Design requirements for female boomer activewear: A sequential exploratory mixed methods study

Hwang, Chanmi
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The emerging phenomena of active aging brought new challenges for professionals to respond to female boomers’ demands on special needs for fit and styling of activewear. Since this market is not well understood, a holistic research that integrates both consumer behavior and product development is needed. Thus, this study explored and analyzed design requirements for female boomer activewear for indoor fitness through a sequential exploratory mixed methods research. This method consists of three phases that begins with the collection and analysis of qualitative data and builds from the qualitative results to a quantitative phase.

In the first phase, 15 in-depth interviews were conducted to explore female boomers’ functional, expressive, and aesthetic (FEA) needs based on FEA Consumer Needs Model (Lamb & Kallal, 1992). In the second phase, themes and preferences found in the first phase were translated into garment engineering details in terms of design features and textile properties: interaction matrix and design problem-approach analysis were conducted. The fit issues were addressed by comparing two parametric avatars of missy and female boomer figures and the data were further transferred to visual representations by 3D virtual prototyping. In the third phase, online survey was conducted where 321 female boomers across the United States evaluated the developed 3D prototypes. Specifically, FEA attributes of the activewear were evaluated and the relationship between FEA needs and wearing intention were examined.

The results of the 3D virtual comparisons showed that there is difference in body shapes between the female boomer and missy figures that influence design requirements. Based on the results, this study proposed a conceptual model that illustrates the interrelationships of factors influencing design requirements for female boomer activewear including aging factors, FEA dimensions, and wearing intention. The findings of the final evaluation phase along with the model testing confirm the importance of all three FEA dimensions and indicate that the proposed virtual prototypes meet the needs of female boomers that have positively effects on wearing intention.

This present study has both theoretical and practical implications and contributes to the growing body of research on examining female boomers as a vital consumer sector in the apparel industry. The present study confirms the appropriateness of the extended FEA model and further validates the efficacy of the model in explaining female boomers needs and preferences on activewear. It also brings increased conceptual clarity to the concepts of age appropriateness and further confirms the applicability of using mixed methods research in the discipline of textiles and clothing. Lastly, the findings of this study have practical implications for product developers and retailers on product development and commercialization strategies for female boomer consumers.