Dress-Buying Behavior of Consumers

by Erin on July 20, 2006

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.


Anthropologie dot halter dress

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Katana Barnett July 20, 2006 at 2:34 am

“class”

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Miss Kitty July 20, 2006 at 3:11 am

Ummm…maybe it’s just my inner stripper talking, but I like both dresses. Of course, my boobs are big & natural and therefore won’t stick out like the ones on the Tiki Boutique model.The funky hem on the Tiki one *is* a little off-putting. Why add anything else to the dress when you already have huge polka-dots? And, sadly, I can’t find the dress anywhere on their website, and you posted the first dress just three weeks ago. Aaack!

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oliviacw July 20, 2006 at 4:01 am

Well, I wouldnt buy either, because such halter styles just don’t work with my need for support garments. But hypothetically speaking, definitely the anthropologie one. I don’t care much for border patterns (or lack thereof) – I have short legs, and border designs or color blocks chop me off like nothing else. I also think the smocked waist would be more forgiving.

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mickey July 20, 2006 at 6:35 am

I wouldn’t buy/wear either because I prefer to not resemble a beach ball. But I guess I like the hemline on the Tiki dress because it breaks up the dots.

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Ms. Kat July 20, 2006 at 6:45 am

I’d have to say the anthropologie one for the mundane reason that it might still be in stock, where the Tiki one is not.

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star7girl7 July 20, 2006 at 6:57 am

“Smocked” waist = didn’t bother to actually make it fit.”Smocked” waist = going to look cheap and nasty when the elastic starts to go”Smocked” waist = anthropologie management thinking “it’s cheaper to insert a strip of elastic than to put in a side zipper, so we get to keep more of the $118″”Smocked” waist = if we do it in an eye-catching fabric, no one will notice it’s a simple unfitted cotton dress with an elastic waist that you could buy at KMart for $29.95I’m just sayin’.Guess the “smocking” is a critical attribute for me, huh?OH – and I wouldn’t call it smocking – at best it’s ruching.

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IA July 20, 2006 at 7:04 am

Critical attributes for me:1. I don’t like smocking. I don’t absolutely rule it out, but it’s a demerit to be worked off by the other qualities of the dress . . .2. . . . the most important of which is color, and I’m not drawn to these. I generally don’t like color schemes that are all over the rainbow. Replacing, say, the blue and black dots with shades of brown–or better yet, more greens–would make this irresistible to me.3. This is a minor reservation, and one that I overcome all the time, but that surplice front would present the depths of my bosom to a far broader and less select portion of the ridership of the MTA than is typically my preference. I’d have to wear a sweater over it in meetings, and I’d be forever looking down into my own cleavage to gauge the offensiveness.But now–a more important issue: Is there any special trick to pressing pleats back into something that’s been washed? Or does one just give up after the first laundering and pretend they’re just uneven gathers? I’ve got this dress . . .

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trenabdesigns July 20, 2006 at 7:44 am

Definitely the Tiki one. If you’re going to go with obnoxious bright polka dots, then commit, baby! Contrast midriff, color blocked hem, bring it on! I don’t like the color/pattern distortion the ruching/smocking causes on the Anthropologie version.Plus, I don’t like Anthropologie on principle. Half the time they don’t do finishing details like, say, hems, and then charge over $100 for everything in the store. And it’s not like they’re charging those prices because they use only fair labor well-paid factories–it’s pure profit for them.

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. July 20, 2006 at 7:53 am

You have just won the most creative use of JSTOR award for the day.Librarians and academics everywhere salute you!

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estea July 20, 2006 at 8:23 am

neither, because it’s a given that a halter-style will always be too large for my non-existent bustline and need to be altered (ugh).but I love me some spaghetti straps!

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3 to get ready July 20, 2006 at 8:27 am

I don’t know. As a fairly conservative dresser, I’m kind of intimidated by the Tiki Boutique one. Or maybe it’s the INYOURFACE body of the model. I’m having trouble separating the two. I think the Anthropologie one looks cute, but that’s exactly the kind of dress that I take into the fitting room and then once it’s on,I have to gag because the waist gathers add, oh, maybe 6 inches to my already ample hips. Can I buy the Anthropologie one for a slim friend?

