The devaluation of stockings

Authors: Tone Rasch, Ingrid Haugsrud, Kirsi Laitala and Atle Wehn Hegnes


Consumer practices related to how we use and take care of products have changed throughout history. Especially within clothing consumption, the changes have accelerated in the Twentieth Century. In this paper, we use thin nylon stockings for women as an example product to see how their value, use, care, and lifetimes have evolved. The material is based on a literature review on nylon stockings from 1940 to today, accompanied by an analysis of consumers’ written narratives from 1990 where people were asked to describe their use and memories of stockings and pantyhose. Our contemporary data is based on consumer focus groups on product lifetimes and plastic materials conducted in 2021 and 2022. The tight-fitting nylon stockings for women were launched around World War II by the American company DuPont. Cheap nylon substituted luxurious silk stockings and increased their popularity throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Around 1970, synthetic substances were devalued when fashion changed from elegance to more casual styles, and the political opposition to plastic as environmental damage and a symbol of the established society permeated the growing youth culture. Consequently, nylon stockings went out of fashion. Today, thin pantyhose is seen as disposable consumables with low value. Thin stockings represent a good example of how we value and take care of delicate items has a significant contribution to their lifetimes. Looking into the historical context is beneficial for learning about the points in time when changes occurred and how they contribute to consumer practices.

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A Louse in Court: Norwegian Knitted Sweaters with ‘Lus’ on Big-Time Criminals

Ingun Grimstad Klepp


Early one morning in 2008 I was sitting in make-up for a Norwegian television show and felt the trained hands of the make-up smooth out my face with paint. It wasn’t the first time I’d been there. With a population of 5 million there are not many clothing researchers to choose between in Norway, and with plenty of weather and outdoor activities, clothes are important. Questions such as how to dress children for physical activities outdoors are equally relevant every autumn and before every winter vacation and every Easter, when Norwegians go to their cabins, and the ideal is to spend as much time as possible outdoors. I have talked about the choice between wool and synthetic fibres and also about traditional Norwegian knitwear, but this time the subject was somewhat different.

The Norwegian Islamist Arfan Bhattis stood, as the first person in Norway to be accused of violating a new terror clause in the Penal Code. The striking thing for the Norwegian press was that he appeared in court in a Norwegian knitted sweater, a so-called lusekofte [lit: lice jacket], and he wasn’t the first. Before him, the accused in the biggest robbery in Norwegian history and the accused in the most discussed triple homicide had dressed in the lusekofte in court.

You can find this essay in the book Fashion Crimes: Dressing for Deviance, edited by Joanne Turney, here (

Uniformity Without Uniforms: Dressing School Children in Norway

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Kirsi Laitala and Silje Elisabeth Skuland


This chapter discusses the relationship between Norwegian schools’ ideals of equality and the way in which school clothes are regulated. Interviews with a teacher in a transitional language learning group for newly arrived immigrant children, as well as with children and parents in immigrant families, are used to discuss whether school clothes inhibit or promote integration. The material shows great willingness of children to dress like the others, as well as understanding that clothing consumption is essential for integration in school, and thus society. At the same time, this is not easily achievable either economically, culturally or practically. Little is done to make Norwegian schools inclusive in this field of consumption.

This article is from the book Inclusive Consumption: Immigrants’ Access to and Use of Public and Private Goods and Services, edited by Anita Borch, Ivan Harsløf, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala.

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Dressing a Demanding Body to Fit In: Clean and Decent with Ostomy or Chronic Skin Disease

Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp


This article discusses what kind of strategies people with a stoma or various chronic skin conditions, such as psoriasis oratopic dermatitis, use to find clothes that fit and enable them to fit in. Based on qualitative interviews in Norway, we study how they manage to dress with a demanding body, a poor market and limited economic resources. This includes describing how purchases take place, which clothes fit, how much clothing is needed, and which laundry practices are used. Their main strategy was to reduce the requirements for their own appearance rather than to cleanliness and body odours. If they were unable to appear appropriately dressed, as a minimum odourless and stain-free, they reduced their participation in social life.

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Kartlegging av ekstrautgifter

Gun Roos, Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Marthe Hårvik Austgulen og Elling Borgeraas


På oppdrag fra Arbeids-og sosialdepartementet har SIFO gjennomført en kartlegging av ekstrautgifter knyttet til grunnstønadsordningen. Prosjektet består av to delprosjekter. Formålet med det første delprosjektet er å undersøke hvorvidt matutgiftene ved et kosthold for personer med cøliaki eller andre diagnosegrupper som fordrer at de lever på en glutenfri diett er høyere enn utgiftene til mat-og drikkevarer i SIFOs referansebudsjett, og eventuelt hvor mye høyere.

Formålet med det andre delprosjektet er å undersøke hvorvidt utgiftene knyttet til klær, sko og sengetøy for personer med spesifikke varige sykdommer eller lidelser er høyere enn utgiftene til klær, sko og sengetøy i SIFOs referansebudsjett, og eventuelt hvor mye høyere. Beregningene for delprosjekt 1 viser at ekstrautgifter ved diett som følge av cøliaki og andre diagnosegrupperutgjør ca. 655 kr i snitt for kvinner og menn i aldersgruppen 18-30 år per måned.

