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Motivations and barriers to the prolonged use of clothing

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With increased awareness of environmental issues, and of ethical consumption, the fashion industry has been trying to address ethical issues in its supply chain, and on consumer behaviour. One approach to reducing the environmental impact of garment consumption is to change the way consumers behave. The prevailing strategies for behaviour change utilized within sustainable fashion have fallen into two categories: the provision of information, such as social media campaigns, and the creation of new garments using design strategies such as ‘design for durability’. However, these strategies are based on assumptions, rather than empirical understanding of what motivates consumer garment use, or the mechanics of behaviour change. This article focuses on one particular environmentally desirable behaviour: wearing garments for longer, and the factors influencing this behaviour. The findings provide insights into where improvements could be made.

A quantitative wardrobe study was undertaken with female consumers in the United Kingdom. The purpose of the study was to explore the motivations and barriers to a selection of environmentally desirable garment-use behaviours, including wearing garments for longer. From this study, behavioural motivations were compiled. The predominant factors motivating prolonged wear were comfort and good fit of garments. The predominant factor acting as a barrier was change in circumstances, which changed consumers’ perceptions of how appropriate garments were for their perceived identity.

The implications of these results are twofold. Changes in personal circumstances are inevitable for all consumers, and something that designers cannot influence. This suggests that alongside promoting prolonged wear, it is critical to guide consumers towards shifting ownership of unworn garments to new users. There is also an opportunity for designers and researchers to further explore comfort and fit of garments, but these factors are highly individualistic, which suggests that mass production may be detrimental to promoting prolonged wear.
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Keywords: barriers; environmental impact; garment discard; garment use; motivations

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Huddersfield

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty is the first journal dedicated to the critical examination of the fashion and the beauty systems as symbolic spaces of production and reproduction, representation and communication of artifacts, meanings, social practices, and visual or textual renditions of cloth, clothing and appearance.

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