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From pleasure in use to preservation of meaningful memories: A closer look at the sustainability of clothing via longevity and attachment


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The short life span of clothing is problematic from the viewpoint of sustainable development, making the study of ways to extend garment use time worthwhile. This current study focuses on person–product attachments to clothing items and the context of attachment. The hypothesis in this study is that deep attachment to clothing offers opportunities to extend the owning and using time of garments. Hence, fostering person–product attachment would be one way to postpone disposal of garments. This study investigates the clothing lifecycle stages where pleasurable use experiences and meaningful memories encourage attachment. In this way, the study contributes to the sustainable design field by providing new research information about person–product attachments to clothing items.
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International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology
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From pleasure in use to preservation of meaningful
memories: a closer look at the sustainability of clothing
via longevity and attachment
Kirsi Niinimäkia & Cosette Armstrongb
a Department of Design, Aalto University, PO Box 31000, FI-00076 Aalto, Helsinki, Finland
b Department of Design, Housing, & Merchandising, Oklahoma State University, 437 Human
Sciences, Stillwater, OK 74078-6142, USA
Published online: 28 Aug 2013.
To cite this article: Kirsi Niinimäki & Cosette Armstrong (2013) From pleasure in use to preservation of meaningful memories:
a closer look at the sustainability of clothing via longevity and attachment, International Journal of Fashion Design,
Technology and Education, 6:3, 190-199, DOI: 10.1080/17543266.2013.825737
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International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 2013
Vol. 6, No. 3, 190–199,
From pleasure in use to preservation of meaningful memories: a closer look at the sustainability
of clothing via longevity and attachment
Kirsi Niinimäkiaand Cosette Armstrongb
aDepartment of Design, Aalto University, PO Box 31000, FI-00076 Aalto, Helsinki, Finland; bDepartment of Design, Housing, &
Merchandising, Oklahoma State University, 437 Human Sciences, Stillwater, OK 74078-6142, USA
(Received 2 January 2013; final version received 12 July 2013)
The short life span of clothing is problematic from the viewpoint of sustainable development, making the study of ways to
extend garment use time worthwhile. This current study focuses on person–product attachments to clothing items and the
context of attachment. The hypothesis in this study is that deep attachment to clothing offers opportunities to extend the
owning and using time of garments. Hence, fostering person–product attachment would be one way to postpone disposal of
garments. This study investigates the clothing lifecycle stages where pleasurable use experiences and meaningful memories
encourage attachment. In this way, the study contributes to the sustainable design field by providing new research information
about person–product attachments to clothing items.
Keywords: person–product attachment; sustainable fashion; pleasurable use; product satisfaction
1. Background
Nearly 4% of the average annual household income in the
USA is spent on apparel, footwear, and related products
and services, approximately $1700 USD per year. Since
1985, Americans have spent more on clothing for women,
ages 16 and up, than any other apparel-related product or
service (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). As clothing
consumption ever increases so does a proportional amount
of textile waste. The US Environmental Protection Agency
recently reported that more than 13.1 million tons of textiles
are disposed annually (US Textile Waste Growth Prompts
Recycling Scheme, 2012). It is estimated that 85% of all
this waste ends up in a landfill prematurely (Environmental
Protection Agency, 2006). The novelty and ever-changing
trends embodied by the industry drive this environmental
problem (Kawamura, 2005) by piquing and taking away
interest in products (McCracken, 1986). One of the mat-
ters of considerable concern is the increased availability,
affordability, and disposability of fast fashion, fashion that
is produced in high quantities, low quality, and sold at
low prices (Cachon & Swinney, 2011). This phenomenon,
most pronounced in the West, has dramatically shortened
the average life of clothing products (Bianchi & Birtwistle,
2010; Birtwistle & Moore, 2006).
Products are disposed of not only because of low qual-
ity (causing a short use time), but because new trends
make products look out of fashion. Consumers are actively
seeking novelty and at the same time evaluating their
appearance and the product world in a social context.
Corresponding author. Email:
The increase in waste streams can thus be understood as
failed person–product relationships in the context of sus-
tainable development (Chapman, 2009, p. 20). According to
Cooper (2005), contrary to the current system, product dura-
bility and long-term use are prerequisites for sustainable
Earlier studies have shown that the following design
strategies offer the opportunity to create extended use: reli-
ability, durability, ease of maintenance and repair, long-life
guarantees, design for upgradability and variability, clas-
sic style, and a strong person–product relationship. Van
Nes (2003, 2006) argues that what consumers need is a
well-functioning and up-to-date product that fulfils their
changing needs. The challenge in extending product life-
times is achieving continued satisfaction with the product
or forming deep product attachment over time.
