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Uncovering Victoria's Secret: Exploring women's luxury perceptions of intimate apparel


and purchasing behaviour
Margee Hume Michael Mills

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Margee Hume Michael Mills, (2013),"Uncovering Victoria's Secret", Journal of Fashion Marketing and
Management: An International Journal, Vol. 17 Iss 4 pp. 460 - 485
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Ian Phau, Min Teah, Jing Theng So, Andrew Grant Parsons, Sheau#Fen Yap, (2013),"Corporate branding,
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Marketing and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 17 Iss 4 pp. 403-423 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/
JFMM-03-2013-0032
Professor Ian Phau and Min Teah, RayeCarol Cavender, Doris H. Kincade, (2014),"Management
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Ian Phau, Min Teah, Farrell Doss, Tammy Robinson, (2013),"Luxury perceptions: luxury brand vs counterfeit
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JFMM
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Uncovering Victorias Secret


Exploring womens luxury perceptions of
intimate apparel and purchasing behaviour

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460
Received 18 March 2013
Revised 20 May 2013
Accepted 17 June 2013

Margee Hume and Michael Mills


Faculty of Business and Law, University of Southern Queensland,
Brisbane, Australia
Abstract
Purpose Given an increasingly volatile and competitive fashion environment, the purpose of this
paper is to qualitatively explore current consumer behaviour and psychological perspectives of
luxury in womens undergarment fashion purchasing, with specific examination of whether this
under-investigated area of discrete or inconspicuous fashion appraisal is consistent with other
luxury purchases.
Design/methodology/approach The study employs an interesting methodological approach
using multiple qualitative techniques including research interviews, group forums, and narrative
capture, to investigate womens undergarment purchasing in a changing fashion environment in
relation to the issues of branding, self-image, perceived self-image, motivational perspectives, and
consumer behaviour, as identified by 119 female consumers aged between 18 and 60.
Findings This study supports in part previous research that indicated consumer behaviour is
determined by the congruency between the consumers self-image and the consumers image
of brands, although early research suggested this only applied to conspicuous products and
social consumption. The current study confirms the self-image link in the area of inconspicuous
fashion, and strongly relates inconspicuous products consumed privately to self-esteem and perceived
sexy self.
Practical implications The findings indicate that for intimate apparel marketing to be effective
and credible, the marketed fashion items, and actions taken by designers, and retailers need to be
consistent with the consumers personal style, value perceptions, and self-image.
Originality/value This research examines several neglected areas in fashion and consumption
research, and contributes to our understanding of key motivational elements important in the
consumption of inconspicuous fashion, and the relationship of self-image to inconspicuous
consumption.
Keywords Inconspicuous fashion consumption, Luxury, Motivation, Undergarments
Paper type Research paper

Journal of Fashion Marketing and


Management
Vol. 17 No. 4, 2013
pp. 460-485
r Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1361-2026
DOI 10.1108/JFMM-03-2013-0020

Introduction
This paper qualitatively explores the perception of luxury and luxury brands in
womens fashion and examines whether discrete or inconspicuous fashion such as the
undergarment (also known as intimate apparel or lingerie) is consistent with other
luxury purchases. Recent research has suggested there is not enough research done on
luxury brands (Stankeviciutea and Hoffmann, 2010) with a dearth of studies conducted
in the area of inconspicuous fashion and luxury consumption. Yet the area of womens
undergarment purchasing and luxury brand perceptions is an important one for
researcher and fashion industry interest, for a number of reasons. First of all, the
womens undergarment market is sizeable and growing. For example, the global
lingerie market (lingerie refers to stylish undergarments) is estimated to be around
US$30 billion, with a projected growth of perhaps 9 per cent over the next five years
(www.Fibre2fashion.com, 2013). Second, the market for lingerie and other womens
undergarments is highly brand competitive, and volatile. Renowned brands such

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as Calvin Klein, Lejaby, Rosy, Lisa Carmel, and Victorias Secret dominate the
international lingerie market, with major womens underwear brands like Hanes and
Maidenform losing market share to retailer private labels such as Victorias Secret
over the last four years (Business Insider.com/citi-womens lingerie market-2012).
Third, the womens undergarment market is characterised by a number of categories
and product types (e.g. shapewear, comfortwear, daywear, bras, and panties), that
require analysis and understanding. Fourth, and importantly, little is known about
consumer motivations and rationales to purchase, brand evaluation, and fashion
perceptions as regards the undergarment market. With an aging population and
changing attitudes to issues like body image, the need for research in the area is critical
to better meet consumer needs and guide marketing efforts.
Thus, the research questions addressed in this study include the evaluation of what
is perceived as luxury in the womens undergarment category, what product and brand
attributes relate to luxury, and what consumer behaviour perspectives in particular
hedonic consumption, may exist with female consumers of the product group of
intimate apparel.
The exploration of these research questions aims to advance our knowledge in the
above areas in intimate fashion, and also cross-sections several interesting and often
neglected areas in fashion and consumption research. First, the undergarment is
typically an inconspicuous or discreet item of clothing and the notion of inconspicuous
fashion has been underexplored. General fashion research has predominantly focused
on issues of perceived and actual self-image (Hite and Bellizzi, 1985) as this relates to
brands, with these presumed to be related to the visual expression of fashion and
the projected image created by fashion. Thorstein Veblens (1894) economic theory of
womens dress contended there is a dual motivation behind conspicuous consumption.
The first is fiscal emulation or wealth status projection to a higher class and social
delineation away from lower social classes. Adopting the premise of visual projection it
would be expected that image, esteem, and wealth projection play little role in discrete/
inconspicuous fashion consumption. As these elements are key motivators of
conspicuous luxury consumption it could be proposed that inconspicuous luxury
consumption may be driven by other factors. Second, this product category includes an
extensive product line depth and breadth characterised by heavy competition between
many well-known international brands and retailer brands. It ranges from functional
underwear to intimate luxury apparel to erotic fantasy with a wide range of
consumption variables and market positions. The divide between mass generic
products and luxury is closing with broader targeted cheaper options known as
masstige brands entering the market (Fionda, and Moore, 2009; Silverstein and Fiske,
2003; Truong et al., 2008). This research aims to advance both brand and consumption
research in this broad category and adds clarity to the role of the luxury brand in
the product category (Atwal and Williams, 2009). Finally, this project includes the
under investigated area of luxury consumption and the corresponding motivational
perspectives of hedonism, holistic, and utilitarian consumption in particular as
related to inconspicuous consumption. With the exception of the limited research
done on the purchasing of brassieres (Hart and Dewsnap, 2001), there is has little
research in this area.
The purpose of this paper is to uncover luxury consumption, brand perception, and
consumer behaviour factors as they relate to the purchasing of female fashion
undergarments. There are broad literatures in each of these areas, the key studies of
which will be cited under the following several section headings.

