Wardrobe Methods webinar opens up the field

On 17th April 2024, UCRF (Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion) hosted a Wardrobe Methods Event in conjunction with the CHANGE research project to explore a way of researching the contents and dynamics of wardrobes.

78 had registered for the event, and 41 attended the webinar on Wardrobe Methods, which is about the use phase in the lives of clothing and the practices that go on there. This has long been seen as a way to break apart the monolithic understanding of ‘use’ and ‘consumption’ that industry and sustainability initiatives often promote. In the attendees at the live meeting, at least 15 different mother tongues spoken: Spanish, Ukrainian, Russian, Dutch, Hungarian, English, Portuguese, Swiss German, Danish, Turkish, Hindi, Italian, German, Polish, Norwegian.

The event hosted by Professor Kate Fletcher and Karishma Kelsey from the UCRF Board was facilitated by a talk from Professor Ingun Grimstad Klepp which gave a round-up of the history of the set of methods, along with current uses, also in policy-work. Here Klepp briefly touched on the new method developed by Consumption Research Norway SIFO called Waste Audit Interviews. This is part of SIFO’s ongoing work on addressing the short-comings of EU’s Textile Strategy, where ‘durability’ and ‘repairability’ are seen as the beacons of a long life for apparel.

The event’s goal was to explore ways to extend wardrobe methods further, including in more diverse ways. The talk was followed by a lively discussion and breakout-sessions. See the whole webinar by clicking here.

The discussions raised many intriguing propositions and development for Wardrobe Methods, a selection from the break-out rooms is summarized here:

  • Using wardrobe methods to help show the variety of understandings about key terminology related to textile qualities and descriptions, e.g. ‘quality’.
  • Potential ethnographic study of indigenous Mayan textile artisans in Guatemala, who traditionally weave their own capsule wardrobe but now supplement it with western clothing items.
  • Using wardrobe studies to investigate ageing and clothing. Look at how the studies can be a guide and pathway to other ways of being. 
  • Taking a lifecycle perspective: look at the wardrobe as history. 
  • Deploying wardrobe methods to investigate identity and identity change: for example, gender, sexuality, everyday life, menopause, pregnancy, biopolitics and non-conforming men.
  • Investigating how digital apps can go beyond quantification of wardrobe – learn about user preferences, emotional durability, reasons for why clothes fall out of use.
  • Exploring the assumption that fit translates into longevity of use.
  • Using wardrobe methods as a way to create behaviour change – increasing engagement and awareness among people for example in power positions and politics.
  • Qualitative and quantitative data are important. Using hybrid wardrobe methods to investigate items sent for repair or taken to clothing swaps at work places, are good ways to follow their story and give valuable data for the use phase. 
  • Awareness raising power of wardrobe studies, how can we use wardrobe studies in developing new business methods that are not growth oriented? 
  • Comparing with post-Soviet countries, specifically in smaller villages in the country-side to open up bigger cultural context.

The participants were encouraged to contribute with their own related research, and we are looking forward to seeing these and adding them to the Wardrobe Studies Library.

Wardrobe methods event

April 17th at 10:00-11:00 CET. Online.

Join us for an exciting discussion about Wardrobe Methods in research with a talk by Professor Ingun Grimstad Klepp and then a sharing of experiences from across UCRF of doing research about the use and disposal of clothing. It will be facilitated by UCRF board members Kate Fletcher and Karishma Kelsey.

The aim is to:

  • deepen understanding about wardrobe methods; and 
  • extend use of wardrobe methods and build greater diversity in their ideas and applications. 

You can register here. The event will take place over Zoom. 

Join us on 17th April!

Participation is free, but booking is essential to help us organise the event.

Please note: the event will be recorded and made available on the UCRF YouTube channel for later viewing.  Also note: an edited book of 50 wardrobe methods, ‘Opening Up the Wardrobe: A Methods Book’ (2017) co-edited by Kate Fletcher and Ingun Grimstad Klepp is now available as a free e-book, find it here. And a link to a library of new Wardrobe Studies is here.

Ethnographic Wearing

Author: Joshua M. Bluteau, UK, Coventry University, Social Anthropologist, @anthrodandy

Aim of study

This method was developed as part of a broader research project catalogued in the book ‘Dressing Up’ (Bluteau, 2022). During this period, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork with bespoke tailors in London and the network of Instagram sartorialists that grew up around them. As part of this process, I developed a digital ethnographic method termed ‘immersive cohabitation’ (Bluteau, 2021) that centred around doing as my digital interlocutors did, dressing up, taking selfies and posting them to Instagram as part of a reciprocal social and sartorial practice. To take part in this I had to acquire similar garments to wear and photograph, which were mostly purchased from online auction websites and grew into a considerable collection.

