Which women wear the best clothes?
Women tend to wear more expensive, designer clothing than men.
But a new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge found that the brands that make the best clothing, particularly for younger, urban women, have been around for decades.
“We think it’s really important to recognise that the products we wear are not the only products we can wear,” says senior author and Columbia University economist Elizabeth Stoll, who worked with the University’s Brand Lab and Harvard Business School to conduct the research.
“We need to also recognise that we have choices and choices are important to the way we perceive ourselves.”
Stoll says that when she and her colleagues were asked to rate the “most expensive and most comfortable clothes” on a scale from 0 to 100, they tended to pick the brands with a high average price tag.
The researchers then asked women about the brand they’d bought and asked them what they liked best about it.
The results: women tended to like brands with high average cost tags, especially if they were made by women.
The study, which will be published in the International Journal of Consumer Research on May 2, found that women were less likely to buy clothing that cost more than $300.
The findings were consistent with other research that found that brands with higher average cost tag are more likely to be associated with higher levels of social isolation, and that the quality of clothing sold on the internet and at retail is also associated with a higher cost.
Brand Lab founder and director of its Brand Lab Elizabeth Stoye says that brands should be “making more choices, not just buying the same stuff”.
“There is no way you can buy a new dress or a new pair of shoes, or a brand new watch or new computer that costs $2,000 and is perfect for you,” she says.
Instead, women should shop around for quality brands, buy them online or through a shop such as eBay, Stoll says.
She argues that women shouldn’t buy from a single brand.
“If a company has great quality, then you should go for it,” she adds.
She points to an example of a product that was on sale at Target, a department store chain, in 2012 for $1,300.
It’s now selling for about $800, with a better price tag and a more spacious interior.
“It’s not a terrible brand, but there’s nothing about that brand that’s going to appeal to women who are not into high-end luxury goods,” she said.
A woman in her early 20s, who wanted to remain anonymous, says she thinks of the brands she bought from online when she was a teenager.
She thinks the price tag is “just the price, the price is what I need right now”.
She also likes brands that are not made in the UK.
But the study also suggests that consumers may have to pay more attention to brands that they think are more affordable.
“There’s no such thing as cheap,” says Stoyce.
“What you are buying is something that is going to last you for many years and will not break down in a few years.
So brands with the lowest average price tags tend to be the ones that are best for a longer period of time, but we don’t know that yet.”
Stoll’s research also found that consumers were less willing to pay higher prices for products that are often made by companies in countries with higher labour costs, like the UK or China.
She says that might mean that brands like these might be better for women in developing countries, where the cost of labour is lower.
“The fact that brands that have a higher average price are better for developing countries means they are cheaper for women who may need to travel, for example,” she explains.
In contrast, brands that do not make as many high-quality garments, are often considered less affordable.
For example, women who spend more time shopping online and on the subway, might feel that the best products are the ones made by Japanese companies.
There is another factor at play.
While the brands Stoll and her team studied had higher average costs, they were also more likely than men to shop online and to buy online.
The same is true of men, who tend to spend more on their purchases than women, Stoyecs research found.
“We have to recognise there’s a difference in the way women shop and how they shop for clothes online,” says University of Toronto’s Mariam Al-Fakhoury, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of business at the department of business administration.
“The reason for that is because the clothes they buy are made by different people, and so we need to look at the brands to see who is making what, who has the highest quality.”
The findings could also be relevant to women shopping online, since online retailers are much more likely in developing nations to offer low prices for their goods, Al-