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Fashion, luxury, and branding


The paper proceeds by discussing the vast literature in each of the three areas of
luxury, fashion, and brands, of which key elements which will be highlighted.
When defining the meaning of the terms fashion and luxury much divergence is
encountered in the literature (e.g. Gutman and Mills, 1982; Kapferer, 1997; Kapferer and
Bastien, 2009; Fionda and Moore, 2009; Husic and Cicic, 2009; Miller and Mills,
2012a, b). Given diverse consumer segments, a wide range of tastes, opinions, and
attitudes, as well as diverse fashion styles and regions, identifying the antecedents
and behaviours related to fashion purchase behaviour and consumer profiles can be
difficult to generalise and examine (Miller and Mills, 2012a). Is it the look? The style?
Is it the popular, the norm, or the collective choice? Is it the trend? Or the individual
items? The designed and/or the distinctive? Luxury consumption is related to
indulgence regardless of cost (Nueno and Quelch, 1998; Phau and Prendergast, 2000).
Definitions are laden with subjectivity and there is lack of consensus on the definition
(Miller and Mills, 2012a). Luxury is about pleasure, perfection, exclusivity for the elite
and the wealthy, and rarity with many researchers arguing over the role of price
(Roux and Floch, 1996; Vigneron and Johnson, 1999, 2004).
Nia and Zaichkowsky (2000) suggest luxury consumption brings esteem and image
and is related to branded products. Luxury adopts the purchase variables of
exclusivity, premium prices, image, and status which advance the perception
of function. Like the motivators of fashion consumption, luxury consumption drivers
include sociability and self-expression (Vigneron and Johnson, 1999); image and
esteem. The consumption of luxury brands is a manifestation of conspicuous
consumption (Phau and Prendergast, 2000), serving to signal wealth, infer power and
status, and differentiate one from others (Leibenstein, 1950; Veblen, 1894).
Inconspicuous fashion is that that cannot be seen such as perfume and lingerie
(Berthon et al., 2009) and to date no researchers have applied traditional consumption
or luxury consumption modelling to this group of products (intimate apparel) and
brand perceptions in the category have also been under-explored. The importance of
the latter to the fashion world is seen in The Victorias Secret annual launch and
fashion (www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/victorias-secret-reveals-bigmoney-bras20120126-1qihn.html) with this product and launch seen as the benchmark of
intimate apparel. Many other higher end luxury brands such as Andres Sarda,
Kenzo, and many more are also evident in this sector and will be supported by research
in this area.
While the literature relevant to branding of consumer goods is growing
substantially, researchers have not paid enough attention to the application of
consumer brands in the luxury fashion goods sector. As noted by Fionda and Moore
(2009), Miller and Mills (2012a, b) and others, very few empirical studies seek to
identify and understand the processes that support the creation, and maintenance of
the luxury fashion brand. In the fashion arena, luxury brands are the most profitable
and fastest growing brand segment, yet are also the most poorly understood and
under investigated (Miller and Mills, 2012a). The definition, operationalisation, and
measurement of brand luxury are highly subjective and remain inconclusive in the
literature (Godey et al., 2009; Kapferer and Bastien, 2010; Miller and Mills, 2012a).
An increasing number of luxury categories of which luxury fashion brands account for
the largest proportion of luxury goods sales, as well as the strongest product growth
(Miller and Mills, 2012a) suggests the clear importance of the luxury fashion categorys
prominence for research. So too, does the sheer size of the fashion undergarment

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market, and its volatile brand competition as described above. The aim of this study is
address key research gaps in this area.
Fashion purchasing, motivations, and the role of the self
Consumer behaviouralists have suggested several perspectives as the foundation of
goods (product and services) consumption and the reasoning behind choice. These
include experiential or hedonic, utilitarian or traditional, and holistic perspectives.
This paper aims to identify the specific traits, attitudes, and behaviours associated
with the purchase of inconspicuous fashion and to relate such perspectives to product
types and branding perspectives in the category of womens undergarments.
A large and growing body of literature addresses fashion purchasing, and the
motivations for doing so. Clothing is an important symbol of society and its values
(Kaiser, 1995; Veblen, 1953), in that it reflects ones perceptions of the self and other
people (Buckley and Roach, 1981; Dillon, 1980), with important implications for the
motivations affecting purchase behaviour. Recent research has examined comparisons
of female and males expenditure and attitude to annual and irregular purchases
(Pentecost and Andrews, 2010) and the influence of fashion groups (Workman and
Studak, 2004) suggesting distinct differences in gender. A further study examined the
relationships among materialism, gender, and fashion consumer groups from two
countries the USA and Korea and found materialism played a strong role in fashion
consumption in both countries, with females scoring higher on materialism than males
in both countries (Workman and Lee, 2011b). Other research suggests females score
higher on vanity and self-consciousness with respect to fashion choice (Workman and
Lee, 2011a, b) with materialism (OCass, 2004; Dittmar and Drury, 2000) vanity and
self-consciousness all influencing the consumer behavior consumption perspective of
womens fashion purchasing.
Clothing and fashion are suggested to show our social role (Miller et al., 1982), affect
self-esteem (Ericksen and Sirgy, 1992), and express personality and the self (Gibbins,
1969; Gibbins and Gwyn, 1975). Research indicates that both actual and ideal selfimage and their congruity are effective predictors of womens clothing preferences
and the brands they purchase (Gutman and Mills, 1982; Ericksen and Sirgy, 1985, 1992;
Aagerup, 2011; Peters et al., 2011). For example, as early as 1982, in a large study of
6,300 women which identified seven segments of representing differing fashion
attitudes and purchasing behaviour, Gutman and Mills (1982), found that women
whose self-concept was defined as fashion leaders purchased fashion brands which
reflected this perception, with the self-image-brand image link demonstrated as well
across the other six segments. There is a wealth of research which has advanced the
understanding of conspicuous fashion with none applied to inconspicuous or discreet
fashion, which forms the focus in this research.
Body image refers to the mental image an individual creates of ones own body
(Garner and Garfinkel, 1981; Jung and Lennon, 2003; Aagerup, 2011). It has also
been demonstrated that women are more likely to be judged on physical appearance
than are men (Locher et al., 1993) with body image and satisfaction positively related
to self-esteem (Lennon et al., 1999; Mulyanegara and Tsarenko, 2009). Research has
shown that women compare themselves to idealised advertising images (Hogg
et al., 1999; Dana et al., 2008). For example, in the current fashion world this means to
achieve the currently fashionable body shape, a young woman has to be so thin that
her weight is far lower than the recommended level for good health (Fay and Price,
1994). The self-evaluative and behavioural outcomes of this comparison process