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Anonymous July 20, 2006 at 8:52 am

Probably the Tiki one. I like the midriff band. It keeps the dots from being overwhelming. And I’m with the others who dislike smocking. Bleh. But I probably wouldn’t wear it outside of the house. Halter dresses with no option for support garments are not, but NOT, a good idea for me.–Lydia

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Anonymous July 20, 2006 at 9:05 am

I’ve been lurking on your delightful website for a while now. You inspired me to make two wonderful halter dresses. The first was in this “disco dot blue” from Repro Depot Fabrics. The second was in a wrinkle-free perfect-travel-dress black knit. Simple McCall’s pattern that I altered until it fit my tiny bust to perfection and almost gives me cleavage. Thanks for the inspiration! If you’re going to go dots, do it like you mean it!http://reprodepotfabrics.com/discodotsblue1.html

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Anonymous July 20, 2006 at 9:05 am

As for the support issue, I was looking on the Neiman Marcus website, from which yesterday’s post originated, and they had a strapless, backless bra for sale. Not for everyone, but it might help some. I don’t like the Tiki dress for the simple reason that the color banding on the bottom of the skirt looks printed on and not pieced, which reminds me of the printed Christmas tree skirt panels for sale at the fabric store from about July until March of the following year. I think I would need to pass on the Anthropologie dress, too. The neckline looks like it is cut even lower/wider than the Tiki dress. As a less well endowed person, I am concerned that short of double stick tape, the areas meant to provide modesty would be flapping around in the breeze like a couple of polka-dot sails. I have a vintage halter dress pattern I LOVE. The front is cut in two overlapping panels that provide coverage and a lovely neckline, rather like one of Grace Kelly’s costumes from Rear Window. Although that wasn’t one of the options.Amy

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Anita July 20, 2006 at 9:07 am

I would wear neither. But the one thing I like about the Anthropoligie dress is that the dots are closer together and reads as a whole. The other one makes me want to look at each dot and it’s distracting.I wonder if the “symbol acceptance concept” is about buying based on the status of owning it, whether it’s because of the label, the style, or the object itself. For instance, some people only wear Nike or Levi or whatever the brand is… iPod over the generic MP3 player.

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meara July 20, 2006 at 9:50 am

I like the tiki dress much better (and anthropologie tends to be so *expensive*), but I”d be more likely to buy the anthropologie one, simply because I could try it ON!!!

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A Woman of Letters July 20, 2006 at 9:59 am

Neither comes in my size, plus I am almost a “modesty-nik” and so therefore both are too low-cut for my busty self. But, if those impediments were removed, I still don’t know which I’d choose! The Tiki Boutique looks like it wrinkles easily, but the Anthropologie one does not particularly flatter the model that is shown wearing it. Based on the price alone, I’d lean toward the Tiki. If they both were available at the local Goodwill for $7, I might go with the Anthropologie dress.

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Valerie July 20, 2006 at 10:03 am

in practice I would probably wear neither, b/c halters don’t usually work for me. BUT I like the surplice of the anthropologie more than the straight V neck of the tiki dress. Also, I prefer the pattern of the anthro dress also, the gigantic border on the tiki dress scares me a bit. I saw it on someone in Herald Square in NYC over the weekend, and it’s pretty scary in person also.

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Sara July 20, 2006 at 10:33 am

If I *had* to purchase one, it’d be the Anthro dress, because the turquoise hem of the Tiki one is really not my color. And I could live with the smocking…I think.But goodness, $118 for a cotton halter? Mais non.

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msbelle July 20, 2006 at 10:45 am

I prefer the anthro one.BTW, saw a woman on the street yesterday in the tiki one. It looked betteron her than on the model. Not at all hookerish.

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Anonymous July 20, 2006 at 11:01 am

I’m guessing the Tiki folks didn’t bother to copy edit for the same reason they didn’t bother to iron the dress in the photo. But this dress seems to be for those who have a devil-may-care attitude about many things, especially cleavage. I have quite modest cleavage myself, but would still feel far to exposed in this dress. The Anthropologie one is better, but as others have said, $118 dollars? Maybe I’d buy this dress in a more placid print, on clearance, but at Anthropologie it would probably still be too expensive.

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Kate July 20, 2006 at 11:02 am

Actually, the Tiki Boutique dress is a knockoff of a dress that I saw at (I think) Intermix the other day. Like, a stich-by-stich, color-by-color copy. Therefore I would have to veto the Tiki Boutique dress simply because I am against knockoffs on principle (parents are intellectual property lawyers).I don’t think I’d buy this one either–the smocking generally intimates fit issues, as many people have explained already.Also, to the woman who saw the backless strapless bra–it seems too good to be true, and it is. They only really work on women with a B cup or smaller, aka the cup sizes below which one could pretty much forego the bra anyway. Even if you wedge it into place between the bust and the dress (I tied a halter neck so tight I thought I might suffocate in my own cleavage) it will still fall off, especially if you sweat. At all. Even a drop. Sorry for the bitterness, I still feel ripped off by that purchase.