I delprosjekt 2 om ekstrautgifter som følge av ekstraordinær slitasje på klær eller sengetøy har vi gjort beregninger for tre ulike diagnosegrupper. Resultatene viser at ekstrautgiftene forbundet med psoriasis eller atopisk eksem (voksne) utgjør i snitt ca. 1,015kr, at ekstrautgiftene forbundet med ADHD (barn 10-13 år) i snitt utgjør ca. 710kr, og at ekstrautgiftene forbundet med stomi (voksne) i snitt utgjør ca. 800kr permåned. Det må presiseres at det hefter usikkerhet om alle beregningene, og det kan være nødvendig å ha et litt distansert holdning til beregningenes presisjonsnivå.

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On behalf of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, SIFO has carried out a mapping of additional expenses related to the basic benefits scheme. The project consists of two subprojects. The purpose of the first subproject is to investigate whether the dietary expenses of people with celiac disease or other diagnosis groups requiring them to live on a gluten-free diet are higher than the cost of food and beverages in SIFO’s reference budget, and possibly, how much higher.

The purpose of the second subproject is to investigate whether the expenses associated with clothes, shoes and bedding for persons with specific permanent illnesses or disorders are higher than the cost of clothes, shoes and bedding in SIFO’s reference budget, and possibly, how much higher. The calculations for subproject 1 show that additional dietary expenses due to celiac disease and other diagnosis groups amount to approximately 655 NOK in average for women and men in the age group 18-30 years per month. In subproject 2 on extra costs due to extraordinary wear on clothes or bedding, we have made calculations for three different diagnostic groups.

The results show that the extra expenses associated with psoriasis or atopic eczema (adults) amount to approximately 1,015NOK, that the extra expenses associated with ADHD (children 10-13 years) on average amount to approximately 710NOK, and that the extra expenses associated with stoma (adult) on average amount to approximately 800NOK per month. It must be emphasized that uncertainty is connected with all of the calculations, and it may be necessary to have a slightly distanced attitude towards the calculation’s precision level.

This report is only available in Norwegian.

Deviant bodies and suitable clothes

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Mari Rysst


Suitable clothes are clothes that make the body socially accepted. The theme of this article concerns what people with deviant bodies do when suitable clothes are difficult to find; clothes that make their bodies fit in in everyday social contexts. Based on interviews with Norwegian men and women, the focus is on those people who have bodies that deviate from the present Western bodily ideals of thinness, fitness and no deviances.

The article relates the interviews to research in two different fields: disability studies and fashion studies. A primary focus is on the relationship between acceptance of one’s own body—“making the best out of it,”—and respondents’ different strategies for coping with the situation. The final discussion addresses the relationship between the clothes market and deviant bodies. Focusing on a group of people with special problems related to clothes might bring forth new knowledge in general. In addition, a change in the status of the market may have positive effects for those already excluded from this market.

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Patched, Louse-ridden, Tattered: Clean and Dirty Clothes

Ingun Grimstad Klepp


“Patched, louse-ridden, tattered—clean, beautiful, gem.” As children we recited this rhyme in Norwegian: “Lappete, lusete, fillete—ren, pen, edelsten,” as we picked petal after petal from a daisy. All the words can be understood as descriptions of the child’s future clothes. Clean is the turning point in the rhyme. Clean is thus seen as the first step on the way towards the gem, and it conveys here the same meaning as in the saying “whole and clean is the greatest finery.” Both emphasize clean clothes as crucial to the judgment of a person’s appearance. In the world of fashion it has been alleged that “anything goes.” This is probably true if we restrict “anything” to small variations in the look, decor, color, and style of clothes. However, our way of dressing also depends on more absolute norms.

This article explores the norms that deal with the relationship between clean and dirty clothes. Despite the fact that there is abundant research on cleanliness and laundering on the one hand, and clothes and clothes habits on the other, there are few points of intersection between the two fields. The article is an attempt at seeing these two themes in conjunction. It investigates how clothes, by being kept clean, make bodies socially acceptable. The article looks at how the demand for cleanliness varies in relation to age, gender, and class, and compares these demands to what we know about decency.

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Made to fit: Å kle en avvikende kropp- handikap og klær

Mari Bjerck, Ingun Grimstad Klepp og Eli Skoland


Klær er helt sentralt for menneskers deltakelse i samfunnslivet og for selvfølelse og selvrespekt. Hvor vanskelig det er å kle kroppen avhenger både av den anledningen vi kler oss for og den kroppen som skal kles. I denne rapporten retter vi søkelyset mot klær tilpasset handikappede. Å ha et handikap kan innebære sosiale barrierer og fysiske begrensninger som gjør det vanskelig å finne klær i et marked som i hovedsak tilbyr masseprodusert konfeksjon. For å kartlegge problemet har vi foretatt en litteraturstudie, en brukerundersøkelse og en markedsundersøkelse. Dette er gjort for å finne ut 1) hvilken kunnskap som eksisterer på feltet, 2) hvordan handikappede selv opplever utfordringen med å kle en avvikende kropp og 3) i hvilken grad det finnes et marked for handikapklær og/eller hvorvidt et slikt marked har potensiale som forretningsområde for Fjellrypa.