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are different for individuals depending on their body mass index and perceived size
(Martin and Xavier, 2010; Smeesters et al., 2010). However, an interesting study by
Aagerup (2011) investigated how the weight of ideal users affects the perception of
mass market fashion brands, examining the countermovement effect of the use of
real women in advertising. Despite the recent use of this type of campaign Aagerups
(2011) research showed that the use of slender models led to the most positive brand
perception, followed by larger obese models.
There is conflicting evidence as to whether or not body image remains important to
women over their lifetimes and their fashion choices. Some researchers report that the
importance declines with age to a minor extent (Pliner et al., 1990), but others record no
change in importance (Gupta and Schork, 1993; Pliner et al., 1990). Other research has
suggested fashion clothing involvement influences fashion clothing knowledge, with
fashion clothing knowledge influencing consumer confidence in making purchase
decisions about fashion brands (Gutman and Mills, 1982; OCass, 2004; Aagerup, 2011;
Peters et al., 2011; Holmlund et al., 2011; Meneses and Rodriguez, 2010). For example, in
a study by Peters et al. (2011) which examined the self-concept and fashion behaviour
of women over 50, individualists who primarily define the self with respect
to unique traits and characteristics, and who see themselves as fashion leaders,
showed significant differences with respect to their shopping behaviours and fashion
knowledge than did relationals, who primarily define the self with respect to social
roles and bonds of attachment. It is proposed in this research that role of self,
self-image, and perceived body image play a role in the intimate apparel purchase with
social outcomes and social symbolism less associated.
Can you see? Inconspicuous fashion and apparel
To date, however, limited research has specifically embraced the general female
consumer and gender with particular reference to inconspicuous fashion and
consumption motivations. Indeed, very little research has been undertaken into
womens purchase of undergarments and the consumer behaviour motivation related
to this type of purchase. The brassiere is an exception, with some limited work in the
area (Hart and Dewsnap, 2001). It has been found that life-style can be used to segment
the bra market (Richards and Sturman, 1977); with product purchase primarily for
purely utilitarian (functional) purposes (Farrell-Beck et al., 1998) or for health and
structural benefits. Equally, the brassiere can serve a cosmetic purpose to enhance selfesteem related to breast size (Koff and Benavage, 1998) or be used in a hedonic, fantasy
role (Ostergaard et al., 1999). Given this multiplicity of purchase motivations it is not
surprising that the brassiere has been found to be a high-involvement product (Laurent
and Kapferer, 1985). While the brassiere has received some, albeit limited attention, we
have found no research dealing with womens motivation to purchase under apparel,
nor have we found any literature relating to our primary research questions noted
at the beginning of the paper, i.e. what is perceived as luxury in the womens
undergarment category, what product and brand attributes relate to luxury and what
consumer behaviour perspectives in particular hedonic consumption, may exist with
female consumers of the product group of intimate apparel. Specifically with respect to
the motivational issues, this research examines research questions including: What are
the consumer traits, behaviours, preferences, and attitudes toward purchasing and
wearing intimate fashion apparel? Is lingerie considered fashion or function or
seduction? Does consumer motivation related to the purchase of these items reflect a
utilitarian, hedonic, or holistic perspective? Based on the interrelationship of fashion

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consumption to materialism (OCass, 2004) it is proposed that materialism will have


a relationship with intimate apparel purchase.
Consumer behaviour perspectives and product meaning
Consumer behaviouralists have suggested several perspectives as the foundations of
goods (product and services) consumption and the reasoning behind consumer choice.
These include experiential (also known as hedonic), utilitarian or traditional, and
holistic. The utilitarian view of consumer behaviour assumes customers to rationally
evaluate the purchase by evaluating performance expectations and actual performance
(Spreng and Olshavasky, 1993). Product functionality, design, post-purchase warranty,
store loyalty, customer-seller relationships, customer familiarity are all proposed as
some of the objective measures that are measured to gauge product value and
satisfaction (Park et al., 1991). This view in consumer behaviour services and product
consumption assumes the customer to have knowledge and good judgement (i.e. the
consumer adopts the rational man theory). With respect to fashion consumption,
purchase on the basis of the functionality of the product attribute would be primarily
utilitarian. Interestingly De Klerk and Lubbe (2008) has shown that even in what might
be primarily construed as a utilitarian approach to determining product quality, that
non-utilitarian aspects such as the importance of aesthetics, can play a large role.
Experiential consumption in consumer behaviour extends the utilitarian proposition
that consumers are rational and objective decision makers (Holbrook and Hirschman,
1982; Addis and Holbrook, 2001). Experiential services and experiential goods together
make up experiential consumption. Experiential products and services are proposed to be
measured subjectively especially considering attributes such as emotional attainment,
satisfaction with the need for affect/emotion, and other subjective psychological factors
such as image, of which branding is one such component (Holbrook and Hirschman,
1982; Hirschman, 1982). Hedonic consumption is proposed to concentrate on the pursuit
of pleasure and arousal (such as feelings, fantasy, and fun) (Holbrook and Hirschman,
1982). Product marketing research has identified experience products yet has not
extended this research to examine specific product experience, consumption behaviour,
and hedonism (Brucks et al., 2000). An experience product is one that requires usage to
assess its quality and value (Klein, 1998). Lingerie and inconspicuous fashion used for
erotica and sexuality are proposed to fall into this category. The experiential view
suggests that the greater the emphasis or importance of the symbolic and hedonic
aspects of the product/service the less relevant the major functionality of the good or
service is to the customer (Addis and Holbrook, 2001).
Self-concept is a sum of an individuals thoughts and feelings about him/herself as
an object (Sirgy, 1982). It has been shown in the past that consumers will tend to
purchase products in tune with their self-concepts as related to the image-congruence
theory (Sirgy, 1982, 1985; Sirgy et al., 1997) and that these selves include many
perspectives of self ( Jamal and Goode, 2001; Mehta, 1999). While it would seem
that the self, most likely to impact on purchases would be the ideal self, there is
evidence to suggest that the role of fantasy is more important (Onkvisit and
Shaw, 1987). With this proposition challenging current marketing practice and
focus on function as a marketing differentiator, the development and application of
this new and exciting domain of research would offer advantages to practitioners. This
view would suggest that the female consumer could be segmented on the basis
of hedonic and functional drivers and these drivers will directly influence strategy
and purchase.

