Prof examines how consumers evaluate fashion

Priscilla Gitimu

Priscilla Gitimu

A woman halts at the sight of the latest red cashmere sweater on a mannequin at Macy’s. Despite the high price tag, the soft material and precise gold beading around the collar make it a must-have for the pants she just bought at Nordstrom. A man walks right past the sweater, only retracing his steps to pry his girlfriend from the clothes rack. To him, it’s just an extremely overpriced red sweater.

What influences different people’s evaluation of garments?

This is an aspect that Priscilla Gitimu researched in her recent paper, “Garment Quality Evaluation: Influence of Fashion Leadership, Fashion Involvement and Gender,” published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education.

Gitimu, associate professor and coordinator of fashion and interior merchandising at YSU, studied how fashion leadership, fashion involvement and gender can influence how consumers evaluate clothing.

“In merchandising, it’s important to know how people are evaluating garment quality,” said Gitimu, a native of Kenya who joined the YSU faculty in 2006 after earning a PhD from Southern Illinois University. “How the consumer evaluates the garment quality is going to translate to the purchase decision.”

The article, published in August, reasoned that advertisers, marketers and clothing manufacturers should target fashion leaders, fashion-involved individuals and females because they are more likely to process fashion information and look at all types of cues — brand, country of origin, price, fabric, color, style, care instructions, etc. This strategy is beneficial because these consumers influence the fashion diffusion process and may be relied on to distribute the information to other consumers, Gitimu said.

“It’s OK to be a leader or a follower,” she said. “Fashion leaders are the first to try out new fashions. They are the innovators and the people who influence others on what to buy. We need the leaders to give us new ideas, and we need the followers for mass production of clothing — that is what keeps the fashion industry vibrant.”

Fashion involvement measures the importance of fashion goods to a consumer. This element has been found to substantially influence how consumers evaluate garments and, consequently, predict purchase.

“There are people who love fashion, read fashion magazines and are just absorbed in it — they evaluate garment quality differently than people who aren’t too involved,” she said.

Gitimu co-authored the paper with her former professor at SIU, Jane Workman, and former college colleague Joyce Robinson, a Texas Tech University assistant professor.

The study involved 309 students collectively from YSU and SIU, with 48 percent men and 51 percent women. The participants ranged from age 18 to 55, representing more than 10 majors and various ethnicities.

“When I do my research, I try to have it connected to my teaching,” she said. “It’s something students can read that they participated in.”


Story by Alyssa Italiano