó a big plus. When the frock finally arrived, my black-and-red bubble dress fit well, garnered rave reviews and fulfilled my fantasy of starting a clothing line.
The Price: Cotton tops start at $117, dresses at $197. Add about $100 for silk fabric.
The Waiting Game: According to Style Shake’s Web site, you can show off your design in a mere 10 days ó hard to believe since it’s coming from London. My dress took more than three weeks.
The Fine Print: Sales are final. Free alterations.
LandsEnd.com
The Goods: Finding perfect-fitting pants is everyone’s challenge. So, these classic made-to-measure chinos from catalog merchant Lands’ End were enticing. Selecting color (moss green, stone, Atlantic blue and more), fit (relaxed or natural) and waist style (low, high or average) was easy. Pleats or no pleats? Straight legs or tapered? I quickly checked off my choices and detailed photos helped when I couldn’t decide. I was eager to check out, but had to create a “fit profile” using my exact measurements before I was home free. Luckily, stats stay in the system for next time.
The Price: $70 to $80.
The Waiting Game: Three to four weeks.
The Fine Print: If you’re unhappy, return your pants. No questions asked. Lands’ End doesn’t do alterations, but will remake your chinos using new measurements if the fit isn’t right.
Freddyandma.com
The Goods: This girlie Web site lets shoppers design “it” bags. You begin by choosing a shape ó a clutch or tote ó then move on to hardware finish and trim color. Hundreds of floral, botanical and graphic print choices taxed the mind. Luckily, the search engine let me navigate the extensive fabric library by color, season, popularity and even mood (bold, Gothic, preppy, retro). But prints aren’t really my thing and it was hard to find solid colors. I think I’ll be happier when the site adds solid leather colors as options.
The Price: From $85 for a 5-inch-by-7 inch Metro clutch, to $365 for the Antonia bowling bag.
The Waiting Game: Four to five weeks.
The Fine Print: All sales are final, but store credit is given for returns.
DressMonkey.com
The Goods: Imagine, 15 styles of men’s blazers in linen, wool or tweed that can be totally personalized. Three button or two? Notched lapel or Nehru collar? Boxy American cut or tailored European cut?
Unlike other custom sites I visited, this one doesn’t show the design as you go along. And with 14 obligatory personalization options such as “cell phone pocket” and “exterior stitch color,” things got confusing. Still, the site has hilarious product descriptions (“A nice pinstripe with dark jeans is just about as hip as it gets, or so our life coach tells us”), and the optional monkey crest. Enter your standard jacket size and close-to-custom measurements are automatically filled in, a perfect feature if you don’t mind your jacket being a quarter-inch off.
The Price: Simple men’s jackets start at $130 for corduroy and $240 for wool. Extras such as leather buttons and silk lining add to the total.
The Waiting Game: Three to six weeks.
The Fine print: Custom-tailored duds are not returnable. But DressMonkey will alter your jacket free or reimburse tailoring charges as much as $25, provided you send your receipt.
Morganmillershoes.com
The Goods: This site offers nothing but backless sandals, with 16 sole choices. I settled on sensible wood soles and moved on. A single band-like strap across the top of the sandal is the only customized trim, available in more than 100 colors of leather, suede and exotic skins. I would have been happy with beige alligator, but I was forced to add a bit of unwanted bling (a faux Gucci horse bit, a shiny bamboo ring or a crystal jewel) to my sandals. The horse bit was the most spartan of the mandatory accessories, so I reluctantly added the tacky tackle.
The Price: From $125 for basic leather slides with a bamboo ring to $430 for 4 1/2-inch stilettos with alligator straps and a crystal accessory.
The Waiting Game: Orders are shipped within 24 hours.
The Fine Print: Unworn pairs can be returned for a full refund within 30 days.
Evolveintimates.com
The Goods: Fans of lingerie stores will be disappointed with the design of this site, which offers custom underclothes. But clicking through the swatches of lace, nylon and mesh makes it worth it. I customized a pair of boy shorts, easily choosing peachy pink lace for a base fabric. But when it came time to pick the color of lace around the leg openings, the site froze. Before I could see a preview of my design, I had to start over. It happened several more times before I was able to add trim and pick a satin stretch waistband.
The Price: Thongs start at $35, bras at $62. A custom camisole is $67.
The Waiting Game: Three weeks.
The Fine Print: Would you want to step into someone else’s drawers? Custom products cannot be returned.

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