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Product meaning and consumer value


The concept of product meaning and understanding the product meaning (i.e. what
does the product mean to the customer and how do they perceive the product?) is
essential to identifying the utilitarian and hedonic perspective. That is, are products
perceived to be functional or luxury or trend setting or fashion, are all product types
considered to be the same and given the same product meaning? One customer may
perceive undergarments as essential shopping items and another may view them as a
hedonic specialty pleasure garments. When identifying and understanding the product
meaning each consumer assigns, each consumers perspective has a tendency to favour
one factor and one perspective.
Most work in experiential consumption and hedonism has focused on services
and intangibles consumption. Rarely has this extended to mainstream consumer
behavior and been applied to a tangible product, though the area of luxury, and
luxurious fashion consumption is an exception (cf. Atwal and Williams, 2009; Godey
et al., 2009; Husic and Cicic, 2009; Kapferer, 1997; Kapferer and Bastien, 2009,
2010; Ko and Megehee, 2011; Miller and Mills, 2012a, b; Truong et al., 2008). While
researchers (Bruck, Zeithaml and Naylor, 2000) have considered experience products,
little specific research has been conducted to understand consumption in experience
products and what consumers view as an experience product in terms of the product
meaning. Attributes such as, functionality and performance, over time influence the
assessment of the product, and influence future consumption. Interestingly, when a
product is proposed to be hedonic in nature these factors are proposed to diminish
in predictive importance, challenging traditional product marketing perspectives such
as the utilitarian view. As hedonic products, intimate apparel, perfume, and cosmetics
are big business and are increasing in consumption and warrant this informed
investigation.
The extended view of this notion is that both utilitarian and experiential
consumption view the experience as a holistic event not separating the utility of the
product from the overall experience and from the world and events that surrounds it
(Solomon, 1983). Fashion and apparel are identified as symbolic products with
consumption motivations proposed as differing from durable goods (Midgely, 1983).
This type of product can include many shopping orientations for example,
convenience, impulsive, image, brand conscious, and price conscious shoppers. The
holistic view suggests that how the consumption experience affects our life and social
status through social impact, image, mood, emotion, and change is the main driver and
measure of purchase success (e.g. Holmlund et al., 2011; Hagtvedt and Patrick, 2009;
Kang and Park-Poaps, 2010). Understanding shopping orientation, customer type, and
motivation is essential when uncovering womens purchasing within the category of
undergarments. Understanding the female consumer and the utilitarian, hedonic,
and holistic perspectives will advance our understanding of luxury intimate
apparel consumption and drive the development of effective product, brand, and
marketing strategy.
Understanding the drivers of consumption of inconspicuous fashion such as
undergarments can assist in the development of a successful industry sector and
contribute to our knowledge of the female consumer, the drivers of sustainable
marketing for this sector, and can aid in reducing the long lead times, unpredictable
demands, overproduction, short lifecycle, fashion faux par, long-sales cycles,
unanticipated shifts in consumer preference, and detrimental fads as often seen in
this sector (Miller and Mills, 2012a.)

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Lingerie was selected by the authors as an item for testing due to the unique
features of these items. It is inconspicuous, can be functional or fantasy, has an
extensive price quality range and is related to personal image and appearance. Each of
these factors may relate to the consumer and their purchase motivations and as yet
have not been tested. It is proposed that the motivation and consumer behaviour
related to lingerie purchase in particular will be deeply embedded in self-image and
self-concept, the user may not be the consumer and the consumer motivational
perspective will include aspects of all three perspectives. The paper will now proceed
with discussion on method and findings, and will conclude with discussion and
future research aims.
Data and method
This study employs a combination of several methodological techniques such as group
narrative projection, extensive in-depth interviewing, and follow-up verification, as
well as mini focus group forum discussions. The process used a funneling technique to
identify simple issues to more complex issues. The subjects were seen as a consultant
customers group of female consumers (Snow and Hrebiniak, 1980). The aim of this
process was to gain a clear understanding of the sample respondents purchase
decisions. Multiple methods were used to triangulate findings and to allow subjects to
freely speak in multiple modes.
Overall across all methods, 119 female consumers aged between 18 and 60 were
used as the archetypes of female consumers for this study. The operational definition of
female consumers was based on gender, ability to purchase freely, and economic
means to purchase. A convenience sample using a snowball technique was adopted.
The sample consisted of a mix of women from social demographics including
single/married/partnered, children/no children, all types of employment, and varied
levels of education.
The method and data collection analysis included several forms of qualitative
data collection to capture all relevant outcomes and triangulate data collection. First,
comments were requested in the form of narrative data collection from two large
groups of women assembled via invitation. The first group included 51 women
and the second group included 53 women. The narrative projective technique was
similar to a large focus group forum where the group was encouraged to speak freely
about their experiences, desires, and perspectives on fashion and fashion
consumption. The group forums included small group activities using mini focus
groups that were then discussed in depth in plenary workshops. These included
pictures of garments, web page visits, and small group discussions. Projection is
based on the hypothesis that individuals will project their own perceptions,
attitudes, feelings, and needs in assigning meaning to relatively ambiguous stimuli
(Esquivel and Flanagan, 2007; Wiggins, 2003; Kramer-Moore, 2010). The narrative
was recorded and transcribed. These discussions were complemented with written
comments from the group. The topic areas were funneled from general topics to more
specific topics related to personal undergarment purchase and inconspicuous
fashion purchases.
The group commented on personal feelings toward fashion, body image, self-image,
pleasure and gift giving, and acceptance. They further commented on price, purchase,
promotion, the functional attributes, and image-related elements of products, branding,
and purchase venue, with these questions funneled to a discussion about lingerie
and undergarments.

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Further to the questionnaire and group narrative collection, candidates were


recruited from this group for follow up in-depth interviews that offered further
depth and understanding to the comments introduced in the narrative collection.
The in-depth interviews discussed in more depth the advanced topics of function,
utility, hedonism, self-image, body image, gift receipts, price, promotion and purchase
point, and specific criteria related to undergarment choice and purchase behaviour.
The data scripts formed the basis of the data gathered. These were gathered and coded
and several themes emerged.
The in-depth interview collection was consistent with the suggested range of case
sampling of four to ten cases (Eisenhardt, 1989); 15 interviews in total were conducted.
Sampling proceeded until theoretical saturation was achieved. Theoretical saturation
is a process whereby themes and constructs from one case or interview are
substantiated by the evidence of another case, and sampling proceeds until no new
issues are introduced (Eisenhardt, 1989). These consultant customers functioned as
lead users (von Hippel, 1986) in this context. The interviews were guided by openended questions and included but were not confined to probing questions such as:
How do you describe yourself, your shopping habits and social style?; What luxury
purchases do you make?; How do these purchases affect you? and How do they
make you feel? How do you evaluate the success of the purchase? These interviews
further clarified the general luxury items purchased and the general purchasing
behaviours of the female consumers. The interviews were then funneled (Patton, 1990)
to focus specifically on undergarments, luxury, branding, hedonistic consumption,
body image, and inconspicuous fashion consumption. The general theme of questions
included the following areas and probed for related responses. The mini forums
activities are also listed and the guiding seminal works that support the question
themes (Table I).
Previous research has not focused directly on inconspicuous fashion, nor discussed
what the drivers of purchase (e.g. product attributes, branding and image, pricing,
and promotion and usage of inconspicuous and luxury undergarments). This research
explored descriptions, narratives, and interview scripts of the decisions and
experiences of the consultant consumer in terms of these purchase items.
Data analysis
The interviews and forums were transcribed verbatim and the transcripts were read
in-depth by the investigators. The mini focus groups content was used to stimulate
discussion in the forums. Consistent with the method outlined by Hubbert et al. (1995),
the unit of analysis was the script of the documentation of the consumer decisions,
attitudes, and experiences. The scripts were coded separately, and recorded. These
were organised using a conceptual map (Miles and Huberman, 1994) and analysed
based on understanding of the extant literature. This technique was derived from
and is consistent with Montealegre (2002) and Arnould et al. (2006). The next stage
moved to narrative analysis, a subfield of discourse studies.
A computer-assisted text analysis of the interview transcripts was undertaken
using Leximancer (Smith, 2003) relying on a corpus-based approach (Stubbs, 1996).
One advantage of the use of the Leximancer system is argued that it makes the
investigator aware of the global context and significance of concepts and helps avoid
fixation on particular anecdotal evidence, which may be atypical or erroneous (Smith
and Humphreys, 2006). Identification of the dominant themes expressed by the sample
female consumers was undertaken by examining the maps Leximancer stochastically

