Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising

Document Type



The purpose of this research was to explore the theoretical concept of Prime Aesthetic across generational cohorts through the investigation of individual aesthetic dress preferences (ADP), which are formed during the Prime of Life, and their potential influence on present-day ADP. The Prime Aesthetic concept is defined as a theoretical concept representative of the cumulative ADP imprinted from all influences during an individual’s Prime of Life. The Prime Aesthetic was derived from Holbrook and Schindler’s (1989) study on the development of musical tastes during late adolescence and early adulthood and linked to theories on imprinting during sensitive periods (Bornstein, 1989) and emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000). Due to the exploratory nature of this study, a qualitative research design was chosen (Neuman, 2011; Stebbins, 2001). Female participants with some knowledge of dress born before 1992 were recruited using a digital solicitation flyer in online forums related to dress. Respondents were pre-screened to meet the requisite criteria. Valid participants were separated into two generational cohorts, a modern cohort with birthdays in or before 1945 and a postmodern cohort with birthdays in or after 1946. Fifteen respondents in each cohort were invited to participate in virtual interviews for a total of thirty female participants. Resultant interview data were analyzed in the NVivo quantitative analysis software using the constant comparison method (Reddy-Best & Pedersen, 2015; Smith-Glaviana, 2016; Smith & Stannard, 2016; Stannard & Sanders, 2015; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Data analysis resulted in four primary emergent themes, a) locating the Prime, b) exploring Aesthetic Dress Preferences, c) the formation of Prime Aesthetics, and d) factors affecting the Prime Aesthetic. Findings revealed that the majority of participants (67%, n=20) placed their Prime Age for dress during emerging adulthood, which is consistent with studies on musical taste (Holbrook and Schindler, 1989). Influences on ADP at that time were those typically found in clothing and textile literature on dress preferences, such as socio-cultural influences and the body. Further findings from the data indicated that the formation of the Prime Aesthetic could be displaced away from emerging adulthood due to four primary factors, a) financial reasons, b) pivotal moments, c) body issues, or d) an emotionally destabilizing period. Additionally, nine factors were found to affect change in the Prime Aesthetic over time; these factors are: a) aging and the aging body, b) the body, c) comfort, d) functionality, e) becoming a mother, f) education, g) others, and h) environment. These findings resulted in the formation of a theoretical model to help explain the development of ADP over time. One theory that explains the relationship between the Prime Aesthetic in dress and the present ADP. The second theory recognizes the factors that affect change in the Prime Aesthetic as factors representative of shifts in identity (e.g., aging bodies, motherhood, etc.) and therefore explains the relationship between shifts in identity and changes in ADP away from the Prime Aesthetic.



Committee Chair

Stannard, Casey R.



Available for download on Monday, May 12, 2025