By  on May 19, 1994

JUNO BEACH, Fla. -- Oh, those hips! Summer is coming, and the annual chorus of sighs is already issuing from fitting rooms as women search out swimsuits that make the most of their assets. But an innovative Florida company is using a computerized imaging system to take the pain out of that search and the guesswork out of the result.

Second Skin Swimwear, here, is making custom suits that both fit and flatter. At a competitive $75 to $180 per suit, Second Skin owner Michelle Deziel has had a lot of takers.

"Women tell me what they like about their bodies and what they hate about their bodies," a very frank Deziel said. "The classic request is 'I want the leg higher but I don't want my butt to hang out."'

The computerized system generates custom patterns from those very personal requests. After talking with a Second Skin sales rep, a shopper is presented with several prototype swimsuit styles. "Usually, there are three or four suits that are possibilities," Deziel said.

When the customer decides on one, she puts it on in a private room where a Canon Xap Shot camera mounted on a tripod records images from the front and side. Each image takes only five seconds to record onto a video disk. The disks can store 50 such images. The cameras are usually wired to a personal computer -- immediately relating that information to the computer or the disk can be inserted into the computer later.

The process saves time for the retailer and embarrassment for the shopper, according to Deziel.

"We could measure the body with measuring tape to create custom suits, but people really don't want to know that their hips have grown to over 40 inches," she said. "Measuring tapes don't push shoppers' 'buy' buttons."

After the images are shot, the customer discusses how to alter the basic design with the salesperson. Deziel said numerous areas can be customized on a basic tank suit, for example. The leg openings can be moved higher or lower, as can the bust line, and the straps can be made thinner or wider along with many other adjustments. Even small changes, she said, can dramatically affect how the wearer will look in the finished suit. The most enjoyable part of the process is choosing fabric swatches, according to Deziel.

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