Markus and Nurius (1986)


Locher et al. (1993)
Lennon et al. (1999), Koff and Benavage (1998)
Jung, Jaehee and Lennon (2003),
Jamal and Goode (2001)
How do you feel about fashion in general?
What type of fashion group would you place
yourself in e.g. Style master, cheap and cheerful,
must have, fashion tragic?
Where do you purchase your fashion garment
e.g. General outlets? Specialty stores? Fashion
boutiques?
What did you last purchase and why?
Do you have price constraints to what you buy?
Why did you buy something new?
Do you buy for function or for some other reason?
Do you buy for yourself or does someone else buy
for you?
How do you define luxury items?
What products are luxury items?
How, why and what do purchase?

Hogg and Hough (1999)

Questions related to pictures of


lingerie, marketing campaigns,
visits to web pages such as
Victorias Secret, lingerie.com.au,
zodee.com.au, annsummers.com
Pictures related to product range
generic to luxury

Forum questions

Mini focus groups


Markus, Nurius (1986)
Locher, Unger Sociedade, and Wahl (1993)
Lennon et al. (1999), Koff & Benavage (1998)
Jung, Jaehee and Lennon (2003),
Jamal and Goode (2001)
Self-demographics and description
Your perceived self-image?
How do you think others perceive you vs yourself
description?
Who do you buy for self? Others?
What is luxury consumption?
What items make up your luxury consumption?
Do you think you will be the same when you are tem years
older?
Do you think lingerie is a status symbol?
Do you have a good body image?
Your body image perception and dress size?
Does buying luxury item impact your self-esteem?
Type of consumers and purchase variables
Consumerism feelings toward materialism?
Underwear impact on intimate self and feelings, e.g.
comfort, sex appeal?
Consumption/usage who buys,
Opinion on receiving lingerie as a gift?
Brand awareness, impression and influences on purchase?
Level of shopping search?
Comparative fashion purchases and behaviour?
What else do you buy and why?
What other items would suggest are similar to buying
lingerie?
Important attributes of lingerie?

In depth interview questions

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Table I.
Questions for each method

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calculates of the concepts in the corpus, as recommended by McKenna and Rooney


(2005). Each map was then used by the investigator to present an overall
representation and guide to interpretation.
A collated map was produced for the 119 female consumers from the data collection
and can be seen in Figure 1. Examination of the map and themes and concepts within
the maps led to the identification of a number of recurring themes. The map shown in
Figure 1: depicts a close association to the theory of holistic consumption, suggesting
that both utilitarian and hedonistic perspectives exist but are tempered by life drivers
such affordability and self-image. Gift giving and receipt was also a theme that
emerged from the mapping suggesting that the user is not always the consumer or
customer when purchasing undergarments especially luxury undergarments.
Specifically comparing and contrasting overall data collected and the scripts, the
following themes were identified: fashion, lingerie, gift, special occasions, special gift,
price quality, comfort quality, self-indulgent, social, image, and shopping. It appears
that holistic consumption best explains the global consumption style of the product
category with choice related to affordability or price quality, functionality, or comfort
quality. Inage appears not to have a specific pathway to lingerie, however, the
concept of special gift receipt is introduced. Fashion purchase supports the literature
with consumption related self-indulgence (all about me), price quality, and image.
Fashion also has a relationship to social and shopping suggesting that both the visual
expression of fashion the practice of shopping is a social exchange. This supports the

Comfort quality
Image

Price quality
Lingerie
Social

Shopping

Special gift
Fashion

Self-indulgent about me

Special
occasions

Figure 1.
Global concept nodes:
Leximancer map

Luxury
Gift

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early literature of Veblen (1894) and others espousing fashion is a visual expression.
Luxury hedonistic consumption was evident with pathways to self-indulgence,
gifts, and special occasions. However, there was no direct relationship to lingerie apart
from through the intersection with fashion and self-indulgence. It was evident from the
concept map that all women gave some attention to purchase of underwear limiting
impulse purchase and simple purchase. Brand attributes such as price quality and
comfort quality influenced routine purchase behaviour and quality of the item was
considered in both price and function.
The map has introduced the global concepts of the 119 female subjects and their
consumption behaviours. The following section will offer coverage of the findings,
narrative comments, and incorporate meaning and discussion on the scripts collected.
The discussion proceeds with what is luxury, the concept of discrete fashion perceived
luxury and behaviour, product attributes, brand image, functionality and purchase
variables, self-image, and consumer behaviour perspectives. The paper concludes with
a final discussion on inconspicuous fashion consumption. Consistent with Arnould
et al. (2006) subject narratives are offered.
Defining luxury
The subjects responses related to luxury items were consistent with the concept of
sacrifice and self-indulgence. The majority of subjects (70 per cent) in the forums
defined luxury as relating to an economic perspective of staple and luxury items, with
luxury a purchase of product and services outside the normal household budget.
This type of purchasing viewed luxury purchasing as an extra. This was confirmed by
12 subjects in the in depth interviews. In total, 13 in-depth interview subjects identified
sunglasses and perfume as luxury products with massages and beauty treatments as
luxury service purchases. Several subjects identified high-end lingerie (six), fashion
(11), jewellery (13), and footwear (12) as luxury. Six subjects suggested high value/
tickets to shows and complex purchases such as holidays (seven) and some forms of
technology (six) as forms of luxury consumption. When probed 14 subjects suggested
intimate high-end lingerie fitted the perception of a luxury good. However, most
subjects suggested daily underwear and garments were seen as functional (e.g. Antz
Pant, Nepon, Undeez, Bonds brands) and holistic brands (Nancy Gants, body
contouring). The following are comments drawn from the interviews:
.

Subject 1: Anything outside the weekly budget.

Subject 2: Expensive items.

Subject 3: Items I would only buy once.

Subject 4: Big ticket items.

Subject 5: They come in different groups. There are household ones (Luxury),
personal ones, totally not necessary, event things like a holiday, theme park.

Subject 6: The dearer end of the range I see as luxury like schools going to a
private grammar [y] a luxury [y] (or an investment).

Subject 7: Things that are not necessary but nice to have, like a high end
camera.

