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Teens try on byte-sized clothing

Net shoppers soon will have a Web site where they can dress online mannequins in trendy outfits and then visit an online store.

Fashion-conscious teens and Generation Xers will soon have a Web site where they can dress online mannequins--modeled on their own body types--in trendy outfits and then click over to an online store to buy the clothes.

Software developer ModaCAD said today it has reached an agreement with the subsidiary of giant Cendant to distribute ModaCAD's fashion software, targeted at females ages 15 to 28

The software, which ModaCAD is codeveloping with Intel and plans to release this summer, builds on ModaCAD's library of "virtual samples" that it has created in the last decade for fashion designers, brands, and retailers for internal use.

ModaCAD's proprietary software lets users--traditionally fashion professionals but now young women as well--change fabrics, colors, and styles on products at the click of a mouse. The product has been used inside fashion and retail firms, but the impending release of a consumer product expands the audience.

"We will be one of the few sites that has successfully connected such vast content," said Maurizio Vecchione, ModaCAD's president. "On some sites today, you can get single brands or discount brands. We have a collection of the best of the best--all the brands you would want to shop for in this demographic. This is a product that a young woman would find compelling."

To bolster its offering, ModaCAD has been closing deals. Levi's Jeans signed earlier this week, joining partners Seventeen magazine, Jantzen, Trussardi, Fossil, and Interscope.

The site will ask users to register via a questionnaire that collects personal information on skin type, hair color, size, height, weight, as well as lifestyle aspects such as hobbies and activities. Personalization will allow the site to serve up targeted fashion advice plus editorial content from Seventeen and other publishing partners.

It also will allow users to search for specific types of apparel--say a white sweater with pink flowers.

ModaCAD plans to distribute two versions of its still-unnamed software. A free version will be handed out at retail stores, bundled into copies of Seventeen, and available for download via the Internet. A "premium" version will be sold at a still-undetermined price through software stores and other channels--Cendant's piece of the operation.

Cendant, formed with the $11 billion December 1997 merger of direct marketer CUC International and hotelier and real estate giant HFS, represents a significant boost to ModaCAD. Cendant has acquired enough software publishers, including Sierra On-Line, Knowledge Adventure, Davidson & Associates, and Blizzard Entertainment, to become a top-tier player with strong distribution channels.

ModaCAD's ambitions go beyond fashion for young women. Vecchione said the company also has core competencies--and a vast content library--in cosmetics, home furnishings, automotive, and consumer electronics. ModaCAD expects to announce new activities in other industries by year's end.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.