These garments were not merely ethnographic artefacts but became part of my everyday wardrobe as I sought to foreground participation, over observation (following Wacquant, 2004) as part of my research praxis. ‘Ethnographic Wearing’, as part of this broader study became a way of engaging with the acquired garments themselves and using the wearing of them as a research process to learn more about them. 

The objective of the study

To answer what it is like to wear certain clothes. Incorporating both the process of acquiring, storing, and living with them to gain insight into the lived experience of their owner/wearer, and to understand what impact these garments had on them.

The method

Simply, this method began by purchasing garments akin to those that my interlocutors were wearing and then using them to dress myself to take self-portrait style images which were uploaded to Instagram to construct a digital self that could be used for digital ethnographic research. However, this metamorphosed into an everyday practice of wearing these garments as they became part of how I dressed habitually on and offline during this period of fieldwork.

As a result I began to reflect on the process of wearing, taking thickly descriptive fieldnotes and digital photographs to catalogue the sensorial, haptic, emotional and phenomenological aspects of wearing these clothes. This in itself became a kind of thick wearing and became central to my ethnographic engagement with garments as an object of anthropological study.

Then what?

After the study, the wardrobe remained. The fieldwork which allowed the inception of this method of Wearing Ethnography was over, but the wardrobe remained dynamic. The doors to this personal collection were not closed although some rails became less visited – gathering dust – while others had new garments added to them and were still frequently worn. In this sense, the study is still ongoing and this longitudinal engagement with Wearing Ethnography promises to generate further research data for future analysis.

How this specific method could be used by others

This method is not bound by geographical location, garment type or research focus and can be either the primary mode of study or a supplementary line on enquiry. As such it has the potential to be utilized by a large number of researchers both in the field of fashion/garment studies, as well as a wide range of qualitative researchers in the social sciences and beyond. It may be of interest to those who wish to investigate garments in isolation, or those who wish to engage with garments that have a specific bearing on their research site. It also offers a starting point for discussions about collecting garments from the field and wearing not only to reflect on the process but as a mode of access to and rapport building with new informants. The primary limitation is whether garments fit or not, which may present a substantial barrier in some cases.

How the results could be used by others

The results of this study form part of an emerging subdiscipline of anthropology which could be termed fashion anthropology or the anthropology of clothing and adornment. Specific anthropological investigations of clothing are disparate and fragmented, with much of the prior scholarship collated by Luvaas and Eicher (2019) in their fantastic reader. However, methodological tools for engaging with specific garments are less well defined, with research often focusing on the relationship between informant and garment (see for example, Miller and Woodward, 2012) rather than the garment and researcher. As a result, this method of ‘ethnographic wearing’ challenges the current narrative, and offers a way for researchers to engage with clothing that can provide rich ethnographic data.

All photos by the author.

What insight does this method generate?

Whilst a range of methods have been used by other scholars to engage with garments held in collections, this method offers the researcher the opportunity to wear the garments in and out of the wardrobe. This allows considerable insight into how the garments feels on the body, how it moves and shapes the experience of the wearer and how differing notions of expense and quality can be tactilely experienced. This method joins artefact to researcher slipping one inside the other like two jigsaw pieces to give a bigger picture. These insights can be small from how a particular maker cuts a garment through to practical considerations of movement, temperature control, and how a garment performs in different environments, as well as how the garment shapes other’s perception of the wearer. All the qualitative insights can help to produce a more holistic and rigorous depiction of the garment.


Bluteau, J.M. (2021). Legitimising digital anthropology through immersive cohabitation: Becoming an observing participant in a blended digital landscape. Ethnography 22(2): 267-285.

Bluteau, J.M. (2022). Dressing Up: Menswear in the age of Social Media. New York: Berghahn.

Luvaas, B., and Eicher, J.B. (2019). The Anthropology of Dress and Fashion: A Reader. London: Bloomsbury.

Miller, D., and Woodward, S. (2012) Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wacquant, L. (2004). Body and Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

A full PLATE with a 7-course SIFO menu

Photo Tuomas Uusheimo

Holding on or letting go? Why don’t consumers complain more? Why do we hang on to stuff that is flawed? How to make fast fashion out of fashion and actually degrow the textile sector? All these questions will be answered at the PLATE conference at Aalto University, in Espoo, Finland.