The following responses relate specifically to products perceived as luxury products.


These were mixed and covered many categories of products. The consistent theme

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from the majority in the forum and 12 subjects in the interviews was that most luxury
products were big ticket items and were more often rarely purchased and rarely used in
day to day living. Interestingly, luxury products ranged from tangible to intangible and
were primarily conspicuous. This is of interest and support the role of luxury as a
social status projection. In total, 12 interview subjects also supported the notion of
self-indulgence supporting the notion of hedonism eight subjects narratives related to
luxury product type further included:
.

Subject 1: Large electronics, sunglasses, jewellery and holidays.

Subject 2: Pet insurance, designer fashion and Swiss chocolate.

Subject 3: Premium school, French champagne, designer labels, insurance.

Subject 4: Holidays, home renovations, new car, brand labels fashion or


anything.

Subject 5: Personal items more than what you need, sunglasses, jewellery,
branded clothing, e.g. true religion jeans, designer fashion labels jimmy Choo
shoes.

Subject 6: Some high-end food items, prawns, gourmet cheese wine.

Subject 7: Renovating and Home help, it is a luxury to have enough to afford the
extras, the best and those things that you cant do yourself, so just dont do.

Subject 8: New furniture restyling by a designer/soft furnishing buying/all that


designer Jimmy possum coordinated soft furnishing that is luxury!.

Undergarment product and brand attributes and category perceptions


There was a range of what subjects perceived as lingerie. The term lingerie was not felt
to specifically refer to high-end luxury fashion. However, it did refer to quality
products with a higher price. The photo examples shown to forum subjects (104) in this
phase of the study related to a number of product divisions. These included high-end
price, handmade, and quality French silk items; items of sexual fantasy, expensive
hand crafted erotica; affordable price for quality e.g. Victorias Secret brand and lower
end branded products (e.g. Bonds, Ants Pants, Undeez, Neon, and Berlei brands) with
design and function attributes related to price perception. Finally a generic group of
cheaper, lacier, smaller, and more revealing items were offered. The latter group was
not seen as lingerie but was referred to as undies and knickers. The cheaper poorer
quality products were perceived as less functional and in most subjects, suggested to
be rarely purchased this product was popular in the younger group with a lower
disposable income. Fabric quality was also suggested as a specific determinant of
quality and supports the importance of aesthetics of the apparel (De Klerk and Lubbe,
2008). Products perceived to be polyester and nylon mixes were perceived as cheaper
products and rarely purchased by the majority of subjects.
Brand identification, luxury perceptions, and purchasing behaviour related
to intimate apparel and luxury consumption
Luxury lingerie
The majority of interview subjects (12) suggested general demographics such as
marital status and children did not play a major part in decision making apart from
adding a financial constraint. In total, 11 subjects suggested the purchase a luxury

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undergarment would include extensive search and preparedness for sacrifice.


Conversely, and importantly intimate apparel was suggested to be a price, quality, and
functional purchase with all subjects looking for longevity, good quality fabric,
and comfort. However, brand recognition across most branded products was not
known and subjects suggested that purchase was a point of sale assessment. Whether
a participant was married or partnered played a significant role in gift receipt and
special occasion purchase of high end, luxury lingerie, with marriage and Valentines
Day identified repeatedly by 14 subjects as situational purchase factors and also a
prominent response in the forums with 104 subjects. Peer influence was a very strong
factor in the purchasing of push up bras, G-strings, bustiers, baby dolls, and camisoles,
with most brand purchases influenced by peer usage. However, brand identification
and awareness of high-end luxury labels was evident in only a minority of three
subjects with lower end brands such as Bonds, Berlei, and other previously mentioned
recognised by a majority of subjects. This supported the notion of low-brand
recognition for the high-end brands. Inferences to sexuality, partner pleasure, and
lingerie were evidenced as was a mild halo effect with the responses escalating in the
peer environment. Personal purchase of high-end luxury lingerie was related to
hedonic perspectives of self-indulgence and was strongly related to self-image and
intimacy goals. However, the majority of candidates only received the very high-end
lingerie as a gift or suggested they purchased it for their wedding trousseau.
Interestingly women with a low-perceived body image had no interest in purchasing
any form of sexier lingerie and were only interested in function.
High-end luxury lingerie repeat and repurchase intent was very limited, with
reusage and multiple repeat wearing very low. Most subjects suggested the item was
purchased and worn for a special occasion with a minority suggesting they would
repeatedly wear the item. Satisfaction with the purchase was based on emotion and the
image. Higher end luxury undergarment quality was measured on fabric quality,
design, and brand.
The forums introduced the notion that consumers are focused on the acquisition
and display of material possessions for the purpose of feeling differentiated from other
people and that fashion items help develop a stronger self-perception of uniqueness
and self-image. In the pursuit of individuality subjects offered a need for uniqueness
(Tian et al., 2001) and individuality and they suggested this was irrespective of their
self-image. This gave an interesting insight into their perception of self-image as a
construct as a visual construct how they looked rather than a holistic construct
of who they were intellectually, emotionally, and physically. This led to disclosure of
the practice of showing undergarments as a fashion item (e.g. the G-string visible
outside the jeans, the push up bra worn outwardly to reveal cleavage and visual
appeal). Many suggested that higher end intimate apparel was so expensive that this
practice was about showing off the product to gain maximum exposure and value.
Other subjects suggested the outerwear was the fashion and was about revealing the
brand label to peers. This practice appears to overcome the nature of the product being
inconspicuous. Many lingerie luxury garments were perceived as uncomfortable and
difficult to wear and as before, brands were not well known. Subjects suggested
high-end undergarments to be of quality but not functional and to be pretty but not
practical. This is consistent with the notion, explored below, that high-end luxury
lingerie is not seen as a utilitarian purchase.
Overall, high-end luxury lingerie was infrequently purchased, and mainly given and
received as a gift. If purchased, the consumer had a very strong self-image and wanted