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LNLisa July 20, 2006 at 12:04 pm

Did you need a copy of that article? I can email you one if you like. I’m a student so I have access to that database.

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Courtney July 20, 2006 at 12:29 pm

In reality I probably wouldn’t buy either, but if forced at gunpoint I’d pick the Anthropologie dress. The color palette is more pleasing (that is, pink) and I like the cut of the neckline better. I’m down with halter tops, just not so much into polka dots.

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Madeleine Powers July 20, 2006 at 12:31 pm

>But the one thing I like about the Anthropoligie dress is that the dots are closer together and reads as a whole. The other one makes me want to look at each dot and it’s distracting.Yes, this. But the tiki dress has pockets, so I think it might be Erin’s fave!

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Amanda #1 July 20, 2006 at 1:16 pm
christopher higgs July 20, 2006 at 1:18 pm

I love your site!!!!

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Nancy Bea Miller July 20, 2006 at 1:50 pm

Like “A Woman of Letters ” wrote, if both dresses were available at my local Salvation Army thrift store, I might spring for the Anthropologie one. I prefer the smaller polka dots. And then I’d probably give it to a friend with more vivid coloring than mine. Those bright dancing mulit-colors would make me look (even more) washed-out (than usual!)

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Jenn July 20, 2006 at 2:24 pm

That just seems like a better dress–for one thing, it’s for the modestly-busted among us (*ahem*). I don’t think I could ever buy anything from Tiki simply because I’d be willing to bet it wouldn’t fit my pear shaped self properly. I also prefer the vibrancy of that dress’ colors to the Tiki dress, which I thought was a little funky anyway. It’s an adorable dress that would fit my personality/body type well, I’d bet. I’d certainly buy it if I saw it in the store, tried it in, and decided that it was begging to come home with me.

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Lady Arwen of the Silver Rose July 20, 2006 at 2:46 pm

To BBRUG: Here’s a tip on pressing pleats and other ironing tips as well. http://www.readersdigest.ca/feature.html?fn=0410078&fi=993

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Karen July 20, 2006 at 2:59 pm

This one, not even close. It is so cute! And it is lined and does have a zipper, so that sort of justifies the $118. I really like the way the skirt lays. I couldn’t even consider buying it though, because I’d need a new pair of shoes for each dot color. It looks very sweet on their model, if you follow the link.

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Michelle July 20, 2006 at 3:21 pm

This one a) is way cuter, b) isn’t nasty-skank like the herearemyboobstikidress, and c) appears to be a little more wrinkle resistant.

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star7girl7 July 20, 2006 at 3:58 pm

Ahh – the Goodwill game! That’s a whole ‘nother story!Well then I’d get them both. I’d wear the Tiki one at home ONLY (late on summer nights), and probably donate it back fairly quickly, unless I made the skirt into curtains or something.As for the Anthro one, I’d cut it apart just below the fake smocking. The bottom becomes a *very* cool skirt, the top is made into a matching reversable-to-a-solid bag. The smocking might be a headband, *if* it’s well-behaved.My daughter likes the anthro one, because it’s “more playful” (color-wise), as compared to the tiki one, which is “darker”.

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Miss Dottie July 20, 2006 at 4:20 pm

I love dots! But it’s in my contract, since my nickname is Dottie.BTW, speaking of pretty dresses, check out http://www.manifestoclothing.com.Such pretty pretty dresses! Sorta like the secret gem of good dresses.

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demondoll July 20, 2006 at 4:51 pm

I prefer this one. The other one seems unforgiving to a large bust, but that may be cuz her’s were huge. This one is just so pretty!

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Kit July 20, 2006 at 4:53 pm

Really it all boils down to the horrendous little notch in the midriff band of the Tiki Boutique one. Why bother? If you want the neckline lower, end the midriff band lower. It looks like something has been nibbling at the dress and its all i can see when i look at it.

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cazzy July 20, 2006 at 5:29 pm

Well, in the context of dress buying behaviour I would say that I’d get this one because I’ve got a fair bit of brand loyalty to anthro, having bought one of my favourite dresses there. I like the faux-smocking (or whatever it is) because my waist really needs dresses to be closely fitted or I look lumpy. But I only really like it conceptually. I can’t really imagine an occasion for which it would be suitable aside from a trip to clown school, or maybe a small child’s birthday party.

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Rose July 20, 2006 at 11:00 pm

I went back and looked, and I’m really kind of fond of the Tiki Boutique one. But on sale I might get the Anthropologie one, since it’ll be lined and hold up better in the end.Reperusing the astonishing Tiki Boutique site I found that they have one section of “dresses” and a different section for “sexy dresses”!