Schifferstein and Zwartkruis-Pelgrim (2008, p. 4) point
out that ‘it is likely that disattachment for many prod-
ucts starts soon after the product is acquired, whereas only
few products remain cherished for a long time’. Chapman
(2009) argues that most products are incapable of sustain-
ing a long-term relationship with owners. He states that
when aiming for sustainability, extending products’ life-
times is the optimal way to design objects. Chapman (2009)
also proposes that when creating new design strategies, it
would be beneficial to foster deeper, more profound and
poetic human needs in order to achieve emotionally durable
design. Koskijoki (1997) adds that meanings associated
with objects can be cultural or subjective; they can be lasting
© 2013 Taylor & Francis
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International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education 191
or temporary. Products and objects are basically unchange-
able, but their relation to their owner changes over time
while the owner and his/her identity changes (Koskijoki,
Most clothing purchases are driven by a need to ful-
fil emotional desires or vanity needs rather than a real
need for new clothing. With these products, consumption-
related emotions are important for a consumer, at least in
the short-term period after the purchase event. Accord-
ing to Richins (2009), this positive purchase experience
is very short and has no connection to any experience of
attachment. These types of shopping experiences and con-
sumption habits do not create sustainable and long-term
relationships with the product world. Research has shown
that considering emotional attachment in the product design
process may encourage longevity (Van Hemel & Brezet,
1997; Van Nes, 2003, 2006), most arguing that frequent
use is the gateway through which an emotional attachment
may emerge, which elongates length of ownership (Van
Hemel & Brezet, 1997). Nevertheless, such research has not
necessarily focused on consumable products such as cloth-
ing, a product inherently tied to self-expression (Richins,
2009). Niinimäki and Koskinen (2011) identified a number
of determinants of emotional attachment to clothing and
other textile products. However, these meaningful garments
most often represent a certain memory and may no longer
be in active use. Therefore, further research is needed to
better understand the real impact of these determinants on
the longevity of clothing.
This study extends earlier research conducted in the field
about person–product attachment (Niinimäki & Koskinen,
2011) and product satisfaction towards clothing (Niinimäki,
2011, in press), by examining the context in which longevity
and attachment to clothing occurs. This study considers
factors such as product category, use frequency, and jus-
tifications for attachment in a temporal context to evaluate
the potential for sustainable design via emotional longevity.
2. Person–product attachment
In contemporary society, consumers form attachments to
some objects while easily disposing of others. From a sus-
tainable development viewpoint, it is important to lengthen
the functional life span of products. Designers must also
strengthen the attachment consumers feel to products in
order to lengthen the products’ psychological life span
(Mugge, Schoormans, & Schifferstein, 2005; Van Hinte,
1997). Obviously, when consumers develop deep attach-
ment to some garments, they may still continue to purchase
new ones. Nevertheless, Belk (1991) argues that attachment
is one way to create a caring attitude towards the product
and postpone its replacement, a valuable goal in a sustain-
able context and from designers’ point of view. When we
deeply value products and they are meaningful and pre-
cious to us, they deserve to be well taken care of (Walker,
2006). Earlier studies have shown that cherished garments
are repaired and taken care of and this care is one reason for
the long life of meaningful clothing (Niinimäki & Koskinen,
Schifferstein and Zwartkruis-Pilgrim (2008) defined
consumer–product attachment as the strength of emotion-
ally engaged experiences a user has with a product. Deep
attachment towards a product prevents its disposal. These
authors explored seven possible determinants of prod-
uct attachment: enjoyment; memories of persons, places,
and events; support of self-identity; life vision; utility;
reliability; and market value. Of these, only memories
and enjoyment contributed positively to the degree of
2.1. Memories
In their research on favourite objects, Wallendorf and
Arnould (1988) found that favourite products were mostly
reminders of a friend, family, a vacation trip, or special
event. A favourite object might also be a memory of its
maker or be received as a gift. Furthermore, they point out
that the functional aspect is important in favourite objects: a
shared use history between a person and the object. Mugge
et al. (2005) agree that experiences during use result in
a shared history; the product becoming a reminder to the
owner of certain memories. Wallendorf and Arnould (1988)
describe how favourite objects are like a storehouse of
personal memories, meanings, gender, age, and culture.
Mugge, Schifferstein, and Schoormans (2010) explain that
memories associated with a product are often the reason
that it transitions into a favourite possession.
Earlier studies on product attachment have shown that
positive emotions, memories, special meanings, and reflec-
tive levels operating between the product and user create
deep attachment (Csikszentmihalyi & Rochberg-Halton,
1981; Mugge et al., 2005). The reflective level of prod-
uct attachment comprises feelings, emotions, self-image,
personal satisfaction, memories, and cognition, and it is
constructed during a longer period (Norman, 2005). There-
fore, these emotional attachments vary by individual and
relate mainly to old garments that may no longer be in
use (Niinimäki, 2010). We have less knowledge about the
consumer–product relationship during ownership or use,
even though this phase is critical for understanding product
replacement (Mugge et al., 2010).
2.2. Pleasure in use
Chapman (2009) explains that discursive engagement
between user and product develops through time and
stimulation. User experiences, which often are not con-
sciously realised, build meaningful associations with an
object through time. These subconscious experiences are
fundamental when the consumer is establishing a mean-
ingful emotional connection with the product. This author
highlights that all consumers respond differently to objects.
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192 K. Niinimäki and C. Armstrong
Therefore, the attachment process is very subjective and
difficult to study.
