You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Consumption

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While fashion is most certainly an art form, it is also a product that is consumed. While trends, styles, and our own personal tastes may dictate what we consume and when, the fact remains that what we put on our bodies is obtained as a result of consumption. As our societies expand into what many would call “over-consumption”, this relationship is of increased interest to researchers in all fields, including dress studies. The four articles below examine different aspects of the consumption interaction, from the changes industrialization caused in consumption among eighteenth-century Norwegian fisher-men and -women to a proposed design solution for today’s excess apparel consumption problem, and from Black Friday to popular wardrobe self-help shows and literature. We hope you enjoy!

1. Cao, H., Chang, R., Kallal, J., Manalo, G., McCord, J., Shaw, J., & Starner, H. (2014). Adaptable apparel: A sustainable design solution for excess apparel consumption problemJournal of Fashion Marketings and Management, 18(1), 52-69.

Excess consumption of apparel is driven by the apparel industry to offer more styles at lower prices in shorter time and the consumers’ desire to change fashion. The purpose of this paper is to apply adaptable design in apparel as a sustainable design solution for the excess consumption problem. Guided by sustainable apparel design model C2CAD, two adaptable apparel prototypes for female college students were designed and developed. Both prototypes were comfortable to wear by users with different sizes, indicating the users could wear the garment when she changed size. The adaptations and conversions were easily and enjoyably figured out by the users. The users would keep and use the adaptable apparel for a long time. The users would also buy fewer apparel items if they were to own the adaptable apparel. Adaptable apparel would increase apparel utilization, eliminate the need to purchase unnecessary additional amounts of clothing, and reduce excess consumption. This research provided a pilot study on adaptable apparel design as an innovative approach to help solve the excessive consumption problem. The adaptable garment prototypes would allow the fashion-forward female college student to easily change the function, fit, and style of the environmentally friendly garments. — Paraphrased Article Abstract

2. Hutchinson, A. (2014). Consumption and endeavour: Motives for the acquisition of new consumer goods in a region in the north of Norway in the 18th centuryScandinavian Journal of History, 39(1), 27-48.

Over the course of the 18th century, it is apparent from studies of probate inventories that the consumption of bought textiles, stimulants and household goods among common people increased substantially. This article presents empirical evidence to demonstrate that this is the case also among fisher-farming households in the region of north Norway studied here. The article then explores the relevance of the concept of an industrious revolution to explain the changes in consumption. It would appear that increased consumption was accompanied by more strenuous work, but whether consumption change was demand or supply led is undetermined. Attention is given to what motivated the acquisition of new consumables. It is shown that new consumer goods were used to bolster traditional customs. Nonetheless, attitudes towards acquisition and a desire to increase comfort might have been significant factors leading to increasing demand. — Full Article Abstract

3. Lennon, S. J., Lee, J., Kim, M., & Johnson, K. K. P. (2014). Antecedents of consumer misbehaviour on Black Friday: A social responsibility view. Fashion, Style & Popular Culture, 1(2), 193-212.

Consumer misbehaviour is non-normative behaviour in consumption situations and is a form of socially irresponsible behaviour motivated by self interest. Consumer misbehaviours have been widely reported on Black Friday (BF), the day after Thanksgiving in the US when retailers offer ‘doorbuster’ deals. Based on the exchange paradigm and the General Aggression Model (GAM), five hypotheses were developed and tested with structural equation modelling using data from BF shoppers (N=260). Results found that the presence of unpleasant fellow customers positively influenced perceptions of inequity, while crowding negatively influenced perceptions of inequity. Perceptions of crowding negatively affected consumer misbehaviour on BF, while the presence of unpleasant customers inflated consumer misbehaviour on BF. A positive relationship was found for perceptions of inequity on BF consumer misbehaviour. Both presence of unpleasant fellow customers and perceived crowding had significant indirect effects on BF consumer misbehaviour via perceptions of inequity. We show how BF misbehaviour is socially irresponsible and use a social responsibility framework to interpret results and suggest solutions that fairly balance the needs of all stakeholders. — Full Article Abstract

4. Mikkonen, I., Vicdan, H., & Markkula, A. (2014). What not to wear? Oppositional ideology, fashion, and govern mentality in wardrobe self-helpConsumption Markets & Culture, 17(3), 254-273.

In this paper, the authors draw attention to the emancipatory premises of oppositional ideologies and the ideological nature of consumption in the context of fashion. Drawing on the Foucauldian concept of power, they illustrate how a specific genre of self-help literature, termed wardrobe self-help (WSH), produces an alternative mode of discourse about fashion and clothing as a cultural mediator. The findings challenge the prevailing fashion ideology that capitalizes on emancipation and unravel the means through which WSH oppositional ideology governs consumers. Consequently, the authors argue that while oppositional ideologies can blur the boundaries between coercion and consent, and act as vehicles of repression and liberation, they ultimately come to govern, if not limit, consumer choice and expression. — Paraphrased Article Abstract


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