Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Textiles and Clothing

First Advisor

Mary Lynn Damhorst


This study provides insights about the effectiveness of a philanthropic program on the self-beliefs of women in transition. The clothing gift program study, known as Fashion Takes Action (FTA), was conducted in 10 U.S. cities by Sears, Roebuck Company in 2000. Sears requested the study of the program. Three main questions guided the research---how does a philanthropic clothing gift program affect the beneficiaries' sense of self, what effect did the program have on the beneficiaries, and how did the program influence or fit with the women's professional development. The triangulation achieved through using multiple methods and different sources allowed the researcher to corroborate evidence. Data were collected using pre- and post-test questionnaires, through in-depth interviews, and participant observations.;Fifty-one women participated in the FTA program in 2000. Four to five low-income women were invited to designated local Sears stores, paired with a fashion expert for wardrobe advice and given help in selecting work appropriate clothing and related items. The women received two clothing outfits, two pairs of shoes, two handbags, underwear, makeup and a mini make-over.;Repeated measures analysis of variance revealed that the pre- and post-test scores measuring the women's satisfaction with their work wardrobe, knowledge about appropriate work attire, confidence in the functionality of their work attire, and satisfaction with their appearance were significantly different. Significant evidence was found that indicated that the women experienced an increase in their work-related self-confidence and self-efficacy. Findings from both scales were corroborated through in-depth interviews and participant observations. No significant evidence was found to signal that the women's global self-beliefs of confidence and efficacy were enhanced during the FTA shopping event.;Qualitative data revealed that the gifts of clothing, the advice and support of the fashion expert, the celebratory environment, the presence of media, and the interpersonal dynamics created a synergistic effect that produced benefits beyond the clothing gifts. Mentoring literature, theories of the self (confidence, esteem, and efficacy), symbolic interaction theory, role theory, and a review of the Hawthorne Effect provided theoretical scaffoldings for the analysis.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Harriet Jean McLeod



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

221 pages

Included in

Sociology Commons