The next time I'm at the Regenstein Library I will certainly be logging in to JSTOR and checking out this paper, by John E. Jacobi and S. George Walters. (In Journal of Marketing, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Oct. 1958), pp. 168-172.)
Here's the abstract:
"The objectives of this study were to explore the nature of consumer dress-buying behavior, and to develop hypotheses for future research. Three hypotheses are described: the narrowing process; the symbol-acceptance concept; and the critical-attribute phase."
The "narrowing process" seems pretty clear — you can't look at every dress. (Well, maybe YOU can't, but I'M giving it the old college try.) And "critical-attribute phase" also seems transparent; I personally won't buy a dress with spaghetti straps, for instance. But what the heck is the "symbol-acceptance concept"? Minds inquiring nearly fifty years after the fact want to know.
And as long as I'm thinking about the hows and whys of dress-buying, take a look at this one that Ju sent me (at Anthropologie). The class assignment is to discuss why one would or would not buy this dress instead of the Tiki Boutique one.