Type of Document Dissertation Author Mohylsky, Denise Weeks Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-03212011-180310 Title The Invisible Woman Mature Female Consumers 50 to 64 Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Retail Merchandising and Product Development, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Barbara Dyer Committee Chair Jeannie Heitmeyer Committee Member Marsha Rehm Committee Member Mary Ann Moore Committee Member Bruce Lamont University Representative Keywords
- shopping behavior
Date of Defense 2011-02-22 Availability unrestricted Abstract
In recent years, the US apparel industry has fallen in love with youth, focusing its apparel offerings on a very young demographic. As a result, in the United States there are approximately 40 million mature female consumers (MFCs) between the ages of 50 and 64 who struggle to find appropriate apparel despite having more money to spend on apparel than any other age cohort. As the most underserved segment of the US population in terms of apparel choices, they have become the invisible women in the apparel marketplace. This study sought to make more visible the plight of MFCs by investigating how they develop their perceptions of appropriate apparel for their age group and how these perceptions align with the apparel assortments the industry has made available to them. Using the theory of Symbolic Interaction as a framework, an exploratory qualitative research study was conducted using lightly structured interviews of 22 MFCs from the southeastern United States. Interview questions focused on four areas in regards to the MFC apparel experience: (1) apparel shopping experiences; (2) identities/images expressed through apparel; (3) the influence of social set on apparel choices, and (4) perceptions of the apparel industry. The interview data was subjected to interpretive analysis using a phenomenological and heuristic approach. Five broad overarching themes emerged from the data analysis: (1) historical development drives MFCs’ rules of appropriate dress; (2) roles and events drive many MFC apparel choices; (3) we (MFCs) know who we are; (4) we (MFCs) are the invisible women to the market; and (5) we (MFCs) are strategic problem solvers. The study respondents demonstrated that social influence was a critical factor in their apparel experience, as expected; however, the data revealed a surprising dual influence based on their social histories and their current social influences. MFCs appeared confident in their own personas and deeply angry over their treatment by the apparel industry. They were seasoned, veteran warriors going into battle planning battle strategies—not only to achieve their apparel goals but also to maintain their dignity. The results of this study suggest the need to continue exploratory research to flesh out the discipline’s understanding of the MFC apparel experience and the need to find a way to redefine MFCs in the eyes of the apparel industry. This very large segment of the population offers large financial rewards for designers, manufacturers, and retailers who target age appropriate apparel for it. The study results also suggest a need to revise SI theory and the SI theory of fashion change and/or to develop an SI-based apparel theory at the personal level.
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