Priority of Textile and Clothing Problems For Interdisciplinary Consumer Research

Gloria Williams, University of Minnesota
Betty Crown, University of Alberta
Marjorie Wall, University of Guelph
Billie G. Murphy, Lois Korslund, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, University of Missouri, Columbia
[ to cite ]:
Gloria Williams, Betty Crown, Marjorie Wall, and Billie G. Murphy, Lois Korslund (1978) ,"Priority of Textile and Clothing Problems For Interdisciplinary Consumer Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 05, eds. Kent Hunt, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 760-762.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 1978      Pages 760-762


Gloria Williams, University of Minnesota

Betty Crown, University of Alberta

Marjorie Wall, University of Guelph

Billie G. Murphy, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Lois Korslund, University of Missouri, Columbia

Six areas were identified in the Home Economics Assessment, Planning and Projections (HERAPP) papers as potentially workable for interdisciplinary research for the Textile and Clothing (T & C) sub group. The areas are (1) clothing--social and psychological aspects, (2) economics of textiles and clothing (3) historic clothing and textiles, (4) design and aesthetics of clothing, (5) special needs for clothing and (6) textiles. Included within each area was a statement of the current situation, a broadly stated research objective, specific research problems of greater and lesser importance and identification of current activity with respect to each problem represented. These papers served as the basis for group discussion.

Suggestions provided by the workshop organizers directed the attention of the Textile and Clothing group to tasks which were primarily evaluative in nature. Initial focus centered on the adequacy of each situation statement--its timeliness, relevance and need for modification. The statement of specific problems for research, the concepts and concepts in relation were the second area of examination. Criteria for assessment included 1) the importance and precedence of research problems within and between the six areas, 2) the significance of the concepts identified, 3) the critical need for research solutions of problems 4) the appropriateness of problems and concepts for interdisciplinary thrusts and 5) the likelihood and necessity of interdisciplinary, input into the problem area(s). In addition to suggesting ways in which cooperation among different and interested disciplines could be attained and enhanced, our final task was to identify the significant research problem area(s) or topic(s) within which each group member--separately or together--could develop papers for presentation at the continuing workshop at the 1978 AHEA Conference in New Orleans.

This report addresses itself to the above tasks.


The subdivisions and titles for T & C areas reflect a traditional approach to categorization of research interest areas in the home economics field. Thus, the possibility of stimulating and attracting interdisciplinary input may be limited. Alert to this likelihood in critical analysis of the situation statements, the following observations and assumptions seem reasonable to make.

1. Current and traditional interests of scientists and educators in the textile and clothing area are reflected in the situation statements. Each, how- ever, has been conceptualized in a manner which lends itself to interdisciplinary input. For ex- ample, in AREA I, Clothing--Social and Psychological Aspects,

a. attribution theory, function theory and other social interaction theories are implicit in the statement.

b. focus is on clothing use which can be conceived as an aspect of general product usage, as an area of consumer decision-making in post-purchase processes, as a component of non-verbal communication and as a broad area of human behavior (or action) with respect to clothing.

2. Each statement explicitly or implicitly refers to problems connected with theoretical and methodological issues as well pragmatic aspects. It is therefore understood that these issues cannot be separated but must be considered parts of a total perspective for an applied science concerned with consumer research.

3. A stronger practical problem-orientation is apparent in the situation statements of some areas rather than others. For example,

a. in AREA VI, Textiles, reference is made to problems connected with (1) inter-and intra- information delivery systems among government, manufacturers/distributors and consumers of textile products, (2) energy resources, use and conservation in the design and recycling of textile structures, (3) the analysis of costs, benefits and consequences of government regulations and standards for producers/distributors and consumers.

b. in AREA IV, Design and Aesthetics of Clothing and AREA V, Clothing for Special Needs, attention is directed to problems associated with aesthetic and functional clothing designs for general populations and especially for those populations with special needs--the elderly, children, disabled and obese. Overlap is apparent between these two areas. Marketing problems are evident in production and distribution of clothing for special populations.

c. in AREA III, Historic Clothing and Textiles, emphasis is primarily on methodological issues, the need to organize and integrate past know- ledge as a basis for describing and explaining the current social-economic-cultural situation and predicting the future along with the importance of preserving these artifacts as a part of our social and cultural heritage.

4. Timeliness and relevance are reflected in certain of the situation statements. For example, emphasis in society on (a) the dignity and worthwhile of individuals and the quality of life experiences (in clothing use, choice and protection) (b) special interest groups--the disable-bodied, elderly and poor (with respect to special clothing design and quantity needs), women and other minority groups (the stereotypic reflections of appearance and clothing in media presentations and other interacting situation) (c) the proliferation, resistance and acceptance of public policy intervention (in regulating manufacturers and distributors of apparel, home furnishing and other textile products).


Taking into consideration the first few research problems identified as more or less important for each subdivision for the T & C group, the following statements seem reasonable:

1. Problem areas as delineated are complex in nature. Contained within each are many concepts and relations between them which are perceived as associative and/or causal; multivariate rather than simplistic relations are to be considered.

2. Some problem areas may be better managed by industry or groups other than those in the disciplines currently represented, e.g., medical and biological teams may be required for some problem areas; some problem areas in textiles are concerned with basic research and development of fiber, yarn, fabric properties.

3. Some problems seem to lean more toward theoretical and methodological issues which seem somewhat removed from providing immediate solutions. Attention to these problems has consequences for building knowledge in the discipline and are basic to solving practical problems.