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the lingerie to seen, either as an outer garment, or as an intimate pleasure seeking


garment. Either as a gift or as a special occasion purchase, there was infrequent
wearing of the garment with it being worn approximately one to three times. A strong
consensus of discomfort in this area was found in women who suggested they had a
lower self-image with younger women more confident with lingerie. This latter group,
however, indicated they could not afford high-end lingerie and purchases were
infrequent. It was also not given frequently in this age group as a gift. More mature
women who received lingerie as a gift suggested it was mostly never fitted, was not
flattering and made them feel self-conscious. This was not the case with the younger
cohort and the highly confident or those with a high self-image who suggested they
were happy to parade lingerie gifts.
Body contouring lingerie
For those with a lower perceived body image there was low brand recognition for
sexy lingerie with any purchase strongly related to style and fit with supportive,
figure enhancing lingerie, the preferred purchase. Sexy lingerie became the term
most used by subjects when referring to smaller and more revealing undergarment.
This term aligned to G-strings and up market more erotic garments with less coverage.
In total, 12 subjects in this group suggested that support pants did enhance
perceived self-image but were not purchased for display but to enhance the external
visual appearance. This product type was suggested as illusionary. However, these
subjects highlighted that products in this category offered the perception of looking
better physically and they will pay a premium if these items are comfortable, look
good, and fit well. These undergarment body contouring products were perceived as
intimate apparel and were suggested to be related to a holistic purchase perspective.
Interestingly, brand recognition was low and apart from Nancy Gants which
appeared to be a universal term for contour pants, no brand names were identified.
Repurchase intent for these products was high if comfortable and subjects were
satisfied satisfaction was both functional and emotional (image). Interestingly, even
subjects with a high perceived self-image did engage in improving their projected
image using these items.
Support under garments were felt by subjects to be related to image, most often
warn on special occasions or with particular garments, functional but holistic, price
limited as items were seen as a long-term figure investment, brand limited with low
recognition, and more on functional comfort while achieving main goals of figure
enhancing. These products included contour pants, push up and breast enhancing
bras, no panty line slips, Nancy Gants support pants, and push up and minister bras.
Functional undergarments
The majority of subjects from the forums (80 subjects) suggested basic wear and daily
undergarment purchases were driven by price, personal budget, quality, brand
perception, and satisfaction with the quality/price relationship. Basic undergarments
were identified as low price convenience purchase found at major variety stores and
discounts shops. The brand names recalled included His pants for Her, Bonds, Berlei,
Undeez, Triumph, and antzpants. The brand recognition was very high with most
subjects identifying a number of brands with these brands regularly identified in
discussion and repurchase intent was high if the subject was happy with comfort,
function, and quality. As stated by Subject 18, If you find a good one that fits and
lasts, you rebuy. This is contrary to luxury brands where there was limited subjects

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(four) who could identify brands and in the contouring apparel where only one brand
label could be identified. This is suggested as a reflection of the frequency of purchase
and the brand exposure in variety and discount outlets.
Quality was related to longevity of the product, life of the product, functionality
(shapewear/support), comfort, and brand. In total, 14 subjects primarily suggested
most commonly that underwear and inconspicuous garments were purchased for
functionality. The brands purchased were well known and recognised and included
names like Bonds, Triumph, Berlei, and Ants Pants. Brands like Victorias Secret were
seen as higher end and were discussed related to the Victorias angels and some of the
supermodels. Interestingly the promotional activity and celebrity influence played a
strong role in the brand recognition of this higher end brand. Limited impulse purchase
was identified. For functional purchases, planned sale purchase, and knowledge of
annual sales for these purchases were very common with all interview subjects
suggesting this was part of the purchasing cycle for them. This was evidenced, for
example, with Bonds brand purchases by the majority of subjects.
The predominant purchase attribute suggested was function which included fit,
support, and comfort. Functional emphasis was an interesting finding that supports
the suggestion of the new ideal of femininity. This new ideal is suggested to include
physical activity, a strong sense of self with this stronger self-depiction influenced
product/service purchase. Henry (2005) suggests women have changed and their ideas
about beauty and the overt saleability of sex and sexiness is no longer a positive
indicator of purchase. This is certainly supported in this research in both the body
contouring and regular undergarment purchases.
Search and involvement
Nine subjects suggested functional undergarment purchases showed lower
involvement, with expensive lingerie purchases seen to require higher purchase
involvement. This aligns with other high-end fashion goods and premium product
purchase theory (Amatulli and Guido, 2011). The implications for fashion retailers and
marketing managers are to ensure customer support for purchase decisions is evident
for the higher end products. Several subjects in both the interviews (11) and the forum
(88) identified a moderate involvement search for quality and value with loyalty and
brand preference resulting from the confirmation of factor expectations. Interestingly,
bras were seen as a functional product and a comfort/price trade-off was evident. There
were some subjects who did suggest comfort and look were prime motivators in bra
purchases. Repeat brand purchase was very common and comfort and functionality
drove brand recognition and brand preference. Little impulse purchase was identified.
Image and esteem
Overall, 12 subjects had a strong perceived self-image with body size and appearance
not specifically related to perceived self-image. Size appeared to play no part in
purchase. In fact there appeared no correlation between size and perceived image and
or marital status and perceived image. Sense of sexual self/how sexy do you think you
are was highly correlated with a perceived self-image and desire/actual purchase of
product supporting the self-indulgent hedonic proposition. It was evident with the
majority of subjects that esteem was outweighed by subjects perceptions of value and
function. Banister and Hogg (2004) suggests that self-esteem is an important
motivational drive for consumption and supports both the acceptance and rejection/
avoidance of symbolic goods. This research supports a relationship between perceived

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self-image and the differences in subjects self-esteem and offers a proposed


relationship of image and esteem to the utility/hedonic continuum. Persons with
high-perceived self-image and high self-esteem purchased more sensual products
and had a stronger sense of the erotic value of the product, while subjects with a lower
perceived self-image purchased functional garments only. This lends support to the
theory that ideal congruity and self-congruity significantly influence purchase
motivation as suggested by Sirgy (1985).
Malhotra (1988) suggested that self-image and ideal self-image tend to be positively
correlated with purchase behaviour and this study supported those findings. Within
the self-image matrix actualisers were suggested to have a higher self-image purchase
to reinforce this. In this study this would be with those with a strong sense of self and
sexy self (Ahuvia, 2005; Noble and Walker, 1997) and who purchased lingerie and
luxury garments to emphasise this. In Malhotras work, the perfections were those
with a higher ideal self and these would be those who purchased figure enhancing
and branded garments that reinforced the ideal self. Brand image, purchases, and
self-image have been shown to be interrelated with this study showing that
functionality is strongly related to brand knowledge and image and that most subjects
purchased repeatedly brands that were known and were perceived to be of quality and
functionality (Henry, 2005). This study supported that notion.
This study asked women to suggest how they thought others saw them. With most
subjects indicating the world saw them similar to how they saw themselves. In a
previous study of self-worth, peoples perceptions of themselves in relation to others
and in relation to societal expectations were important for luxury purchase. This study
supported this work (Hira and Mugenda, 1999) and found a positive relationship
between perceived perception of others, perceived self-image, and purchase choices.
This study supported that subjects rewarded and nurtured their strong sense of self
with luxury products and supported hedonic consumption theory (Arnold and
Reynolds, 2012).
Gift giving and lingerie
The majority of luxury lingerie was purchased as gifts with a substantial number
of subjects receiving a gift voucher. Many subjects suggested they spent these on
bras not on underwear. Interestingly, the connotation of high-end underwear was
perceived as having erotica/sensual overtones by some older, single, and lower perceived
self-image and self-esteem subjects who found this uncomfortable. Many subjects felt
this was an unusual gift unless from a partner and then there was a fine line between
quality and quirky/erotica. Women with a high sense of sexy self were accepting and
supportive of the gift giving. In most subjects there was a clear distinction between
lingerie and lewd attire.
Discussion
Given todays rapidly changing fashion environment, this paper has sought to
identify the specific traits, attitudes, and behaviours associated with womens purchase
of inconspicuous fashion, specifically investigating these perspectives in relation
to product types and brands in the merchandise category of intimate apparel.
In particular the paper has investigated the issues of brand awareness, brand
perceptions, product characteristics, consumer self-image, perceived self-image,
hedonism, functionality, and other consumer behaviour aspects related to female
undergarment purchasing. The aim of this research has been to enlighten knowledge

