Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Textiles Apparel Design and Merchandising

Document Type



African immigrant women in the USA are wear their ethnic dress when attending social functions such as church, weddings, and parties. They work with a tailor to help them create and customize their ethnic dress. With this in mind, the study sought to explore the motivations to collaboratively customize and wear the ethnic dress among these women. A Means end chain, MEC theory (Gutman, 1997) was used as the theoretical model. To answer the research questions, a qualitative approach was utilized, using semi structure interviews with the soft laddering technique and photo elicitation methods. A convenience sample of 15 first and 9 second generation African immigrant women were purposively sampled for the study. Data was collected and analyzed. The results revealed fourteen attributes, eleven consequences and seven values that motivated consumption of collaboratively customized ethnic dress. There were strong links between the attributes, consequences and values that revealed dominant themes: functionality, self-expression, self-esteem, adaptability and versatility, aesthetics, emotional attachment and clothing longevity, and cultural identity. The study found that the women were motivated by both the process and the product of collaborative customization resulting into a proposed model of collaborative customization. The first-generation women were more emotionally attachment to their ethnic dress, developed personal relationships with the tailor and typically wore their ethnic dress more often with elaborate headgear, but the second generation preferred less elaborate headgear and wearing with jeans, contemporary blouses, and needed their mothers to approach the tailors. These findings supported previous studies on ethnic dress and acculturation. Collaborative customization enabled consumers to become proactive in the design process, thus contributing to sustainability. Consumer’s got emotionally attached to their dresses translating to long clothing life span and reducing quick disposal of clothing.



Committee Chair

Stannard, Casey