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erma July 21, 2006 at 1:49 am

I like Anonymous’s disco dot blue fabric. I’d love to see a picture of the halter dress she made of it. Maybe I’d choose that over both the Anthropologie and the Tiki Boutique dresses. (I never was very good at answering the question that was asked.)

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Lia July 21, 2006 at 4:59 am

i think this dress is adorable! It’s sexy but has little quirkiness to it. Or maybe I’m just into polka dot these days…i don’t know…Anyway, this dress feels like a “going-for-ice-cream-on-Sunday-afternoons” kinda dress, doesn’t it?

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Minya, Warrior Seamstress July 21, 2006 at 11:42 am

I’d tell my dear aunt about both of them, see which one she bought, & then buy the other one. We’d go out on Sunday and see who got the most compliments. The loser gets to deconstruct her dress.

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A Woman of Letters July 21, 2006 at 12:06 pm

By the way, I have worn t-shirts under sleeveless dresses before (both so I could wear a bra and for modesty), but I don’t think either of these dresses would work very well with a shirt under it. (I think wearing a shirt works better if the dress is cut more like a jumper.)

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SDMC July 21, 2006 at 2:37 pm

Hmmm — I think I’d just buy some similar fabric and make my own (cause I’d need a little more coverage).

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hilatron July 22, 2006 at 7:27 am

The print of the Anthro dress wins, hands-down, and I also like the slight overlap of the bodice – the neckline of the Tiki dress is a bit daring even for me and my B cups. (I agree with Kit about the midriff notch. Weird!)However, I’d have to try them both on before deciding. Smocking is hit-or-miss with me; I generally like clothes that have a certain amount of shaping built-in because asking me to provide it all can often lead to disaster. (This is all assuming that money is no object, by the way. $118 dollars for a dress? I would have to have some kind of super-special event to wear that to…international polka dot festival? Clown wedding? Bubble-blowing contest?)

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Kate July 23, 2006 at 11:43 pm

I like the anthro dress’s pattern better, but has anyone mentioned the unforgiving length? Or lack thereof? I’m afraid that on a taller gal like me this would look like those little sundresses the little girls these days wear with pants. You know, the smocked ones we wore as kids? Yup. No one wants to see that much of my upper thigh. Oh, and the Tiki dress would look & fit better without the pneumatc boobs.

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anneland22 July 25, 2006 at 3:47 pm

I actually touched the Tiki Boutique dress yesterday and it is very low quality. So, although Anthro clothes are highly overpriced, they are well made out of good quality fabrics. I would have to put a dent in my wallet and go Anthro if forced to choose.

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amyliz July 27, 2006 at 4:35 pm

I choose the Anthro dress, for exactly what Kit said about the Tiki’s neckline. Why oh why does the v-neck continue into the pink waist band? It looks like a mistake, like I should see it at Gabriel Brothers and marked “irregular”.

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Linmayu July 31, 2006 at 3:45 pm

Being someone with a body that just doesn’t fit into most dresses on the market (and not because I’m too fat), I really like the Anthropologie dress. I don’t think the smocking at the waist is a sign of poor quality at all; it enables the dress to fit well even if your waist is smaller or larger than standard. *And* this one comes in petite sizes, which gets more points from this pint-size blogger. The only thing I don’t like is that the top appears to be cut for a very small bust (B-cup would be too big), which I don’t have. ; ;

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La BellaDonna September 1, 2006 at 12:03 pm

I am primarily moved to utter a caution about the Anthropologie dress. If you look at the dots just below the waistline, you will see that they curve downward, forming an arch. Unless the wearer is blessed with the very flattest of bellies, this dress is guaranteed to hang on the wearer in such a fashion as to: a) make the arch seem even more pronounced, which will b) make the wearer’s belly seem much more protruberant than Nature herself intended.This is one reason why I approch geometric prints with such caution: there is a strong tendency amongst geometric prints, which include polka dots (and I love polka dots), to highlight any asymmetry of shape in the wearer. It’s why a quarter-inch gingham is so often recommended as suitable for fitting a basic shell: asymmetry is neatly highlighed, and measured off in handy quarter-inches. However, many, if not most, other geometric patterns will do the same thing: stripes will wobble where the wearer wobbles, squares will highlight that high hip, etc.And by a stroke of evil genius, patterns one might not think of as geometric can be made geometric by layout and design: there’s really not much difference between neat rows of flowerheads and neat rows of polka dots. It’s something to keep in mind if you have parts you’d prefer not to have highlighted – especially if they form an abdominal (abominable!) arch like the pattern in the Anthropologie dress.

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