Consumption Studies: The force of the ordinary

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala


Consumer research deals with the acquisition, use and disposal of goods and services. Our workplace, SIFO, the National Institute for Consumer Research in Norway, dates back to the 1930s, when home economics and testing of products were predominant. The work aimed at guiding consumers, at that time called housewives, through the ‘jungle’ of novel consumer goods. More recently, SIFO’s work combines social science and textile technology to study the social and technical aspects of consumption.

In this chapter, we ask: how can knowledge of clothing consumption contribute to the work on sustainable fashion? We will answer the question through examples from interdisciplinary projects on textiles at SIFO, as well as from consumer research. However, we will not give an overview of consumer research on clothes and sustainability. But first, an admission: fashion – the topic of this book – operates according to a different logic from our field of work. We would have posed the question differently: how can consumer research – and all the other fields of expertise covered in this book –contribute to more sustainable patterns of clothes production and consumption? Therefore, we also have to include a discussion of the concept of fashion.

This article is Chapter 12 in the book Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion, edited by Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham that you can find here (

The Rationalisation of Consumption Reasons for Purchasing Outdoor Recreational Outfits

Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Silje Elisabeth Skuland


In Norway, there is a broad consensus that experiencing nature and performing physical activities outdoors is healthy, important and typical Norwegian. The Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen’s expression ‘simple outdoor life’ is a great national symbol. In recent years we have seen a rapid technological development of outdoor recreational outfits and a massive increase of the quantity of different clothing and equipment for these activities on the market. This is due to both a specialisation of clothing for different activities and a fast turn over of these kinds of products.

In this paper we will discuss what the drivers for objectification of outdoor leisure are, as seen from the consumers’ point of view. In addressing this question, focus was on how the ‘standard-package,’ that is what is considered as ordinary and necessary, has changed and what consumers tell us about their motivations for buying new equipment and how they explain the necessity and need for new equipment. Technological innovations within clothing and fabric for optimal performance in skiing, running and biking are welcomed by many people, especially high income families. However, this development consists of a dilemma because the consumption growth takes place within activities regarded as simple and in a contrast to modern excess consumption and environmental strains.

Our study shows that outfits for outdoors activities are integrated as part of the skills and knowledge to perform and participate in the activities, and that few reactions to the consumption growth arise because the consumption contributes to activities seen as healthy and valuable. Functional clothes and equipment makes the activities safer and funnier, and therefore motivates increased participation. To be outdoors in the nature and do physical activities is something many Norwegians desire to do more often.

Click here to read the full article here (

Sustainable clothing design: use matters

Kirsi Laitala and Casper Boks


Many life cycle assessment studies document that the use period is the most resource-demanding phase during the clothing life cycle. In this paper, we discuss how design can help to reduce the environmental impacts of clothing. Motives behind clothing disposal, acquisition practices and maintenance habits are analysed based on two surveys, qualitative interviews of households, and examination of disposed clothing. The main reasons for clothing disposal were changes in garments, followed by size and fit issues, taste-related unsuitability, situational reasons, functional shortcomings and fashion or style changes. Several design solutions can enable the users to keep and use the clothes longer, and reduce the need for laundering, thus potentially decreasing the total environmental effects of clothing consumption.

Click here to read the full article (

Leisure and sustainable development in Norway: part of the solution and the problem

Carlo Aall, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Agnes Brudvik Engeset, Silje Elisabeth Skuland and Eli Støa


The article presents the results of two succeeding Norwegian studies on the environmental impacts of leisure consumption. The first study presents data on the total consumption of leisure products and services by Norwegians, showing that leisure consumption increases more than everyday consumption, the most energy-intensive leisure activities increase the most, leisure activities have become more dependent on transportation and that leisure activities are to an increasing extent based on more material consumption. The second study consists of case studies from four leisure activities in Norway that have experienced the greatest increases in consumption over the last two decades: outdoor recreation clothing, cabins, leisure boating and leisure transportation.

The case studies show that the problems connected with reducing the environmental impacts of leisure consumption are numerous and complex, and cannot be solved alone by technological improvements in leisure products and services. We conclude that new policies have to be developed which can on a short-term basis promote changes of leisure consumer habits in a more environmentally friendly direction, and on a long-term basis alter the existing strong links between economic growth and leisure consumption.

Click here to read the full article (

Potential of Woolen Materials in Health Care

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Marit Kjeldsberg & Kjersti Eilertsen



Woolen textiles may have more potential use areas within the health care than what they are used for today. They have many benefits such as being self-extinguishing, flexible, and having high isolation as well as moisture absorption properties. While absorbing moisture it releases heat, and as the evaporation rate is slow, woolen materials do not give a rapid chill that some other faster drying materials have. Therefore wool can hold lot of moisture before feeling wet. Due to wool’s potential to shrink in wash, the challenge has been how to wash wool to get it clean enough for health care use. Laboratory experiments were designed in order to see woolens’ tolerance to different washing treatments, as well as their properties related to soil repellence and stain removal.

