Shopping for a wedding gown can be a tiring and time-consuming process.
According to Ms Teo Pei Ru, managing director and owner of La Belle Couture Weddings in Tanjong Pagar, brides-to-be typically spend about four hours trying up to 20 dresses at a time. With more than 700 gowns available at her shop, picking out what to try can be daunting.
"Each dress takes about 20 minutes to put on and can weigh from 7 to 15kg," Ms Teo elaborates. "It takes the customer an average of three to four hours and many brides sayit is a tiring process."
That is why she recently decided to invest in a $45,000 "mirror" that helps reduce all that physical and mental stress.
The FXMirror is an augmented reality virtual fitting room software from South Korea that allows a shopper to "try on" dresses to see how she looks, without putting them on.
Using Microsoft Kinect cameras and a 3-D virtual fitting software to analyse the shopper's height and body shape, the FXMirror conforms the virtual garment fairly accurately to the shopper's body.
I am impressed by how easily my measurements were taken when I tried out the FXMirror last week. All I had to do was raise my hand to activate the software and stand with my arms held slightly away from my body. In five seconds, it was done.
I try on a range of styles out of the 50 available, from bustiers to gowns with a sweetheart neckline and a dramatic evening dress in a vivid purple, and note with satisfaction that I can see the texture of the fabric used, the detailed lace and embroidery patterns and even the folds of the fabric as I twist and turn. I can barely contain my excitement at this novel experience as I prance about in front of the mirror, moving my arms up and down and leaning forwards and backwards. The dresses follow my movements easily and smoothly.
A thumbnail at the top left-hand corner of the mirror displays the back view, although I cannot be seen in the image.
Eventually, I decide on a white off-shoulder A-line gown, with feminine three-quarter lace sleeves and matching skirt and train overlay, with a crystal-embellished waistline. Now, it is time to try on the dress in the fitting room - and what a difference reality is from the virtual.
In the fitting room, I hoist the dress up to my waist and slide my arms into the lace sleeves, before the consultant comes back into the fitting room to lace up the corset tightly. I feel compacted and my stomach starts to grumble audibly a few times and I ask if the corset is usually this tight. Apparently yes, to help give the bride-to-be a slimmer waist. About five minutes later, she is done and I suddenly feel incapacitated - I can barely lift my arms.
She then tells me to put on a pair of high heels and my first instinct is to bend down to put them on, but the corset prevents me from doing so. I lean on the wall for balance as I step gingerly into the shoes.
Taking a few steps, I trip on the inner layers. The dress feels luxurious, but its 7kg weight and five petticoat layers make it cumbersome to wear and walk in, plus I feel uncomfortable taking deep breaths because of the corset. This is a totally different experience from trying on the dress with the FXMirror.
Ms Teo sympathises with my discomfort. She says: "A lot of brides are not mentally prepared to try on so many heavy dresses." My reaction is similar to most brides who wear a wedding dress for the first time.
With the FXMirror, she estimates that it takes 25 minutes on average for brides to "try" at least 15 dresses. They would otherwise spend about two hours trying them on physically. Also, while brides would have previously taken 20 to 30 dresses to the fitting room, that number has now been halved because they are able to eliminate those that do not look good on them with the FXMirror.
This cuts down the total consultation time of three to four hours to about two hours.
Mr Tan Soo Hwang, whose digital solutions company Richmond Technologies is the sole distributor of the FXMirror here, says that La Belle Couture Weddings is the only retailer here that bought the mirror.
Ms Teo says that the FXMirror helps make her sales staff's jobs easier too, especially with customers who are dead set on a particular style of dress even though it may not be flattering for their body shapes.
Some also require more convincing to try on styles that may suit them better.
She says: "Because she can try it on with just a flick of a button, the resistance level is not as high as if she had to physically try on the dress. More than 80 per cent of brides change their minds about what they originally think they will look good in."
Go to http://str.sg/Z94f to see how the FXMirror works