Swapping styles: an exploration of fashion leadership, brands, and group membership in the context of clothing swaps

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Delisia R. Matthews (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Nancy Hodges

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to explore how consumers use clothing to identify with fashion consumer groups and the role of brands in this process. To address this purpose, I examined the consumption behaviors of fashion leaders within the clothing swap environment. An emerging consumption phenomenon, clothing swaps involve the exchange of clothing items between two consumers to acquire "new-to-them" clothing without spending money. An increasingly popular means of acquiring clothing, swaps occur both in person at swap parties and online through swap websites. Although swaps have become popular among consumers, very little academic research exists on swaps as a particular consumption environment. Thus, this study addresses a major gap that exists within the consumer behavior literature. An ethnographic approach to research was used to address the purpose of the study. Specifically, consumption behaviors of fashion leaders were investigated relative to the clothing swap. Three methods of data collection were employed, including participant observation, in-depth interviews, and netnographic observation. A total of five in-person swap parties were observed. Interviews were conducted with sixteen females aged 19 to 37. In addition, five clothing swap websites were observed over a one month period. Data were analyzed for similarities and differences which were then used in the development of the thematic interpretation. Three conceptual areas surfaced and are used to structure the interpretation: The Fashion Leadership Experience, Fashion Leaders and Group Membership, and The Clothing Exchange Experience. Within each area, themes that emerged through the analysis of data are interpreted and issues important to each theme are addressed. The broader relevance of the interpretation was then considered in relation to the existing literature on the topic. Findings indicate that fashion leadership reflects individual needs for uniqueness as well as group identification. Brands were not found to be a motivation for apparel consumption among fashion leaders, however, they are important to the expression of fashion leadership. Findings also shed light on the role of swapping in facilitating fashion leadership and the extent to which clothing swaps broaden traditional concepts of exchange and the consumption cycle. Although this study addresses major gaps in the literature, it also points to the need for further inquiry into fashion consumer group membership, brands, and consumer behavior within the clothing swap environment.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Consumers, Retail brands,
Clothing and dress $x Social aspects $z United States
Consumer behavior $x Social aspects $z United States

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