While earlier studies have shown (Niinimäki & Koski-
nen, 2011) that clothing attachment is often linked to items
that are no longer in use, more research is needed about
the long-term use of garments, for which pleasure and
enjoyment provide a conduit for attachment. Therefore,
pleasurable use is worthwhile to study. Several studies have
pointed out that how a positive product experience is stim-
ulated should be examined with more objectivity. Positive
product experience refers to the product’s capacity to pro-
vide a satisfying experience through enjoyable use, physical
attributes, style, and utility (Forlizzi, Disalvo, & Hanington,
2003); through operative dimensions relevant during the
use phase (Margolin, 2002); and through intrinsic quality
attributes (Schifferstein & Zwartkruis-Pelgrim, 2008).
In Niinimäki’s (in press) study, short- and long-term use
of clothing was explored and attributes for long- and short-
term use of clothing were defined. Poor quality and fit were
the main reasons given for short-term use, where garments
were owned less than one month and worn only a couple
of times or not at all. In some cases, the first laundering
changed the garment so dramatically (in fit or colour or the
garment fell apart during laundering) that it was no longer
suitable for use. In the same study, Niinimäki (in press)
found that good quality as well as functional and aesthetical
aspects were behind long-term use; these elements creat-
ing satisfaction with clothing items. Notably, quality was
always experienced when the garment was being used, asso-
ciated with durable materials, good fit, reliability in use, and
durability in laundering. Functional aspects were important
for the consumer as well (i.e. easy maintenance, suitabil-
ity in use, and satisfying use experience). Furthermore, the
following aesthetic attributes were important from the con-
sumer’s viewpoint: beauty, style, colour, fit, and tactility
(comfortable material) (Niinimäki, in press)
2.3. Temporal context
In emotional bonding with products, the use phase is
worthwhile to investigate because a pleasurable use expe-
rience provides grounds for product satisfaction, thought
to be a necessary precursor to attachment and typically
derived from the product’s utility and appearance (Mugge
et al., 2010). Satisfaction is more correlated with pleasur-
able use experiences while the attachment processes are
based on the emotional experiences with the garment over
time. Often these two processes overlap. Schifferstein and
Zwartkruis-Pelgrim (2008) have studied the temporal con-
text of attachment, and they argue that enjoyment is highest
in attachment to newly acquired products while memo-
ries are more important in attachment to objects owned
more than 20 years. They also found that enjoyment was
a more important attribute than memories regardless of
the length of ownership. However, their study did not
include clothing items. Arguably, deep product satisfaction
through pleasurable use experiences may be an opportunity
to extend the use time of clothing, but more understanding
is needed about the different stages in clothing longevity.
Norman (2005) explains that there are three levels when
processing product experience: the visceral, behavioural,
and reflective levels. The visceral level is the immediate one
linked to appearance, where one makes rapid judgements.
This level is also a starting point for affective processing.
The second level is a person’s behaviour with the object,
and at the behavioural level, pleasure and the effectiveness
of use are the dominant factors. The last level is the high-
est level, the reflective one, where a person can reflect upon
his/her experience. At the highest reflective level, the expe-
rience is driven by emotions and thought processes linked
to the self and the past while the lowest level is driven only
by perception of product qualities. The reflective level com-
prises feelings, emotions, self-image, personal satisfaction,
memories, and cognition. Here, both emotions and thought
are fully operating while at the lower level there is no inter-
pretation, understanding, or deep reasoning, only a direct
Attachment process according to Norman (2005):
(1) visceral =direct effect (perception),
(2) behavioural =pleasure +use, and
(3) reflective =emotions +self-image +satisfaction
+memories +cognition.
Emotional elements are always present with clothing
use. Swan and Comb (1976) argue that consumers iden-
tify expressive elements in garments as the most important
ones (aesthetics and beauty), but product satisfaction is
grounded in experienced quality and expectations of the
intrinsic attributes of a product. The garment’s physical
properties (durability, good fit, and good quality) have to be
experienced first before the consumer’s emotional response
can begin. Therefore, clothing experiences must embody
the experience of both quality and beauty to generate deep
emotional satisfaction (Niinimäki, in press).
3. Research design
The study was designed to investigate special and meaning-
ful clothing items and the elements of pleasurable use and
person–product attachment in different temporal phases. As
most clothing items are meaningful to people for only a short
time, this study investigates the emotional elements in the
longevity of clothing.
In the current study, the authors sought to explore the
contextual nature of emotional attachment. In the afore-
mentioned study by Niinimäki and Koskinen (2011), the
determinants of emotional attachment to clothing were
identified. These determinants were explored once again
here, but with greater exploration of the types of products
implicated, how frequently they were used, and the length
of ownership involved. In the previous study conducted in
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International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education 193
Finland, respondents completed an open-ended question-
naire during which they were asked to describe their oldest
textile product and provide a story about their attachment to
the item. The current study focused the participants’ atten-
tion on explanation of clothing items to which they declared
their emotional attachment, allowing greater potential to
observe varying lengths of ownership.
