Reviewed October 2020
Lelland Reed, Collections and Systems Librarian
NSCAD University Library
lreed@nscad.ca

The Fitting Room is an augmented reality resource from the Fashion Institute of Technology Library that brings together the digital collections of the FIT Library’s Special Collections and College Archives (SPARC Digital) and the Zappar augmented reality platform. The Fitting Room enables the user to “try on” fashion accessories from original fashion sketches that are part of the SPARC Digital collections. The project was made possible with support from the FIT Faculty Research Space (FRS), an interdisciplinary lab that is designed to give faculty members the opportunity to work collaboratively on new initiatives, experiment with new materials and technologies, and determine the potential of new technologies for pedagogical and research purposes.
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The website includes a small selection of images from the A. Beller & Co. fashion sketches, 1915-1929, Halston sketches and photographs, Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style, and the Panorama dramatique: Casanova, décors et costumes. Each image gives the user the option to launch the augmented reality experience through a play button or QR code, and an information button links to the source object in SPARC Digital, allowing the user to find more information about the accessory they are “trying on” through the accompanying metadata. Trying on a rare and unique accessory from the Fitting Room starts with clicking on the play button or scanning the QR code with your smartphone. The user is then taken into the Zappar platform where the front-facing camera on their device is activated to launch the overlaying of their image with accessories from the chosen Fitting Room object. 

FR 3The Fitting Room is smooth, navigable, simple to use, and intuitively focuses on the rare visuals from SPARC Digital which are the center of the AR experience. With just fifteen images from SPARC Digital included in the Fitting Room, the user can easily browse the entire collection and try on accessories from all the images in a relatively short amount of time and spend some time discovering more information about their favorites through the SPARC Digital metadata linked through the information button presented on each object. Users are provided with their mirror image adorned with their chosen accessory and have the option to save an image and share it with the hashtag #SPARCFittingroom.

The augmented reality Fitting Room is as unique and rare as the images it features, taking the user beyond the digital collection; engaging them personally and creatively with accessories from the historical fashion sketches. Aside from the AR experience, the images themselves are immersing. The addition of personalized options for the user creates the next level of engagement with the digital object and archive that goes beyond the typical interaction one has viewing most digital collections. The Fitting Room creatively brings together emerging technology and the archive for a well-designed and thoughtful digital humanities project.  Engaging with this tool seamlessly builds in the promotion of the collections, with users being encouraged to share their augmented reality through the hashtag #SPARCFittingroom.

The original fashion sketches from SPARC Digital partnered with the user-friendly AR platform Zappar, make The Fitting Room an engaging and accessible resource for anyone, whether a child, fashion scholar or digital humanist. The site artfully engages with emerging technology and historical fashion to immerse the viewer in the digital object, resulting in a high level of participation from the viewer, and a creative way to promote and share the collections of SPARC Digital.

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