Decoding Typicality in Apparel Products: An Abstract
The aesthetic property of typicality has received much attention in recent literature as well as being empirically employed by the fashion industry in order to better appeal to consumers. Yet, despite the academic and managerial interest in typicality, there is little research on the topic as it relates to apparel products. One exception is a study by DeLong et al. (1986) which found that consumer response is influenced by product property configurations in apparel that have been previously experienced. The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of how consumers perceive the property of typicality when applied to apparel products. Based on a multilevel measure of typicality (Tyagi and Whitfield 2014), the focus of the investigation was on the silhouette, which includes the basic parts or elements of the apparel product. To this end, this research is grounded in categorization (Rosch et al. 1976) and preference-for-prototype theory (Whitfield and Slatter 1979), in order to explore and identify the prototypes that consumers have in their minds regarding three categories of apparel products: pants, jackets, and shirts.
The research method was divided into two steps. In the first step, drawings of the different prototypes that consumers have in their minds for pants, jackets, and shirts were generated. Based on these drawings, the second step involved selection of the prototype for each apparel category of pants, jackets, and shirts. In summary, drawings were generated, elements of silhouette identified, and then prototypes were selected for pants, jackets, and shirts. It is interesting to note that respondents selected t-shirts instead of button-down shirts as the shirt prototype and jeans instead of slacks as the pants prototype. Because respondents were students, and they are usually more exposed to jeans and t-shirts, instead of slacks and button-down shirts, it may be that their minds associate the categories of pants and shirts with those products that they are most familiar with. Hence, the following empirical question is raised: Would a nonstudent sample select different prototypes? This question is worth exploring as the next step, because results may imply that prototypes cannot be assumed and should be enquired directly from the consumer. This study contributes to the literature in a general sense by expanding understanding of the aesthetic property of typicality while offering specific implications for understanding the property relative to apparel products. Findings offer insight for apparel/fashion brands that are considering incorporating typicality in product design.
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