An online open-ended questionnaire was designed. The
survey asked US respondents to both identify a clothing
item to which they were particularly attached and then select
a product category from a pre-determined list to which
the item belonged. Product categories provided were as
follows: Accessory, active wear (for workout), dress cloth-
ing (jacket/blazer, blouse/shirt, skirt, and dress/suit), and
jeans or casual pant, outerwear (coat and leather jacket),
sleepwear/undergarment, T-shirt or sweatshirt, and other.
Respondents were instructed to exclude fine jewelry from
these discussions, as this falls into a durable product cat-
egory or special possession (Ball & Tasaki, 1992). Next,
respondents were asked to explain why they were attached
to the item. Finally, respondents were asked to estimate how
often they wore the clothing item (six options given, from
daily to never), how long they had owned the item (months
and years), and how they had acquired it.
3.1. The sample
The questionnaire was sent to a convenience sample of 598
US participants, for which 401 usable responses (45.1%
male) were completed. The sample ranged in age from 18
to 67: 18–24 (7.5%), 25–34 (27.4%), 35–44 (23.5%), 45–
60 (28.1%), and over 60 (13.5%), most of whom were
Caucasian/white (88.0%) and had completed a college
degree or higher (66.1%).
4. Findings
4.1. Attachment and length of ownership
In the current study, with items of clothing that respondents
described as being attached to, the length of ownership time
varied from 1 month to 50 years (Table 1). Interestingly, the
ownership duration of clothing fell into two primary time
categories: 1–3 years (24.7%) and 4–6 years (20.4%). Yet,
a significant portion of respondents (10.2%) discussed a
clothing item owned 25 years or more. Four respondents
did not answer this question.
To study the differences between short and long owning
times, the following section discusses the results according
to the owning times of 1–3 years, 4–6 years, and 25 years
or more.
4.2. Attachment and acquisition method
Notably, most clothing items discussed by participants had
been owned for only 1–3 years were purchased new (80%)
(Table 2) while only 48.8% of items owned for 25 years
Table 1. Length of ownership for clothing.
Ownership Frequency (%) Minimum Maximum
<1 year 31 7.7 1 month 50 years
1–3 years 99 24.7
4–6 years 82 20.4
7–9 years 36 9.0
10–12 years 50 12.5
13–15 years 16 4.0
16–18 years 15 3.7
19–21 years 18 4.5
22–24 years 9 2.2
25 years and
41 10.2
were purchased new. In older items, the gift aspect was
more important than in items owned for only 1–3 years. It
is also noteworthy that most of the garments (48.8%) owned
for 25 years or more were also purchased new.
4.3. Attributes of attachment
From the participant responses, the attachment attributes
could be defined. The attributes connected to meaningful
garments were practicality, emotional memories, product
satisfaction, aesthetical experiences, values, quality, and
effort (Table 3). These findings show that meaningful gar-
ments are not only linked to some special memory. Other
attributes, such as good functionality, emotional satisfac-
tion, and aesthetical experiences (design, style, colour, and
material choices), are also important, creating pleasurable
use experiences at both physical and emotional levels.
4.4. Attachment and use frequency
From those clothing items owned 1–3 years (24.7%), 4–6
years (20.4%), and 25 years or more (10.2%), frequency
of use was analysed (Table 4). In the 1–3 year ownership
period, a pleasurable use experience and its contribution
to satisfaction were demonstrated, extending the product’s
life. Over 40% of participants reported wearing these items
daily or several times a week, and nearly the same percent-
age reported wearing them several times a month. These
items were described as comfortable, beautiful, durable,
warm and soft, having a good fit and a flattering design.
Some respondents also described the experience using
these items: ‘I like it’, ‘I love to wear them’, and ‘I look
great in them’. In the 4–6 year ownership period (20.4%),
the use frequency of several times a month was more
frequently cited (40.2%). The following attributes were
dominant when wearers described these items: good fit,
good look, and comfortable use experience. These attributes
link directly to an enjoyable use experience and product
satisfaction in use (Niinimäki, in press).
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194 K. Niinimäki and C. Armstrong
Table 2. Acquisition method by length of ownership.
Acquisition n=99 n=82 n=41
method Frequency (%) (%) (%)
Purchased new 80 54 20 80.8 65.9 48.8
Gift 13 17 11 13.1 20.7 22.2
Hand-me-down or inheritance 455 4.0 6.1 2.2
Purchased second-hand 030 0 3.7 0
Lost and found 010 0 1–2 0
Other 225 2.0 2.4 12.2
Note: Items owned 1–3 years are marked with light grey, 4–6 years without
colour, and more than 25 years are marked with dark grey.
Table 3. Attributes of attachment.