At the end of May and beginning of June, Consumption Research Norway SIFO at Oslo Metropolitan University will partake in the biannual PLATE (Product Lifetimes and The Environment) conference with a full menu of all in all six papers, and all in all four presenting findings from LASTING, where one is by authors from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The project Change will also be presented with volumes of consumption as the appetizer. Studying clothing consumption volumes through wardrobe studies: a methodological reflection is written by Irene Maldini, Vilde Haugrønning and Lucrecia de León. As not all wardrobe methods take advantage of their volume-centric possibilities, the paper explores lessons from a wardrobe pilot study conducted in Uruguay, Portugal and Norway in 2022 with both male and female respondents. Preliminary findings show that a volume perspective on wardrobe research can give valuable insights on the particularities of clothing use in relation to quantities.  

Putting on a different set of glasses

In another paper, which is a result of the Wasted Textiles project, this is also explored related only to textiles and clothing: Regulating Fast Fashion out of Fashion, authored by Kerli Kant-Hvass and Ingun Grimstad Klepp. The analysis underpinning the paper is based on a review of 10 textile strategy documents from public, private and non-profit organizations, on whether and how growth and overproduction in the textile industry is being addressed. Merging this with research and findings from the opposite end of the value-chain than these textile strategy documents do (which use design and a focus on “preferred fiber” choices to potentially optimize lifetime), the paper puts forward Targeted Producer responsibility (TPR) as a means to curb volumes effectively and thus reduce environmental impacts.

Another paper, written by Kirsi Laitala, Lisbeth Løvbak Berg and Pål Strandbakken, addresses consumers’ use and knowledge of the Consumer Purchases Act by asking: Why won’t you complain? Consumer rights and the unmet product lifespan requirements. The paper discusses the reasons for not complaining, based on six consumer focus groups, where in total 36 consumers described furniture, electronics, and textile products that they were dissatisfied with and hadn’t necessarily taken the trouble to claim their consumer rights.

Clearer guidelines in order

There is a need for clear guidelines on what the consumer rights are for the specific products, the authors write, to make it clear what is considered unacceptable abrasion and normal use, but also to differentiate between commercial warranties and legal rights. Complaints are, after all, an important avenue for businesses to gain information about the performance of their products, and thereby improve them.

In Norway, the right to complain is extended to 5 years for some durable goods, which exceeds the EU requirements of 2 years. This creates confusion about which products and which duration is valid, where consumers often link this to price, rather than the type of product. In addition to clearer guidelines, there are possibilities for new technical solutions to facilitate the storage of receipts and purchase information related to each product, which was especially problematic for low-priced items. Digital product passes, which is on EU’s menu of policy instruments, may be developed with this in mind, and could also include information about consumer rights.

Focus groups offer insights

Two other Lasting papers, are both about what we keep or discard and why, and are based on focus groups, but also some interviews with business representatives. The overarching theme was product longevity of three product groups: electronics, textiles, and furniture. In Flawed or redundant: products with long lifespans against the odds, co-authored by Harald Throne-Holst and Kirsi Laitala, the theme is explored related to reasonings behind keeping things – by only storing them and not using them – or trying to use them even though they are broken or flawed. Five groups of reasoning were presented: Economical, Ethical, Social, Emotional, and Intentions.

In Holding on or letting go? Conflicting narratives of product longevity: a business vs. consumer perspective, authors Lisbeth Løvbak Berg and Marie Hebrok have found that technical and emotional durability are the two dominant ways of understanding product longevity by business representatives, and as such what they aim to embed in their products. Consumers, however, tell a different story, of living with their things, of use, of time passing, and life events triggering change – factors that are external to the product itself. The authors argue that corporate narratives of product longevity divert our attention away from production toward consumption, keeping questions of volume and growth at arm’s length.

Stockings as stress

In relation to durability, the Reduce project will present The devaluation of stockings. Tone Rasch, Ingrid Haugsrud, Kirsi Laitala and Atle Wehn Hegnes (Tone is associated with the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology) explore nylon stockings for women as an example of a product that first was recognized as high fashion, but later has been devalued and is now seen almost as a single-use product. Thin stockings represent a good example of how we value and take care of delicate items has a significant contribution to their lifetimes. Looking into the historical context is beneficial for learning about the points in time when changes occurred and how they contribute to consumer practices.