Rapporten finner at klær er både teknisk og sosialt kompliserte og at i forhold til å kle mennesker med avvikende kropper så blir forholdet mellom de sosiale og tekniske utfordringene konfliktfylte. Brukerundersøkelsen som presenteres i rapporten identifiserer manglende tilpasning av konfeksjonsklær og spesialtilpasset tøy til handikappede. I de daglige valgene som ble tatt vedrørende bekledning oppsto det ofte et dilemma mellom å velge å kle seg pent, varmt, tørt eller å unngå slitasje, i tillegg hadde de aller fleste utfordringer som dreide seg rundt åpne- og lukkemekanismer, og av-og påkledning. Bekledning ble også brukt som strategi for å motivere til bruk av bestemte hjelpemidler eller også som en måte å skjule eller vise handikap. Dette er omtalt både i brukerundersøkelsen og i litteraturstudien. Videre pekte de to kvinnene som sto for innkjøpene av klær i brukerundersøkelsen på en endringsprosess hvor det var viktig å tenke funksjonelt, estetisk og teknisk – samtidig.

Det å kle kroppen estetisk slik at handikappet blir minst mulig synlig vil være viktigere i noen situasjoner, mens det i andre er viktigere med funksjonelle klær enten dette innebærer muligheten for å kle seg selv, eller den måten klærne fungerer i bruk. Dette viser til en viktig ambivalens i bekledningen av handikappede, som blir tydelig både i litteraturstudien og brukerstudien. Flere av de handikappede i studien rapporterte om problemer med å orientere seg i et marked som var så å si ikke-eksisterende og i stor grad preget av få eller uklare støtteordninger, lite eksplisitt og ordnet kunnskapsoverføring, samt få aktører.

Markedsundersøkelsen viser på samme måte til manglende rammebetingelser for handikappedes bekledning, tilgang på hjelpemidler og støtte til ekstrautgifter i forbindelse med klær og utstyr. Den peker også på få etableringer og liten motivasjon for å posisjonere seg innenfor utviklingen av spesialsydd tøy for handikappede. Brukerne på sin side identifiserer stort behov for spesialtilpassede produkter. Å finne gode klær for avvikende kropper kan være en stor utfordring både med hensyn til økonomiske ressurser og evnen til å sette seg inn i de muligheter som eksisterer. Det kan derfor tenkes at det er stor variasjon i hvordan de ulike individene løser bekledning i forhold til sitt handikap. Dette gjelder som sagt ikke bare teknisk-funksjonelle bekledning, men også de sosiokulturelle faktorene som bekledning i forhold til anledning. Slik sett eksisterer det et Made to fit uutnyttet potensial i klær for handikappede, samtidig er det også et behov for mer utførlig forskning og politisk initiativer på feltet.

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Materialised Ideals: Sizes and Beauty

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Benedicte Hauge


Today’s clothing industry is based on a system where clothes are made in ready-to-wear sizes and meant to fit most people. Studies have pointed out that consumers are discontent with the use of these systems: size designations are not accurate enough to find clothing that fits, and different sizes are poorly available. This article discusses in depth who these consumers are, and which consumer groups are the most dissatisfied with today’s sizing systems. Results are based on a web survey where 2834 Nordic consumers responded, complemented with eight in-depth interviews, market analysis on clothing sizes and in-store trouser size measurements.

Results indicate that higher shares of the consumers who have a body out of touch with the existing beauty ideals express discontentment with the sizing systems and the poor selection available. In particular, large women, very large men, and thin, short men are those who experience less priority in clothing stores and have more difficulties in finding clothes that fit. Consumers tend to blame themselves when the clothes do not fit their bodies, while our study points out that the industry is to blame as they do not produce clothing for all customers.

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Reading Fashion as Age: Teenage Girls’ and Grown Women’s Accounts of Clothing as Body and Social Status

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Ardis Storm-Mathisen


If you don’t follow fashion, you wear, like, sorta childish clothes

(girl, aged thirteen)

I think about my age before wearing something that seems rather daring

(woman, aged forty-one)

This article discusses the similarities and differences in how women in two different stages of life describe the relationship between fashion and age. The analytical approach is basically discursive, based on Norwegian teenage girls’ and adult women’s verbal accounts of clothing and clothing practices in conversational interviews undertaken in the late 1990s.

Prevailing discourses as to what represents a breach of clothing conventions are to be found in the ways young girls and grown women talk about clothes. When clothes are used in accordance with conventions and norms, they are not noticed much. However, when clothes are used in a way that differs from the norm, this can attract attention and provoke reactions. By comparing narratives of clothing provided by respondents of the same sex and approximately the same class background but of different ages, we gain access to material that is particularly well suited to illustrate the significance of age in conventions governing clothing and fashion.

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