Number of Aggregated
Attribute Description references references
Functionality Comfortable 113 262
Good fit 73
Warm 19
Multi-function 18
Functional (good for sports and hide body deformation) 16
Easy to match 17
Easy to care 4
Easy to put on 2
Memory Memories (youth and childhood) 116 216
Received from special person (mom, husband, and good friend) 36
Family ties 17
Remind of special person 14
Represent membership to group (team and band) 14
The first piece (owned for first time) 5
Remind of pleasure 4
Remind of love 3
Bring good luck 3
Remind of home 2
Unexpected gift 1
Received for special occasion 1
Emotional satisfaction Look good in it 46 88
Feel good in it 26
Get compliment on it 13
The best piece 2
Love the brand 1
Design and style Good design (beautiful, pretty, and cool looking) 50 66
Stylish 10
Classical and timeless design 6
Fabric and material Nice colour 21 55
Tactile feeling (silky and soft) 18
Fabric aesthetic (not thick, light weight, and sparky) 11
Flexible (not stretched) 5
Personal values Uniqueness 8 22
Feel relaxed in it 6
Expression of one’s own ideology 3
Positive associations 2
Made for me 2
Expression of self 1
Quality Durable 7 12
High quality in manufacturing 3
High quality in material 2
Effort invested Reward for self 5 10
Hand made 5
Financial value Price (good deal and very expensive) 5 5
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International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education 195
Table 4. Frequency of use by length of ownership.
Wearing n=99 n=82 n=41
frequency Frequency (%) (%) (%)
Daily 361 3.0 7.3 2.4
Up to several times a week 38 25 1 38.4 30.5 2.4
Several times a month 38 33 3 38.4 40.2 7.3
Several times a year 15 15 9 15.2 18.3 22
Rarely 4212 4.0 2.4 29.3
Never 1112 1.0 1.2 36.6
Note: Items owned 1–3 years are marked with light grey, 4–6 years without
colour, and more than 25 years are marked with dark grey.
From those clothing items reported to be owned for 25
years or more, most items were rarely, seldom or never
used. Surprisingly, 2.4% of these items were still in daily
use. According to these responses, the long ownership time
was the consequence of deep meaningful memories embod-
ied in these items. The clothing item was often a memory
of some special person (mother, father, grandparent, sister,
husband, and wife) or it was a link to one’s own youth.
Some items represented a memory of some special event.
In the garments owned for 25 years or more, four were
wedding dresses; though it is easily assumed that a wed-
ding dress evokes special memories and that is the reason
to keep this garment in storage. During the examination of
respondent descriptions for these old items, it was found
that the respondents seemed to associate aesthetics, com-
fort, and memories with these items and continued to use
them regularly. For example, one respondent owned a gar-
ment that was more than 25 years old, but still wore it several
times a week: ‘It is a short-sleeved crimson sweatshirt with
the Harvard logo on the front of it. I went to Harvard and
it was comfortable, especially for wear around the house.’
In this piece, meaningful memories were combined with a
pleasurable use experience. One example of an item in stor-
age was a pair of jeans, which were described to be ‘the best
jeans I ever owned’. It can be interpreted that these jeans
offered a pleasurable use experience, which made them so
special they have been kept in storage. These responses also
indicate that most of these garments had been actively worn
before they became a memory.
4.5. Product categories and use frequency
To gain more understanding of person–product attachment
to clothing, it was essential to investigate the clothing types,
their use frequency, and the length of ownership according
to different product categories. Table 5 shows that gar-
ments owned for a long time and used frequently were
mainly everyday clothing items. T-shirts and sweatshirts
were among the most frequently discussed, and most were
also worn at least several times a month. Items of dress
clothing (e.g. suits, dresses, or blouses) were in second
place and worn several times a month or year. Jeans or
casual pants were the third most frequently cited garments
but were worn several times a week. The most frequently
Table 5. Frequency of use and length of ownership by product category.
Frequency of use Length of ownership (years)
Product Daily Several times Several times Several times Rarely Never
type Na(%) a week (%) a month (%) a year (%) (%) (%) Minimum Maximum Mean
sweat shirt
141 1.4 18.2 38.3 19.9 12.1 9.9 0.2 44 11.000
97 1.0 10.3 33.0 35.1 13.4 7.2 0.3 50 9.659
Jeans or
52 3.8 48.1 30.8 5.8 7.7 3.8 0.2 35 5.398
Active wear 50 12.0 32.0 44.0 6.0 2.0 4.0 0.5 30 5.735
Other 23 4.3 21.7 13.0 21.7 17.4 21.7 0.2 50 16.783
Accessory 13 30.8 30.8 30.8 0.0 7.7 0.0 0.5 31 7.346
13 38.5 30.8 7.7 7.7 0.0 15.4 3 23 10.077
Outwear 12 0.0 25.0 25.0 33.3 8.3 8.3 1.5 44 15.875
aOther =23 (Sweater, wedding dress, and shoes).
Note: Main use frequency is marked in grey.
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196 K. Niinimäki and C. Armstrong
used garments were sleepwear and undergarments (daily),
and here, comfort was considered the most important design
Table 5 illustrates that most of the meaningful garments
that respondents declared their attachment towards were in
use. This table also shows a surprisingly long ownership
time of some garments, especially the average ownership
time of T-shirts (11years) and sleepwear (10 years). In the
sleepwear category, several stories described how some
items were first used as a T-shirt, but after several years of
active wear it was moved to sleepwear use. Outerwear (e.g.
coats) had an average ownership time of about 16 years,
but in this product category the quality is often high and
garments are used seasonally, which extends the use time.