The weakest link: How technical lifespan extension can be counter-effective for climate goals looks at scenarios for kitchen durables (fridge, dishwasher, stove, and kitchen cupboards) to explore lifetime extension, and investigate the extent to which these interventions could in fact be counter-effective for climate goals set for 2050. The authors, Kamila Krych and Johan B. Pettersen, found that the extra resources invested to ensure more durable products that anyways can land in waste bins prematurely, can be counter-effective in reaching the climate goals set for 2050.

Tasty alternatives

Faster environmental benefits, the authors write, could be achieved by increasing the repair rates by extending product warranties, subsidizing repair services, supporting the development of innovative repair businesses, demanding the availability of spare parts at affordable prices, and increasing the convenience of repair. The paper also points to policy addressing “problematic” products as more effective, such as dish-washers that fail more frequently. A belief in design-focused interventions, is clearly questioned, as the authors see this as taking longer to bring effect.

So, all in all, attendees should be well-satisfied and full of new knowledge, considering this rich menu, which is of course only a small part of the three-day proceedings in Finland. The research papers will be published after the conference.

Want Not, Waste Not: Preliminary findings

Author: Anna Schytte Sigaard


This project note presents preliminary findings from a PhD project looking into textile waste from Norwegian households. 28 households collected textiles that they would have otherwise discarded for a period of six months. The textiles were collected by the PhD candidate during visits to the households where qualitative interviews were carried out. Then, all textiles were registered along with information from the interviews. The findings indicate that most of the discarded textiles are clothes and shoes. However, when broken down into textile categories, household textiles represent the largest group of discarded textiles. In addition, findings show that about one third of the collected textiles were in a very good condition, either like new or with only minor changes. The fiber content of the textiles corresponded with the preliminary findings from work package 2 in Wasted Textiles, as there was an equal distribution between 100% synthetic textiles, 100% non-synthetic textiles and textiles containing a mix of these. It was also found that the largest group of users were adult women, especially when looking at number of textiles discarded. If weight was applied instead, the difference between the genders evened out more. As these findings are preliminary, it is too early to provide any hard conclusions. Instead, the project note is meant to grant insights into the kind of data that will eventually be available and shared with the project group.

Click here to read the full project note.

A functioning ‘functional unit’?

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Tone Skårdal Tobiasson

What is the ‘functional unit’ of a winter coat, or a pair of boots? The ‘functional unit’ is a central concept for lifecyle assessment (LCA) based tools. In the ongoing work on the European Union’s (EU) PEFCR (Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules), this is based on the number of days of ‘usability’.

Let’s explore what this means. A ‘functional unit’ is perhaps most easily explained in terms of paint, in terms of how long a certain paint will keep the walls protected and good looking, but how does that translate to apparel?

The EU has decided that the functional unit for a winter coat – or a pair of boots – is 100 days of use. This is the expected usability (functional unit) you can expect to gain from a product before it needs replacing or repairing. So far, so good.

Click here to read the full article (ecotextile.com)

Click here to read an opinion piece on the same theme (sciencenorway.no)

Review of clothing disposal reasons

Authors: Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp, SIFO


Garment lifetimes and longer serviceable life play important roles in discussions about the sustainability of clothing consumption.

A compilation of the research on clothing disposal motivations shows that there are three main reasons for disposal:

  1. Intrinsic quality (37%): Wear and tear-related issues such as shrinkage, tears and holes, fading of colour, broken zippers and loss of technical functions such as waterproofness.
  2. Fit (28%): Garments that do not fit either because the user has changed size, or the garment did not fit well to start with (for example due to unsuitable grading, insufficient wear ease or wrong size).
  3. Perceived value (35%): reasons where the consumer no longer wants the garment because it is outdated or out of fashion, or no longer is needed or wanted, or is not valued, for example when there is a lack of space in the wardrobe.

This shows that almost two-thirds of garments are discarded for reasons other than physical durability. Poor fit/design together with lack of perceived value by the owner are responsible for the majority of clothing disposals.

Physical strength is one of the several factors that are important if the lifetime of clothing is to be increased. However, it does not help to make clothes stronger if they are not going to be used longer anyway; this will just contribute to increased environmental impacts from the production and disposal phases. We do not need disposable products” that last for centuries. To work with reducing the environmental impacts of clothing consumption, it is important to optimize the match between strength, value and fit. This has the potential to reduce overproduction. Optimizing clothing lifespans will ensure the best possible utilization of the materials in line with the intentions of the circular economy.


