The quality control of fabrics makes still use of visual assessments in cases where the highest degree of matching between batch and reference samples must be achieved, e.g. in the field of 'mix and match' garments. The reasons for the failure of current color measuring instruments were investigated, and it was found that among others, the most important aspects were the vivid nature of a textile whose color cannot be completely described by just a single measurement, and the differences of the conditions of viewing and measuring. A multispectral scanner which was originally designed for faithfully digitizing originals such as textiles and paintings was used to measure the colors of fabric samples. Since the spectral scanner was not limited to a standard measuring geometry, assimilation of the viewing and measuring geometries was possible. The system was run through a field test in the quality control with a large manufacturer of fabrics. It turned out that, unlike with conventional spectrophotometers, a very good congruence between the pass/fail decisions of the multispectral system and experienced persons could be achieved.© (2000) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.