Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management
Apparel, Merchandising, and Design
Elena E. Karpova
The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain an understanding of the lived experiences of young women in emerging adulthood who consumed a large quantity of fast fashion apparel (in excess of 150 pieces annually). Using a phenomenological methodology, this study explored (a) the shopping experiences of the young women, (b) the meaning the young women attached to their clothing purchases, and (c) why the young women were buying large quantities of fast fashion.
Fourteen women between the ages of 19 and 25 from the mid-Atlantic region of the United States participated in the study. The research design consisted of participant blogging followed by individual, semi-structured interviews which lasted between one to one and a half hours. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Blog entries were combined with interview transcriptions into one file per participant and analyzed and interpreted for patterns and common themes using procedural steps recommended by Spiggle (1994).
Interpretative analysis of the data revealed that women in emerging adulthood had distinct fashion consumption practices that warranted a description of their shopping behavior. The contextualization of their consumption practices aided the thematic interpretation in which four topical areas emerged: (a) Pressure and Expectations, (b) Need for Fashion Browsing (c) Perpetuating Fast Fashion Consumption Cycle, and (d) Positive Emotions.
Several key points about participant consumption practices were identified. Women browsed for apparel online more often (daily) in comparison to browsing in-store. They bought more clothes online than they did in stores. They shopped consistently at the same fast fashion stores both online and n the brick-and-mortar stores that they referred to as their “go-to” stores. Women preferred to shop online due to the 24/7 shopping convenience and access to unlimited stores and brands; they preferred in-store shopping to evaluate garment quality and fit and experience the store atmosphere. Women bought fashion items on a frequent basis in order to create complete looks enticed by store displays. They described keeping very organized wardrobes in order to manage a large quantity of clothing. Women disposed of clothing by donation to charities to free space in their closets in order to buy new styles.
The first topical area, Pressure and Expectations, described expectations from influential adults and pressure from the fashion culture (fashion images from social media, celebrities, brand advertisements) that influenced women to acquire new clothes. The second topical area, Need for Fashion Browsing, explained the process of online and in-store browsing to keep up with the latest fashion trends. The third topical area, Perpetuating Fast Fashion Consumption Cycle, illustrated why women had a constant need for new apparel. The fourth topical area, Positive Emotions, described the happiness, excitement and sense of accomplishment women experienced when acquiring new apparel.
A model illustrating a perpetuating fast fashion consumption cycle was created to demonstrate young women’s constant need for new apparel to achieve an ideal self-image fueled by pressure and expectations from the fashion culture. Perspectives from the possible selves, symbolic self-completion and social comparison theories were utilized to guide interpretation of the themes.
Results from the present study sought to provide an in-depth understanding of the shopping experiences and meaning and motivations behind women in emerging adulthood’s fast fashion apparel consumption behavior. It suggests that women acquired a large quantity of apparel to achieve an ideal self-image that they internalized from the fashion culture, but as fast fashion styles changed constantly, the need for new apparel was continuous.
Leslie H Simpson
Simpson, Leslie H., "Exploration of the perpetuating fast fashion consumption cycle: Young women's experiences in pursuit of an ideal self-image" (2019). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 17100.