Garment lifetimes and longer serviceable life play important roles in discussions about the sustainability of clothing consumption.

Here we present the empirical findings summarized from the research that exists around clothing disposal. The review was originally conducted for the work with the development of durability criteria for Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) for apparel and footwear. We believe this can be useful information for companies working to improve their products, and debate about clothing sustainability including the understanding of PEF.

We would like to thank Roy Kettlewell and Angus Ireland for their cooperation.


The review includes empirical quantitative studies on clothing disposal reasons. The studies use varying methods, where online surveys are the most commonly used, but also two physical wardrobe studies are included. The way disposal reasons are studied varies as well. Many surveys ask for general, most common disposal reasons, while wardrobe studies and a few of the surveys focus on specific garments that the informants have disposed of. One of the online wardrobe surveys also asks for anticipated disposal reasons for specific garments instead of past behavior. All of the studies have been conducted between 1987 and 2020. The review excluded any studies that did not focus on disposal reasons or did not report results in a quantitative manner. In addition, it excludes a few lower-quality studies with methodological issues. In total 17 studies that fulfil the inclusion criteria were found.


The review shows that clothing is discarded for many reasons. Table 1 summarizes the results and gives some information about the study sample such as where it was conducted and the number of respondents, as well as the main method that was used. Although there are differences between the surveys, they show a common feature. The results on disposal reasons could be placed in three main categories that were found in all reviewed studies: 1) intrinsic quality, 2) fit, and 3) perceived value, and an additional category for 4) other or unknown reasons. The categories include the following disposal reasons:

  1. Intrinsic quality: Wear and tear-related issues such as shrinkage, tears and holes, fading of colour, broken zippers and loss of technical functions such as waterproofness.
  2. Fit: Garments that do not fit either because the user has changed size, or the garment did not fit well to start with (for example due to unsuitable grading, insufficient wear ease or wrong size).
  3. Perceived value: reasons where the consumer no longer wants the garment because it is outdated or out of fashion, or no longer is needed or wanted, or is not valued, for example when there is a lack of space in the wardrobe.

StudyResearch design and sample sizeIntrinsic qualityFitPerceived valueOther / unknown
AC Nielsen (Laitala & Klepp, 2020)Survey in five countries, 1111 adults aged 18-64, anticipated disposal reason of 40,356 garments4413359
WRAP (2017)Survey in the UK, 2058 adults, 16,895 garments, disposal reasons per clothing category past year1842337
Laitala, Boks, and Klepp (2015)Wardrobe study in Norway, 25 adults (9 men and 16 women), 396 discarded garments50162410
Klepp (2001)Wardrobe study in Norway, 24 women aged 34- 46. 329 discarded garments31153321
Collett, Cluver, and Chen (2013)Interviews in the USA, 13 female students (aged 18 – 28). Each participant brought five fast fashion items that they no longer wear413821
Chun (1987)Survey in the USA, 89 female students (aged 18 – 30). Most recent garment disposal reason.629569
Lang, Armstrong, and Brannon (2013)Survey in the USA, 555 adults. General garment disposal reasons.303139
Koch and Domina (1997)Survey in the USA, 277 students (82% female). General disposal reasons and methods.293833
Koch and Domina (1999) and Domina and Koch (1999)Survey in the USA, 396 adults (88% female). General disposal reasons and methods.213742
Zhang et al. (2020)Survey in China, 507 adults (53% female). General disposal reasons.43192216
Ungerth and Carlsson (2011)Survey in Sweden, 1014 adults (age 16 – 74). The most common disposal reason.608219
YouGov (Stevanin, 2019)Survey in Italy, 992 adults, general disposal reasons.31242025
YouGov (2017a, 2017b, 2017c, 2017d, 2017e)Surveys in Australia, Philippine, Malaysia, Hong Kong & Singapore, in total 12,434 adults. General disposal reasons.3925297
MeanApprox. 20,000 adults34.125.831.412.6
Table 1. Summary of clothing disposal reasons in 17 consumer studies.