The results showed that wool tolerates to be cooked without causing additional felting shrinkage, as well as spin dried at high velocity (at least 1400 rpm), as long as there is no mechanical action that could cause the fibers to get entangled. Therefore, the acceleration and slowing-down phases of spin-drying program have to be rapid, so that the centrifugal forces will keep the garments trapped in place against the walls of the drum. Especially untreated woolen fabrics showed good soil repellence against water based soils, as the outer layer of woolen materials is hydrophobic. However, if the staining occurred it was more difficult to get wool clean than synthetic fabrics. Cotton got even more soiling, but it tolerates more efficient washing and detergents than wool does. Wool has potential to replace some of the materials that are more commonly used in health care today, such as cotton, polyester and polyamide, and improve the use properties without compromising the hygiene. The frequent washing of textiles cause wear and tear, creates extra work as well as environmental consequences. Woolen products are washed less frequently than products mare of other fibers. Therefore, an increase in the use of wool can be a way to reduce washing frequency.

Kontakt oss for å få tilgang til hele teksten.

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.

Click here to read the full article (

Potential for environmental improvements in laundering

Kirsi Laitala, Casper Boks & Ingun Grimstad Klepp


Life cycle assessment studies on clothes, detergents and washing machines show that the use period is usually the most energy-demanding period during these products’ life cycle, even higher than production or transportation phases. Laundering practices are constantly changing and influenced by social, cultural and moral norms. Even though the technologies in clothes cleaning have improved greatly, the length of time that consumers use for washing clothes has not been reduced. We own more clothing and wash it more frequently. This increased amount of washing counteracts the technological improvements in laundry.

This paper discussed the options of changing consumer habits in clothing maintenance to a more environmentally friendly direction and attempts to evaluate which changes would be the most feasible and efficient. Laboratory trial results on washing were compared with earlier research on consumers’ washing habits. Laboratory-based tests measuring cleaning effect, energy and water consumption were performed in order to evaluate the consequences of changing the washing temperature, filling grade, detergent dosage or drying method. The cleaning effect tests showed that today’s detergents are suitable for low temperature washing, and by selecting an efficient detergent, the cleaning result can be better at 30°C than with a less efficient detergent at 40°C. When washing only slightly soiled textiles or small loads of laundry, the detergent amount can be reduced. Many textiles changed more in colour or strength if they were washed at higher temperature(60°C) than at lower temperature (40°C or below). Tumble-dried textiles shrank more than line dried. These facts can be used to motivate consumers to change behaviour in order to reduce the environmental impacts of textile maintenance.

Click here to read the full article (

Klær og utstyr for en hver anledning: Friluftslivets spesialisering

Mari Bjerck og Ingun Grimstad Klepp


Den tiden vi i Norge bruker på friluftsliv har holdt seg stabil de siste årene, samtidig som forbruket av utstyr til denne typen fritid har vokst raskt. Dette var en av konklusjonene i en rapport Vestlandsforskning og SIFO publiserte i 2007(Hille et al). Rapporten bruker bred pensel for å få en oversikt over miljøkonsekvensene av Norsk fritidsforbruk. Miljøkonsekvenser blir regnet i form av energiforbruk. Rapporten omhandler forbruket av energi i forhold til bruk av tid og penger på fritid. Importen av sportsutstyr til Norge økte ifølge SSBs Utenrikshandelsstatistikk fra 12.200 tonn i 2001 til 25.085 tonn i 2005, altså vel en dobling på fire år. I og med at den norske produksjonen i dag er svært liten gir dette et godt bilde av forbruksutviklingen. I samme periode var det nesten en tredobling av importen av fritidsbåter, målt i vekt.

Dette var en av grunnene til at SIFO ønsket å fokusere på klær og utstyr for friluftsliv og fritidsbåter når vi i 2008, igjen sammen med VF gikk i gang med et nytt prosjekt Leisure and Sustainable Development: part of the problem or part of the solution? I dette prosjektet, også finansiert av NFRs miljøprogram ønsker vi å studere denne veksten nærmere. Med spørsmål som hva veksten består og hvorfor den skjer? Hva slags debatter om miljø dette forbruket reiser? Eller om veksten i fritidsforbruk foregår uten at den miljøbelastningen den fører til blir tema?

