How to Handle Products With Large Matrix of Variations


I'm developing a site for a client where some products have a large number of variations. Some products have so many variations that there would be usability issues with the long drop-down menu created.

Example: men's hospital scrub pants. One product number is available in 13 colors, 8 sizes (from S to 5X). There are even 3 different price points, depending on size.

I am figuring out how to approach this.

ALTERNATIVE 1: On the product detail page, is there is a way to present to the buyer:
step 1) select color
step 2) select size
Then add to cart.

ALTERNATIVE 2: Create multiple products for these pants, one product for each color. Continuing with the example, this would create 13 products, each with 8 size variations. The pants are the exact same style, but I would create a product for each color. This approach would mean the choices in the drop-down are more reasonable ("only" 8 sizes). (I sure hope I can get a product image in each color! Right now all I have are little square boxes showing each color option.)

I've been scheming up alternative plans. Before I drive myself bonkers, or just select alternative 2, I thought I would check if this has been answered before. I searched the forum but did not see anything.

Thanks in advance for insight!