When the category of other/unknown reasons is excluded, the division between the three main disposal reason categories is quite similar, with intrinsic quality constituting about 37% of disposal reasons, followed by lack of perceived value (35%) and poor fit (28%) (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Clothing disposal reasons


A compilation of the research on clothing disposal motivations shows that there are three main reasons for disposal. Intrinsic quality, that is wear and tear and other physical changes of garments is the dominating disposal reason (37%), followed by lack of perceived value (35%) and poor fit (28%). This shows that almost two-thirds of garments are discarded for reasons other than physical durability. Poor fit/design together with lack of perceived value by the owner are responsible for the majority of clothing disposals.

Physical strength is one of the several factors that are important if the lifetime of clothing is to be increased. However, it does not help to make clothes stronger if they are not going to be used longer anyways, this will just contribute to increased environmental impacts from the production and disposal phases. We do not need “disposable products” that last for centuries. To work with reducing the environmental impacts of clothing consumption, it is important to optimize the match between strength, value and fit. Optimizing clothing lifespans will ensure the best possible utilization of the materials in line with the intentions of the circular economy.


Chun, H.-K. (1987). Differences between fashion innovators and non-fashion innovators in their clothing disposal practices. (Master’s thesis). Oregon State University, Corvallis. https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/v118rk195

Collett, M., Cluver, B., & Chen, H.-L. (2013). Consumer Perceptions the Limited Lifespan of Fast Fashion Apparel. Research Journal of Textile and Apparel, 17(2), 61-68. doi:10.1108/RJTA-17-02-2013-B009

Domina, T., & Koch, K. (1999). Consumer reuse and recycling of post-consumer textile waste. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 3(4), 346 – 359. doi:10.1108/eb022571

Klepp, I. G. (2001). Hvorfor går klær ut av bruk? Avhending sett i forhold til kvinners klesvaner [Why are clothes no longer used? Clothes disposal in relationship to women’s clothing habits]. Retrieved from Oslo: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12199/5390

Koch, K., & Domina, T. (1997). The effects of environmental attitude and fashion opinion leadership on textile recycling in the US. Journal of Consumer Studies & Home Economics, 21(1), 1-17. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.1997.tb00265.x

Koch, K., & Domina, T. (1999). Consumer Textile Recycling as a Means of Solid Waste Reduction. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 28(1), 3-17. doi:10.1177/1077727×99281001

Laitala, K., Boks, C., & Klepp, I. G. (2015). Making Clothing Last: A Design Approach for Reducing the Environmental Impacts. International Journal of Design, 9(2), 93-107.

Laitala, K., & Klepp, I. G. (2020). What Affects Garment Lifespans? International Clothing Practices Based on a Wardrobe Survey in China, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the USA. Sustainability, 12(21), 9151. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/21/9151

Lang, C., Armstrong, C. M., & Brannon, L. A. (2013). Drivers of clothing disposal in the US: An exploration of the role of personal attributes and behaviours in frequent disposal. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 37(6), 706-714. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12060

Stevanin, E. (2019). Fast fashion: il continuo rinnovo del guardaroba. Retrieved from https://it.yougov.com/news/2019/05/27/fast-fashion-il-rinnovo-del-guardaroba/

Ungerth, L., & Carlsson, A. (2011). Vad händer sen med våra kläder? Enkätundersökning. Stockholm: http://www.konsumentforeningenstockholm.se/Global/Konsument%20och%20Milj%c3%b6/Rapporter/KfS%20rapport_april11_Vad%20h%c3%a4nder%20sen%20med%20v%c3%a5ra%20kl%c3%a4der.pdf

WRAP. (2017). Valuing Our Clothes: the cost of  UK fashionhttp://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/valuing-our-clothes-the-cost-of-uk-fashion_WRAP.pdf

YouGov. (2017a). Fast fashion: 27% of Malaysians have thrown away clothing after wearing it just once. Retrieved from https://my.yougov.com/en-my/news/2017/12/06/fast-fashion/

YouGov. (2017b). Fast fashion: 39% of Hong Kongers have thrown away clothing after wearing it just once. Retrieved from https://hk.yougov.com/en-hk/news/2017/12/06/fast-fashion/

YouGov. (2017c). Fast fashion: a third of Filipinos have thrown away clothing after wearing it just once. Retrieved from https://ph.yougov.com/en-ph/news/2017/12/06/fast-fashion/

YouGov. (2017d). Fast fashion: a third of Singaporeans have thrown away clothing after wearing it just once. Retrieved from https://sg.yougov.com/en-sg/news/2017/12/06/fast-fashion/

YouGov. (2017e). Fast fashion: Three in ten Aussies have thrown away clothing after wearing it just once. Retrieved from www.au.yougov.com/news/2017/12/06/fast-fashion/

Zhang, L., Wu, T., Liu, S., Jiang, S., Wu, H., & Yang, J. (2020). Consumers’ clothing disposal behaviors in Nanjing, China. Journal of Cleaner Production, 276, 123184.