Vi ønsket også å forstå mer om forholdet mellom denne forbruksveksten og endringer i friluftslivet. Hva betyr flere, og eller større båter for båtlivet både som ideologi og praksis, og hva betyr mer og eller dyrere utstyr for friluftslivet generelt. Dette kan dreie seg om endringer i selve aktivitetene, og om rekruttering og utestengelse fra dem. Økt utstyr krever kunnskap, plass og penger. Et foreldrepar i Geilos alpinanlegg fortalte at familien hadde kuttet ut langrenn fordi de mente det var så mye utstyr som måte kjøpes og holde seg oppdaterte på. I slalåmbakken kunne de i større utstrekning bruke det utstyret de hadde. En spesialisering av utstyr kan slik dette eksemplet viser føre til en spesialisering i forhold til deltagelse i aktivitetene.

Jeg vil gjerne understreke at dette prosjektet ikke er ferdig, og at mange av spørsmålene – som dette om spesialisering og rekruttering ikke kan besvares nå. Og heller ikke kan komme til å bli besvart utførlig tatt prosjektets økonomiske rammer i betraktning. I dette fordaget vil jeg begrense meg til å diskutere et spørsmål: Hva er en anledning, og hva er forholdet mellom anledning og spesialisering?

Denne foredragsteksten er en del av papporten fra konferansen Forskning i friluft 2009 og utgitt av FRIFO, Friluftslivets fellesorganisasjon. Hvis du har behov for å lese den i sin helhet, ta gjerne kontakt med oss.

Reparasjon og gjenbruk i 1900-tallets håndarbeidsbøker

Ingun Grimstad Klepp


For våre formødre utgjorde vedlikehold og reparasjoner av tekstiler en stor og tidkrevende del av husarbeidet. Tiden som har blitt brukt på dette har minket betraktelig i løpet av 1900-tallet (Avdem og Melby 1985, Hagemann & Roll-Hansen 2005, Sæbø 1986, Lingsom & Ellingsæter 1983). Fra å ha utnyttet alt til siste trevl, sies det ofte at ingen reparerer noen ting lenger. Slike absolutte påstander er sjelden riktige, og noe gjøres fortsatt, delvis på andre måter enn før (Klepp 2001 og 2002). I denne artikkelen skal vi ikke se på hva som er blitt gjort – eller gjøres, men hvordan ulike teknikker har blitt omtalt og formidlet i samtiden. Hva slags teknikker fantes på 1900-tallet for å ta vare på tekstilene, og hvordan endret de seg i dette århundret? Når skjedde disse endringene, og hva har til en vært tid vært ansett som viktig å lære bort? Kildene til å besvare disse spørsmålene er 80 håndarbeidsbøker, alt fra store oppslagsverk, til enkle mønstersamlinger. Dette er supplert med noen årganger av medlemsbladet for Husmorforbundet –, Husmoderen, Arbeidermagasinet – senere Magasinet for alle, håndarbeidsbladet Alt om håndarbeid og Kvinner og Klær. All omtale av teknikker for reparasjon og gjenbruk er er registrert og analysert ut fra spørsmålene hvordan teknikken har blitt presentert og hva hensikten har vært med dem. Analysen får dermed også frem forfatteres og utgivers holdninger til bruken av dem. Dette vil bli sett på som måter å forstå teknikkene i samtiden. Med samtiden menes her det tiåret publikasjonen ble utgitt. Analysen av håndarbeidsbøkene og bladene vil bli organisert i noen hovedtyper teknikker for å økonomisere med tekstiler. Men først vil jeg kort beskrive litt av den tekstile hverdagen bøkene og bladene ble brukt innenfor.

Klikk her for å lese hele artikkelen (

English summary

Reparing, patching and darning in the 20. century

The article discusses changes in the way different techniques for economising with textiles is referred to in the 20th Century. The material consists of 80 needlework books, in addition to some periodicals and ladies’ magazines. The analysis focuses when the different techniques are described relative to each other and how they are described. The described techniques include needlework for the prevention of wear and tear, different kinds of mending, recycling of textiles through re-sewing and the utilisation of rags, patches and left-over yarn. The development goes from numerous time-consuming and specialised techniques at the beginning of the century towards fewer and far simpler techniques. In the earliest period utilising everything to the last rag seems like an implied matter of course. Later this kind of work is given a moral significance, and at last it is liberated from economic as well as moral reasons. Technically this development is shown through a change from stressing advanced and invisible techniques which made the mended or re-sewn garment as similar to the original as possible, to a stressing of the techniques’ potential for a unique aesthetical expression. The 1970s is the golden age for this kind of work, which can be explained both by “anti-fashion”, the new ideology of art education in the schools and by a growing ideology of leisure time. Towards the end of the century the techniques for economising with textiles disappear from the books of needlework. Yet in the magazines there is still a certain interest in wardrobe planning and renewal of garments.

The full article is only available in Norwegian.

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.

Click here to read the full article (