Authors: Irene Maldini, Vilde Haugrønning and Lucrecia de León
This paper introduces the relevance of volume-centric research in studies of clothing use. The global production of garments has grown dramatically in recent decades, bringing along significant environmental challenges. However, knowledge is lacking about why people deal with clothing quantities in such varied ways, and what leads some of them to overconsumption. A review of wardrobe research methods shows that there are various approaches to studying garments going in, around, and out of wardrobes. Gathering qualitative insights about specific garments, such as favorite garments, has been quite common. However, in order to advance knowledge about clothing consumption volumes, it is important to look at the wardrobe as a whole and include quantitative aspects. This paper reflects on what approaches and techniques can be used to that end. The reflections are combined with lessons learned from a pilot wardrobe study conducted in Uruguay, Portugal and Norway in 2022 with 20 respondents, concluding with recommendations for volume-centric methods in future wardrobe studies. Rigorous accounts of all garments owned should be combined with registration of items going in and out of the wardrobe over time in order to link accumulation to production and waste volumes. Methods connecting garment quantities with practices of daily use are particularly valuable. One example that has proven successful is piling exercises, a technique where participants are invited to categorize garments in groups according to specific criteria.