Deep diving into wardrobes provides important knowledge on clothes and their environmental impact

Authors: Vilde Haugrønning, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Anna Schytte Sigaard

Norway leads the way in methods for studying the use of clothing. This is knowledge that is important in sustainability studies of apparel.

How many clothes are there in our wardrobes? What is used a lot and what do you seldom wear, and why? Which clothes have the largest environmental footprint? What causes clothes to be cared for and repaired?

There are many unanswered questions when the desire is to understand the connection between the consumption of clothing, and climate and environmental impacts. We need to understand why someone has a wardrobe full of clothes and still nothing to wear. To answer these questions, methods that can reconcile the concrete material with the way we use, buy, repair, launder, choose and not least throw away clothes, are required.

The method called “wardrobe studies” is very central in studies of clothing’s environmental impact. Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) at Oslo Metropolitan University has been at the centre of the development of these methods for 23 years. Today, the method is included in research, teaching, product development and design worldwide.

Research in people’s homes

The method involves the researcher and informant going through the informant’s wardrobe piece by piece, together. In some studies, the entire wardrobe is reviewed and in others, selected parts such as passive clothes, leisure and sports clothes, or favourite clothes are specifically studied. When the clothes are reviewed, the researcher asks the same questions for each garment. This gives us opportunities to analyze differences in the way different garments are used.

The method is time-consuming but provides detailed and reliable knowledge. Ideally, we do this at the informants’ homes and thus also gain knowledge about details around the organisation, storage, laundering and care of the clothes.

Clothes are complex

Wardrobe studies are particularly suitable for studying practices that we often take for granted. The practices are important to understand in order to gain better knowledge of consumption patterns, and thus how they can be changed in a more sustainable direction. The special feature of the method is that the clothes are at the centre of the analysis.

Clothes are very complex materially, socially and culturally. They are made from most types of materials, from animals and plants, including metal and chemicals and increasingly plastic. They are used to camouflage the body, keep it warm, decorate, protect and show belonging to cultures, groups, places and positions in society. Clothes are important for self-respect, security and social participation.

In order to embrace so many different aspects and see them in context, methods are required which have the capacity to connect the actual material with the practices and their many different meanings, both for the individual and society.

What properties do the clothes have?

Wardrobe studies lead to more knowledge about the use of clothes. This stands in contrast to studies that are concerned with clothes related to fashion, often understood as the novelty value of the clothes. In such studies, some things are often excluded, namely the material properties of the clothes, as well as all the nuances in the relationship between the wearer of the clothes and the clothes themselves, and the interplay between the clothes in the wardrobe.

After conversations with people about clothes over several decades, we have rarely heard informants say that fashion is important to them, and it is much more common to say the opposite. Fashion is an aspect of our clothes, but for most people, there are completely different reasons for both what you buy and what you wear. Fashion can make it difficult to find something you like in the store, such as the colour you think suits you, or a shape that is perceived as flattering.

Few know how many clothes they own

To capture the material in wardrobe studies, various techniques are used to obtain information about each individual garment such as photos, interviews, registrations and technical analyses. This gives the advantage that the information becomes concrete and tied to both the material and social aspects, and thus not so dependent on words alone.

Clothing habits, like other parts of our daily lives, are something we don’t usually think about. Therefore, they are also difficult to put into words in a conversation or interview situation. It is easier to describe the clothes and how they are used when we talk about specific garments. It will then be possible for us researchers later to see the relationship between the clothes and the wearer, and pursue what lies behind the words.

Very few know the average age of their own wardrobe or how many clothes they actually have. We ask people about what they know and have a relationship with, but compile the information ourselves with national or global averages, or qualitatively based interpretations.

Knowledge to inform policy

Today, SIFO has several ongoing research projects with wardrobe studies: CHANGE, Wasted Textiles and Belong, all funded by the Research Council of Norway. Here the wardrobe studies are used to study how we use clothes for different occasions and the importance of variation in clothing habits, how we can reduce the amount of textiles and specifically synthetic textiles, and the importance of clothes for belonging.

