Title page for ETD etd-06112009-130249

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Mastamet-Mason, Anne
Email amastamet@gmail.com
URN etd-06112009-130249
Document Title An explication of the problems with apparel fit experienced by female Kenyan consumers in terms of their unique body shape characteristics
Degree PhD
Department Consumer Science
Advisor Name Title
Prof S P Ashdown Co-Supervisor
Prof H M de Klerk Supervisor
  • female Kenyan consumers
  • unique body shape
Date 2009-04-22
Availability unrestricted
Problems related to apparel fit stem from a variety of factors, such as an outdated anthropometric database from which sizing systems could be developed, lack of and/or inadequate classified body forms, non-standardised communication of sizing and fit and non-standardised fit quality management, amongst the clothing industries (Chun-Yoon & Jasper, 1996; Holzman, 1996; Winks, 1997; Desmarteau, 2000; Anderson, Brannon, Ulrich, Presley; Woronka; Grasso & Stevenson, 2001; Ashdown, 2003; Simmons & Istook, 2004).

Anthropometric data in Kenya was taken in 1975 and the measurements were obtained from girls and women of Kenya’s learning institutions and organisations (KEBS, 2001). The source of the original data from which the size tables were derived is obscure, to authenticate the quality of the techniques and instruments used for the data collection. Apparently, there is no known research that has been carried out on clothing anthropometry, sizing (body measurements) and fit (body shape) for women. In the absence of representative sizing systems, wrong styles and sizes based on estimates and not on the actual sizes and body shapes of women consumers in Kenya, contribute to fit problems. Consumers’ lack of knowledge about size (body measurements) and fit (body shape) issues also contributes to the disillusionment, confusion and inappropriate apparel selection. Consumers’ fit preferences contribute to fit problems, if the available styles do not consider consumers’ body shapes, and even further, if the consumers are uninformed about their shapes and how to dress accordingly.

The aim of this research was therefore to identify and describe distinctive female body shapes of career women in Kenya using body dimensions and photographs, to describe the differences between the emerging distinctive body shapes (measurements and photographs) and the Western distinctive shapes, and to finally describe and analyse implications for the fit of apparel associated with the emerging distinctive body shapes of Kenya’s career women. It also intended to assess and describe career women’s self-perceived fit issues with the ready-made apparel in Kenya, to determine and describe Kenyan career women’s knowledge about the communication of size (key body dimensions) and fit (body shapes), and also to determine and describe career women’s fit preferences for differently fitted apparel items in Kenya.

This research is descriptive as an attempt is made to describe and understand body shape(s) and tendencies in consumers’ behaviour regarding fit issues. It is exploratory as it aims to obtain insight into a relatively new area of study, namely identification of the most prevalent (distinctive) body shape of Kenya’s career women, consumers’ perceived size and fit issues, their knowledge about size and fit, and their fit preferences. Various theories were consulted and adapted in this study, while practical training in anthropometry and photography was undertaken to ensure that measurements and photographs were taken accurately and reliably. Traditional anthropometric-related theories and standards of obtaining body measurements were consulted and applied. Photography rules were set and observed while photographing the women.

Phase one of the study focused on the variables in the body characteristics thought to be appropriate for identifying and describing distinctive female body shapes. Phase two applied the quantitative research that focused on the variables obtained from fit problems with apparel, the communication of size and fit, and fit preferences. A structured questionnaire was used to get the broader picture of the respondents’ perceived fit problems, their knowledge about the communication of size and fit, as well as their fit preferences for differently fitted apparel items. The questionnaire measured specific dimensions of fit problems with apparel, the communication of size and fit, as well as fit preferences. The body dimensions that were recorded, body evaluations, and the responses to the questionnaire were coded, captured and analysed.

It is apparent from this study that the most dominant body shape is a curvy rectangular shape that differs not only from the ideal (hourglass) body shape, but also from the Western (USA) prevalent straight rectangular shape. The fit problems such as tight hips, crotch, bust and stomach experienced by Kenya’s career women are therefore inevitable, as confirmed by the dissatisfaction with the unavailability of appropriate styles for their sizes and shapes.

It is clear that most Kenyan female consumers are familiar with the non-informative lettered and numbered size labels, but unfamiliar with size label terms that represent established body types. They understand neither the meanings of various size and fit descriptions, nor their own key body dimensions; this leads to confusion as to where the cause of their problems lies.

Apparently most Kenyan career women consumers prefer fitted and semi-fitted skirts and jackets. In the absence of a distinctive body shape in Kenya, it is possible that the available styles do not cater for their curvy rectangular body shape; hence, they experience fit problems. Consumers’ lack of knowledge about body shape may also lead to inappropriate fit preferences that do not take into account their distinctive body shape and its critical fit points.

This study makes certain recommendations to the ready-made apparel industry in Kenya and foreign companies that export their apparel items to Kenya, government agencies such as the Kenya Bureau of Standards, and to consumer-oriented organisations. The results contribute to the body of knowledge regarding the theory of apparel size and fit, Ashdown’s sizing systems theory, research methodology theory, and consumer education theory.

© 2008, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Mastamet-Mason, A 2008, An explication of the problems with apparel fit experienced by female Kenyan consumers in terms of their unique body shape characteristics, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-/ >


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