4.6. The turning point: pleasure in use to meaningful
Though products may remain unchanged, their relation-
ship with and meaning to their owner change over time.
The results from the questionnaire show that in garments
owned 1–3 years, a few respondents (17 respondents of
99) reported some memory connection while most other
responses showed that meaningful attributes were linked
to functionality, beauty, and comfort in use. Garments in
frequent use also elicited aesthetical experiences and these
were linked to the wearer’s self-image and emotional sat-
isfaction. Clothing has a strong impact on our emotions,
and it can elevate the wearer’s mood (Woodward, 2005).
People feel attached to clothes because of their aesthetic
beauty as well as through beauty experiences over time that
develop in social situations and through positive and multi-
sensorial use experiences. In this study the emotional level
was common in items owned for 1–3 years. The following
comments were representative of this: ‘Whenever I wear it
I receive comments and compliments, even from strangers.
It makes me feel attractive, creative and classy’; ‘I love the
colour, the fit and the style’; and ‘It makes me feel good
when I wear it.’
Therefore, to understand attachment in a temporal con-
text it is worthwhile to investigate the different stages of
ownership in order to explore the stage at which pleasur-
able use fades in importance and meaningful memories
become more prevalent. Hence, Table 6 illustrates wear-
ing frequency for different ownership durations. ‘Active’
category was defined as such by use on a daily basis, sev-
eral times a week, or several times a month. ‘Seldom’ was
defined as a use frequency of several times a year while
‘storage’ was defined by rarely or never using the item.
When the ownership duration was 1–3 years, 79.8%
respondents reported using this clothing item actively while
only 5% said that this item was in storage. When the long
ownership time of 25 years or more was examined, only
12.1% of respondents used this item actively. The first drop
in usage appeared to occur after 6 years. This drop may be
Table 6. Use frequency by length of ownership.
Use frequency (%)
Ownership Active Seldom In storage
<1 year 90.3 9.7 0
1–3 years 79.8 15.2 5.0
4–6 years 78.0 18.3 3.7
7–9 years 52.8 25.0 22.2
10–12 years 54.0 20.0 26.0
13–15 years 56.3 12.5 31.2
16–18 years 53.4 20.0 26.6
19–21 years 33.3 38.9 27.8
22–24 years 11.2 44.4 44.4
25 years <12.1 22.0 65.9
due to quality and the nature of the garment: for example,
jeans had an average life of about 5 years but are intensively
used and are likely to wear out during this time. The next
drop in usage seemed to be around 18 years of ownership
where the use frequency moved from active to seldom.
During active use, the pleasurable use experience was
the dominant attribute. For instance, a respondent described
an orange long-sleeved shirt that he had been wearing for 3
years: ‘It’s very comfortable, fits perfectly, and I think I look
good in it.’ Schifferstein and Zwartkruis-Pelgrim (2008)
argue that products used often might offer the user a feeling
of comfort and familiarity. In addition, the product’s perfor-
mance in its basic task may be so good that the user highly
enjoys its use, and therefore, enjoyment may evoke attach-
ment to the product (Schifferstein & Zwartkruis-Pelgrim,
2008). In an earlier study, Niinimäki (2011, in press) found
that a garment may remain in long-term use because of
a beautiful colour or special style. In these situations the
expressive performance, an aesthetical experience, has been
above average and resulted in deep satisfaction. Mugge
et al. (2010) found that when product performance is above
average this may contribute to the degree of attachment
The expressive quality attributes, specifically, the visual
appeal of the clothing, were strongly present in respondents’
answers: ‘It made me feel good when I wore it,’ one female
respondent commented, describing this meaningful item as
[...]a dress that was a shiny cream colour and had white
lace on the bodice’. This dress had been owned for 20 years.
It represented meaningful memories to the owner: ‘It’s from
a special time in my life and I don’t believe they make
clothes like this anymore.’ Obviously, frequent and enjoy-
able use experiences created meaningful memories con-
nected to these clothing items. This emotional connection
fostered affection, and even love, towards the special item
in a temporal context. In this stage, a completely identical
clothing item could not replace the item for the owner.
In the current study, four stages of attachment were iden-
tified according to ownership time in the study (Table 7).
In 0–6 years of owning the piece of clothing, it was used
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International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education 197
Table 7. Stages of attachment.
Stage Use enjoyment Liking and loving Reflective Cemented memento
Years owned 0–6 7–18 19–21 22<
Use frequency Active Active/Seldom All use phases Seldom/Storage
Comments ‘It’s very comfortable,
fits perfectly, and I
think I look good in
it’ (T-shirt)
‘Extremely comfort-
able, it is no longer
made and cannot be
found anywhere’
‘Represents a great
time in my life’
(Black suit)
‘Four years during a
tumultuous period in
American History’
(Navy peacoat)
‘They are sexy and
my boyfriend loves
seeing me wearing
them’ (High heeled
‘Comfortable and
show signs of what I
have accomplished
while wearing them’
(Denim jeans worn
in the garden)
‘It reminds me of my
youth’ (Auburn
University T-shirt)
‘Beautiful fuchsia
dress worn on my
wedding day in
1987’ (Wedding
‘I love the way it
fits, it goes with
everything, and is a
classic’ (Little black
‘I’ve had it a long time
and it has been all
over the world with
me’ (Baseball hat)
‘It’s from a time I
especially enjoyed’
(Peace Corps
‘My late mother
knitted the sweater.
