Business Attire Fashion or Appropriateness: What Should Marketers Emphasize? An Abstract

  • Emily Law
  • Lori RothenbergEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science book series (DMSPAMS)


Work attire is often advertised as being professional, appropriate, and smart, while fashion-forwardness takes a back seat; but is this the best way to appeal to consumers? The purpose of this study was to determine what aspect of work attire matters most to working professionals, fashion-forwardness or appropriateness.

There is limited fashion marketing literature available on the marketing of work or business attire. The fashion marketing literature often emphasizes that the nature of fashion is change and creativity, so the fashion-forwardness of a brand should be heavily communicated to the consumer (McCormick et al., 2014), but work attire marketing seems to be underutilizing this principle. This study focused on consumer preferences for different attributes of work attire and how those attributes make them feel, providing insight into working professionals’ minds along with how to market to them. The hypothesis was that fashion-forwardness would be the most significant attribute affecting self-perceptions of emotion and competence at work.

The methodology consisted of a full profile full factorial conjoint design. There were eight outfits rated by the participants, using a seven-point Likert scale. The eight outfits were the combination of the levels of fashionableness (stylish, classic, out of style) and appropriateness (casual, leisure wear, business wear). Rating-based conjoint was used because the statistical models are linear in the parameters and statistically information efficient. The data were analyzed using a mixed model with the Kenward-Roger adjustment and Tukey’s HSD for all multiple comparison tests.

The results of this study showed that for all elements of emotion and work competency, both fashionableness and appropriateness significantly influenced the participants’ self-perceptions, but fashionableness had the greatest impact. The findings of this study suggest that clothing brands should market work attire as fashion items that will make a statement in the office as opposed to current methods of marketing the appropriateness as the main feature of the garments. As the standards of office professionalism change, it is essential for work attire brands to understand the wants and needs of their consumers to keep market share. A limitation was the use of only two attributes. Future research could examine more attributes as peoples’ preferences may be more complex.

References Available Upon Request

Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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