4. Problem areas through their concepts not only tap different disciplines but different interest and expertise.

In order to tap differences in training, interests and expertise of group members and to provide a means for individual commitment, one approach taken was

1. to develop a matrix which would take into account

a. significant and prioritized problem areas on one axis,

b. different units of analysis, e.g., consumers, manufacturers, distributors, government, on the other axis and

c. interaction between the units and the problem areas

2. to review the lists of researchable problems to see if the concepts and relations exemplified in the problem statements fall more naturally into one cell or another within the matrix.

3. to use the matrix as a basis for subsequent discussion, assessment, commitment and reporting.

The matrix and list of problems for which interdisciplinary research effort is required for problem solutions is attached. (See Appendix).


Reflection on the HERAPP papers, the matrix and activities of the group showed a groping and constant search for a way to capitalize on individual resources and talents as well as manage our tasks of prioritizing research problems and assessing their usefulness for interdisciplinary thrusts. It became apparent insuing conversations that each of us was interested in focusing broadly on problems associated with some aspect of the consumer (individuals or families) as the unit of analysis, and his behavior (e.g., use, dressing-undress-ing) interrelated with aspects of the structure and characteristics of the clothing or flexible product. Consideration would have to be given to conceptual, methodological and pragmatic aspects of the broad problem area or subareas. Three broad subareas were identified for individual pursuit.

1. Problems associated with individual dispositions (i.e., motivations, attitudes and values) with respect to clothing use. Gloria M. Williams

2. Problems associated with aesthetic and functional clothing design needs with respect to special populations. Lois Korslund

3. Problems associated with consumer attitudes toward textile product performance and standards. Betty Crown and Marjorie Wall (working jointly on product safety) Billy Murphy

Each of us is aware of the continued and necessary critical assessment of the research problem area and concepts in relation to the specified criteria. In addition, each of us is attuned to the implications of these topics (or areas) for intra- and inter-disciplinary consumer research and possible ways of attaining and enhancing cooperation between disciplines.

Members of the T & C Committee:

Betty Crown

Lois Kroslund

Clark Leavitt

Billy Murphy

Fern Rennebohm

Marjorie Wall

Gloria Williams


This group identified three main problem areas for which the identification of solutions requires an interdisciplinary research effort (Figure 1). In each area, research is needed to obtain information about consumer needs, values, motives, attitudes and behavior; information about the design, production and distribution of textile and clothing products; and information about government involvement. In addition, there is a need to know more about methods of disseminating the above information among consumers, designers, producers, distributors and government agencies.




Twenty-four sub-problem statements from the HERAPP Draft Working Paper were selected and revised to fit within the framework of Figure 1. The sub-problems thus arrived at are listed below.

1. Examine the effect of fashion on the consumption of clothing and textiles, including prices, quantities of items purchased, and frequency of replacement.

2. Measure the impact of environmental controls on the cost and availability of textiles and clothing; economic implications for clothing from industrial constraints; cost of enforcing and administering the controls; cost and use of care labeling.

3. Examine textiles and clothing consumption from a theoretical view; analyze the clothing and textiles consumption process including cost, discard, and other aspects; relate to demographic and other variables.

4. Analyze consumer demand for clothing and textile products; prices consumers are willing to pay in light of particular product attributes.

5. Develop ways of conserving energy by a use of innovative textile structures in clothing and household textiles and b) modification of care techniques.

6. Evaluation of information delivery systems for transfer of knowledge concerning textile products to the consumer.

7. Determine consumer knowledge and values concerning textile characteristics, and criteria for selection, use and care.

8. Determine consumer knowledge and value systems concerning "trade-offs" involved in textile production, cost, performance (including special proper- titles) and trade resulting from government man- dated programs related to consumer and worker safety, environmental protection, and care labeling.

9. Investigate the use of clothing in adapting and adjusting throughout the life cycle.

10. Investigate the interrelationships between textile properties, human anatomy, garment cut, and structure as they affect the comfort, function, and aesthetic quality of garments.

11. Develop measurement methods for assessing garment comfort.

12. Analyze disabilities which create special clothing needs of adults and children and identify problem areas; develop and evaluate solutions to the problem areas identified.

13. Develop a classification system based upon disabling conditions for the synthesis and integration of information about clothing for disabled.

14. Investigate the interrelationships between textile properties and garment design as they affect the physiological and psychological aspects of comfort in varied environments.

15. Develop appropriate techniques for measuring values, attitudes and behavior associated with clothing.

16. Investigate the potential of innovative construction techniques with new fibers and fabric structures for development of new design forms for apparel.

17. Determine the comparative amounts of energy consumed in the production of various types of textile structures.

18. Develop methods for recycling textiles which are profitable economically in order to conserve finite resources.

19. Determine aspects of textiles which affect consumer safety. These include fabric and product flammability as well as the allergenicity, toxicity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenicity of textile additives, dyes, and finishes.

20. Develop a predictive method of shaping and adjusting garments to varied body shapes.

21. Analyze the structural and aesthetic trade-offs made by apparel producers in the interests of controlling production costs and meeting regulations.

22. Determine effects of government policies and regulation relating to textiles on their cost, availability, performance, and selection as well as upon the domestic-international trade balance.

23. Examine the interaction of consumers and retailers in terms of consumer practices, retailer response to these practices, transmission of information and feedback of consumer preferences to producers.

24. Evaluate methods of disseminating to the disabled information on selection, adaptation, and construction of clothing to meet special needs.