It is warm,
comforting … just
like her!’ (Sweater)
‘I love the workman-
ship and it feels very
unique. It makes
me feel attractive,
creative and classy’
(Boiled wool jacket)
‘My son bought it for
me on Mother’s Day
a LONG time ago.
He saved and picked
it out, and bought
it knowing I LOVE
this design’ (T-shirt)
‘Comfortable, soft,
given to me by
a special friend’
‘It represents a time in
my life that I have
fond memories of. I
enjoyed high school
and this jacket
represents that time
of my life’ (High
school letter jacket)
actively. In 7–18 years of ownership, the frequency of use
decreased. In the 19–21-year owning period, all categories
were stable (active, seldom and in storage) and in 22–24
years of ownership, the use frequency moved to seldom
and the ‘in storage’ stages, becoming memento. This stage,
22 years and older, was the turning point where the respon-
dents’ comments changed and the memory aspect became
more relevant.
The meaningful clothing item had offered a pleasurable
use experience and deep satisfaction to the wearer during the
active wearing stage. In this stage the enjoyment of use was
the dominant factor. In the next stage, emotional satisfaction
deepened and changed into deep liking or even emotions
of love. As Russo (2010) argues, users begin to become
attached to products through emotions of love, passion, and
commitment. In the third stage, deep meaningful memories
were fostered through reflecting about the experiences with
these clothing items while all use phases were still active
in the data. Here, emotions, self-image, satisfaction, mem-
ories, and cognition were all functioning for interpretation,
understanding, and deep reasoning (Chapman, 2009; Nor-
man, 2005). This reflective level required time to develop
and through reflection the wearer connected their current
experiences with the past experiences, with personal his-
tory and memories and, further, with his/her individual
values and self-identity. In the fourth stage, the items were
seldom used and were moved to the back of the closet.
In this stage, the pleasant and meaningful memory aspect
became cemented; a memento kept for memory reasons but
no longer used.
5. Discussion and conclusion
This study has brought consumer-based knowledge into the
discussion on person–product attachment and its connection
to the length of ownership and use frequency of cloth-
ing items. The findings show that most items of declared
attachment were purchased new. Attributes that fostered
attachment to garments were functionality, a special mem-
ory, emotional satisfaction, aesthetical qualities, personal
values, and quality. Furthermore, garments could represent
an accomplishment and include the effort invested. Garment
use frequency and length of ownership seemed to depend
on the type of garment and how everyday an item it was.
Interestingly, many everyday items such as T-shirts, dress
clothing, jeans, and active wear were mainly selected as
somehow meaningful to the owner.
Furthermore, a temporal understanding about the stages
through which pleasurable use experiences may transi-
tion into meaningful memories has been illustrated. If we
hypothesise that meaningful clothing items are linked to a
certain memory from the beginning of ownership, we find
that this is not true. Pleasure was most distinctive in the early
use stages while memories were more pronounced in the
longer owning stages where active use declined. Four stages
in the temporal context for attachment were described: use
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198 K. Niinimäki and C. Armstrong
enjoyment (0–6 years), liking and loving (7–18 years),
reflective (19–21 years), and cemented memento (owned
22 years or more). As Norman (2005) explains that the
reflective level of ownership comprises feelings, emotions,
self-image, personal satisfaction, memories, and cognition,
which need time and experience to develop. Understanding
the temporal context with regards to the longevity of mean-
ingful garments offers insights into the consumers’ world.
Moreover, the product categories evident among meaning-
ful garments demonstrate that these garments are mainly
everyday items in frequent use.
Van Hemel and Brezet (1997) propose one approach to
eco-design as the optimisation of a product’s initial lifetime,
through, for example, a strong product–user relationship.
There are three possible ways to attain this goal. First, the
product should meet the consumer’s requirements, includ-
ing latent needs, over a longer period of time. Second, the
product should be so important that the consumer will take
good care of it, maintaining, and repairing it. Third, the
designer should include added value in the product that
can stimulate a deeper relationship to the product, thereby
postponing the product’s disposal.