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of the antecedents of undergarment purchase, add value to segmentation of consumer


profiles, and facilitate knowledge of the female fashion consumer and their behaviour
in purchasing inconspicuous and luxury fashion.
The findings of the study show that purchase of womens undergarments appears
to be a multi-dimensional process, with variance across the product classifications and
sample respondents. The results of the study support the notion that consumers are
focused on the acquisition and display of luxury material possessions for the purpose
of feeling differentiated from other people as well as enhanced self-perceptions
of uniqueness and self-image. However, the sample respondents also wanted to get
value from the high-end purchase.
The study respondents indicated that intimate high-end lingerie fit the definition of
luxury goods, whereas, daily underwear and undergarments were seen as functional
purchases of such brands as Bonds, Triumph, Berlei, and Victorias Secret) or holistic
(body contouring intimate apparel). However, brand identification and awareness of
high-end labels was evident in only a minority of subjects with lower end brands such
as Bonds, Berlei, and so on recognised by a majority of subjects.
This paper qualitatively explored the perceptions of luxury in womens fashion
and examined whether discrete or inconspicuous fashion such as the undergarment
(also known as intimate apparel) is consistent with other luxury purchases.
The findings of the study support the indications of Miller and Mills (2012a) that
experiential consumption of brand luxury seems to be more about luxury for ones
self, rather than the display of luxury for others (i.e. luxury for self-gratification or
self-reward). In this study, personal purchase of high-end lingerie was related to
hedonic perspectives of self-indulgence and was strongly related to self-image and
intimacy goals.
In addition, the study results show that the purchase of sexy fashion lingerie is a
high involvement purchase that is correlated with a womens strong self-image and
self-esteem. Self-esteem may be a major factor in engineering brand positioning,
especially to older women. For image-oriented product categories such as lingerie
it is proposed that purchase decisions are multidimensional in nature. This study
supported in part previous research that indicated consumer behavior is determined
by the congruency between the consumers self-image and the consumers image of
brands, albeit early research suggested this only applied to conspicuous products and
social consumption. The current study confirms the self-image link with inconspicuous
fashion purchasing, and shows a strong relationship between inconspicuous products
consumed privately to self-esteem and perceived sexy self. In essence women with
a strong sexy self-image preferred brands that reflected this whereas subjects with a
more functional perception of self-aligned their consumption to more functional
brands. Thus the current study has supported earlier work involving conspicuous
fashion purchases such as that of Peters et al. (2011) which showed that apparel
purchase decisions are complex and involve issues beyond style, fit, and price.
Unlike Martin and Bellizzi (2008) reference groups and celebrity brand endorsement
played little role in consumption and purchase in the current study. Instead, quality,
functionality including comfort, and perception of how a consumers desired self-image
was reinforced were the stronger drivers of purchase in the current study.
In this regard, this study supports the findings of Tynan et al. (2010) and Miller and
Mills (2012a) with respect to symbolic value and experiential consumption which show
that when consumers perceive a match between themselves and the product or brand,
they do not mind paying more. The current study has extended the literature in this

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area, however, as it has dealt with inconspicuous or discrete fashions rather than
conspicuous ones.
The findings indicate that for luxurious intimate apparel marketing to be effective
and credible, the marketed fashion items, and actions taken by designers, and retailers
need to be consistent with the consumers personal style, value perceptions, and
self-image. In addition, the study results show that the purchase of sexy, luxury
fashion lingerie is a high-involvement purchase that is correlated with a strong
self-image. Retailers need to reinforce and support this purchasing aspect in this
category. Retailers will need to conduct research among their target consumes to better
understand the nature of the purchase process and the mechanisms by which purchase
in-store can be better facilitated. For both manufacturer and retailer brands it is
suggested that the use of celebrity endorsements and reference group influencing for
luxury intimate apparel purchasers will be likely less effective influencers than the
potential purchasers own self-image and self-esteem. Brand positioning will need to
reflect a message which fosters and reinforces the brand image and self-image link in
promotional efforts. For luxury brands that in this sample had a low recognition the
use of celebrity endorsement with Miranda Kerr and Heidi Klum and the Victoria
Secret angels has worked well. More functional brands are strongly related to point of
same material and functional comfort. It is also clear that manufactures of high-end
luxury lingerie may need to address the lack of brand awareness we found in our study.
Directions for future research
This research has contributed significantly to our knowledge of inconspicuous or
discrete fashion purchasing of womens undergarments In particular the study has
contributed to our understanding of the role of brands and brand images, consumer
perspectives of luxury, and the motivations and other consumer behavior elements that
influence purchasing within the several categories that make up womens
undergarments. The findings of the study also suggest areas for further academic
research regarding fashion purchasing in the womens undergarment area. Further
research, both qualitative and quantitative could be directed at refining the
understanding of the role of brand image and positioning in the various categories that
make up womens undergarments. Other research might further examine the
promising link between the purchasers self-image and self-esteem and purchase of
inconspicuous fashion as well as to developing a great understanding and profiling of
the size and purchasing variants of the various segments involved in such purchases.
It may well be, as suggested in this study, that there is a fashion continuum that applies
to the inconspicuous fashion purchasing arena, as there has been shown to be in the
conspicuous fashion purchasing area (e.g. Gutman and Mills, 1982). Future research
might be productively aimed at this area. This research also suggested some support
for Henrys (2005) notion that woman have changed their ideas about beauty and the
overt salability of sex and sexiness. Further research in this area as it relates to
inconspicuous fashions and brand positioning could potentially benefit as well.
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About the authors


Dr Margee Hume is an academic at USQ, Faculty of Business and Law, School of Marketing
and Management in Queensland. She joined the academic sector 15 years ago and specialises
in service experience management, technology enablement, and consumption research. She is
extensively published in these areas. Her teaching interest includes services marketing,

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interactive/digital technology marketing, services management and consumption, and


marketing. Dr Margee Hume is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: margee.
hume@usq.edu.au
Dr Michael Mills is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Southern Queensland.
Michaels career spans some 30 years in senior positions in industry and academia, as well as
consulting experience to some of the worlds best known multinational firms. He has published
extensively, with his publications appearing in the Journal of Business Research, Journal of
Retailing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Advertising Research, and
Contemporary Psychology, among others. His research and teaching interests are in marketing
strategy, marketing management, retailing, and promotions management.

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