In all projects, wardrobe studies contribute to important knowledge about the importance of clothing and textiles in our everyday lives. This knowledge is crucial to developing policies capable of drastically reducing climate and environmental impact, and at the same time ensuring everyone in the population has access to good clothing.

An important challenge in the work with clothing and the environment has long been very inadequate life cycle analyses (LCAs). Without knowledge of lifespan, disposable products are compared to clothes that are worn 500 times or more.

No one would argue that such a use of LCAs is correct, but going from this point of departure to finding methods to include lifespan in LCAs of environmental impact, is quite a challenge. SIFO has further developed the wardrobe studies method in a quantitative direction in order to obtain knowledge about global clothing habits suitable for such analyses.

Consumption is important

In these studies, we work with detailed information on 53,461 garments which gives the opportunity to ask questions about, for example, differences between different types of garments, fibres or what the clothes are used for. This is very relevant when the EU is now developing a new labelling scheme, the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), which will include textiles. SIFO, therefore, contributes to the development of the rules specific to clothing in this labelling scheme. There, as in many other contexts, it is difficult to get the impression that consumption is important.

The work with wardrobe studies shows that in research it is not only important to develop good questions, but that the methods must also be adapted so that we researchers are able to deliver the knowledge that society needs. Climate and environmental problems cannot be solved without knowledge of people, society, politics and regulation. It is urgent to take the fact that we humans have created the problems seriously, but that we can also solve them. For that, we need more knowledge about ourselves and our habits and the way we use products that burden the climate and the environment a lot, such as apparel.

A comprehensive overview of research and projects that use wardrobe studies can be found on this web site and publications related to wardrobe studies can be found by clicking here.

This article draws on the following research:

Fletcher, K. and Klepp, I. G. (eds.) (2017) Opening Up the Wardrobe: A Methods Book. Oslo: Novus.
Klepp, I. G. and Bjerck, M. (2014) ‘A methodological approach to the materiality of clothing: Wardrobe Studies’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 17(4), pp. 373-386.
Klepp, I. G., Laitala, K., & Wiedmann, S. (2020). Clothing Lifespans: What Should Be Measured and How. Sustainability, 12(15).
Laitala, K., Klepp, I. G. and Henry, B. (2018) ‘Does Use Matter? Comparison of Environmental Impacts of Clothing Based on Fiber Type’, Sustainability, 10(7).
Laitala, K., & Klepp, I. G. (2020). What Affects Garment Lifespans? International Clothing Practices Based on a Wardrobe Survey in China, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the USA. Sustainability, 12(21), 9151.

What Affects Garment Lifespans? International Clothing Practices Based on a Wardrobe Survey in China, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the USA

Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp


Increasing the length of clothing lifespans is crucial for reducing the total environmental impacts. This article discusses which factors contribute to the length of garment lifespans by studying how long garments are used, how many times they are worn, and by how many users. The analysis is based on quantitative wardrobe survey data from China, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the USA. Variables were divided into four blocks related respectively to the garment, user, garment use, and clothing practices, and used in two hierarchical multiple regressions and two binary logistic regressions.

The models explain between 11% and 43% of the variation in clothing lifespans. The garment use block was most indicative for the number of wears, while garment related properties contribute most to variation in the number of users. For lifespans measured in years, all four aspects were almost equally important. Some aspects that affect the lifespans of clothing cannot be easily changed (e.g., the consumer’s income, nationality, and age) but they can be used to identify where different measures can have the largest benefits. Several of the other conditions that affect lifespans can be changed (e.g., garment price and attitudes towards fashion) through quality management, marketing strategies, information, and improved consumer policies.

Click here to read the full article (mdpi.com).

Wool you wear it? – woollen garments in Norway and the United Kingdom

Marie Hebrok, Ingun G. Klepp & Joanne Turney


This article was developed from the project ‘Valuing Norwegian Wool’ initiated by the Norwegian National Institute for Consumer Research to generate knowledge on how wool can contribute to sustainable textile consumption, and how value creation can be increased in the Norwegian wool industry. The article will compare consumer perceptions, attitudes, practices and knowledge concerning wool as a material and as garments in Norway and in the United Kingdom, through a case study of wardrobes owned by six middle-class families.

The aim is to generate knowledge about the diverse web of aspects that influence consumption of woollen garments. The wardrobe study as a method aims to include the materiality of garments in clothes research in a more direct way. Analysing the materiality in connection with the social and cultural aspects of clothes gives us a better understanding of the relations between materiality and practice.

Click here to read the full article (southampton.ac.uk)