Are designers thinking about longevity in use and
long-term owning when they design? Using this kind of
knowledge as a benchmark when considering each design
decision (e.g. materials, sewing work, and design style) will
contribute to long-term quality and satisfaction. Consider-
ing emotional aspects in the attachment process will help
designers to focus on sustainable and durable design. High-
quality and pleasurable use experiences are a clear gateway
to long-term use of clothing. Even so, designers must think
beyond the starting point to include considerations for con-
tinued engagement to prevent premature disposal. Design
that includes a catchment for memories or invites their
emergence creates possibilities to extend the owning time
of garments. This study has extended previous research by
defining the attachment attributes of different product cate-
gories and time periods, which demonstrate the importance
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... Looking beyond the bounds of durable products, research relevant to fashion design on attachment to clothing items has found similar attachment factors, yet also begun to identify variations in behavior that may question a uniform environmental sustainability benefit through emotional attachment. In studies of primarily younger Finnish women (Niinimäki & Armstrong, 2013), and a broader demographic sample in the U.S. (Armstrong et al., 2016), these researchers have noted variations in clothing retention and active usage behavior dependent on whether pleasure in use or memories were the primary factor of attachment to a particular piece of clothing. Noting longer retention times with infrequent or non-existent usage of items stored away as mementos, they question whether there is actually an environmental benefit through this latter pathway and thus note, "[t]hese issues beg for further empirical inquiry" (Armstrong et al., p. 175). ...
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Of recent interest in consumer behavior research is the consumer's use of owned possessions to develop and maintain self-concept. This study presents a measure of a central concept in this area–attachment. A conceptual definition of the construct is proposed and is related to social-cognitive theories of the self. The role of attachment in the relationship between people and possessions is discussed. Evidence is presented for the reliability and predictive validity of a simple measure of attachment and for the discriminant validity of the construct. Relationships between attachment and other important consumer behavior constructs are explored. © 1992, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.. All rights reserved.
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Consumption emotions add color and texture to humans' daily lives. Consumption emotions are clearly important to consumers, who purchase products to meet their needs and achieve goals. These emotions constitute a signaling system that tells consumers whether they've achieved their goals. In addition, certain kinds of emotions, particularly positive ones such as joy and excitement, are inherently satisfying, and the experience of such emotions is itself a goal for much consumption behavior. Because consumption emotions are so powerful in regulating consumer behavior, they are also important to marketers. Positive consumption emotions generate brand loyalty and commitment, and both positive and negative emotions influence consumers' word of mouth. This chapter explores the emotions elicited by products as consumers own and uses them. The extant literature includes a considerable body of research designed to help marketers understand and elicit the kinds of emotions that will encourage product purchase. However, much less attention has been paid to the emotions consumers experience after purchase as they possess and consume the product. These post-acquisition emotions are the focus of this chapter. It deals primarily with tangible products and for the most part excludes emotions elicited by the shopping experience or the consumption of services. It briefly discusses the conceptualization of consumption emotions and examines how the nature of products themselves influences their potential to elicit affective reactions. The chapter also discusses how prepurchase processes set the stage for consumption emotions, identifies the conditions that elicit consumption emotions, and reviews the methods that are used to assess them.
This book provides a concise and much-needed introduction to the sociology of fashion. Most studies of fashion do not make a clear distinction between clothing and fashion. Kawamura argues that clothing is a tangible material product whereas fashion is a symbolic cultural product. She debunks the myth of the genius designer and explains, provocatively, that fashion is not about clothes but is a belief. There is an institutional structure, ignored by many fashion theorists, that has shaped and produced the fashion phenomenon. Kawamura further shows how the structural nature of the fashion system works to legitimize designers creativity and can make them successful. Newer fashion cities, such as Milan and New York, are the product of the fashion system that originated in Paris. Without that systemic structure, fashion culture would not exist. Fashion-ology provides a big picture approach that focuses on the social process behind fashion and its perpetuation.
In today's unsustainable world of goods, where products are desired, purchased, briefly used and then promptly landfilled to make way for more, consumption and waste are rapidly spiralling out of control with truly devastating ecological consequences. Why do we, as a consumer society, have such short-lived and under-stimulating relationships with the objects that we invest such time, thought and money in acquiring, but that will soon be thoughtlessly discarded? Emotionally Durable Design is a call to arms for professionals, students and academic creatives; proposing the emergence of a new genre of sustainable design that reduces consumption and waste by increasing the durability of relationships established between users and products. In this provocative text, Jonathan Chapman pioneers a radical design about-face to reduce the impact of modern consumption without compromising commercial viability or creative edge. The author explores the essential question, why do users discard products that still work? It transports the reader beyond symptom-focused approaches to sustainable design such as design for recycling, biodegradeability and disassembly, to address the actual causes that underpin the environmental crisis we face. The result is a revealing exploration of consumer psychology and the deep motivations that fuel the human condition, and a rich resource of creative strategies and practical tools that will enable designers from a range of disciplines to explore new ways of thinking and of designing objects capable of supporting deeper and more meaningful relationships with their users. This is fresh thinking for a brave new world of creative, durable and sustainable products, buildings, spaces and designed experiences.
This paper presents a study on sustainable product relationships with an eye on textiles and clothing. A framework is constructed which integrates sustainable product relationships and the field and role of design. As a result, it studies how an empathic design approach could improve a sustainable design process. In order to promote sustainability, designers need to aim at enhancing long-term product relationships. By studying the user's relationships with and attachments to products, designers have the opportunity to create deeper product satisfaction and thereby long-term product relationships. This paper concludes by evaluating how an empathic approach can be of primary importance in promoting sustainable product relationships by deepening current methods of understanding consumers' needs, values and emotions.