March 20, 2011

Results of the DIY fashion survey

After promising this a long time ago, here are finally the results of my DIY fashion survey I conducted for my master thesis. Thanks again to everybody who participated. Please be kind concerning mistakes and remember that I'm not a native English speaker. If you would like to know more about the survey or the master thesis in general, don't hesitate to contact me. I cited several comments of participants throughout the thesis because they expressed exactly what I wanted to say. Enjoy! 

“When my mother was a young girl it was frowned upon to make your own clothes. It was the poor who made their own clothes if they could not afford to purchase them at the store. Yet, nowadays, people who are creative and sew their own clothing are considered to be an artist of a sort. I wonder what the world will think of people who sew fifty years from now.”

Comment of a Participant of the Do It Yourself Survey

Demographic analysis:

Altogether the survey received 264 answers with participants coming from 33 different countries. Not surprisingly, the respondents consisted to 98 percent of females. The allocation of countries of participants indicated that most carrying out DIY are from English speaking countries with the U.S. as predecessor. This can be explained through the fact that those sites connecting the DIY community on the Internet are in English and thus the diffusion of DIY first took place in the English speaking world. The pioneering role of the U.S. coincides with the evidence that the development of the new DIY movement took its beginnings there. Due to the position of the U.S. in this movement, figures from the U.S. market will be used in order to compare the behavior of DIYers with those of regular consumers.

Home countries of participants

When regarding the age of DIYers, it turns out that the majority (37 percent) of DIYers is between 26 and 35 years old. The other significant age groups are 36 to 45 year olds with 19 percent, and 21 to 25 year olds as well as 46 to 55 year olds with 16 percent each. Of those participating, 58 percent are married, 38 percent single, with the last four percent being either divorced or widowed. More than half of them do not have any children, 16 percent each have one or two children, nine percent more than three and the nine percent left having more than three children.

The examination of the employment status demonstrates that most DIYers are employed full time and thus can only embark in DIY fashion during their free time after work and during weekends. The group of fully employed DIYers is followed by students and homemakers. It is not unexpected that students make up a significant group of DIYers as they usually have a very limited budget, but are susceptible to peer pressure in such a way that they want to be well dressed and always up-to-date. Homemakers share a similar fate in that their budget is usually limited. In contrast to the previous groups, they can carry out crafts during the day while taking care of the household and children.

Employment status of participants

The majority (23 percent) of DIYers has an annual combined household gross income in between US$ 50,000 and US$ 79,999. This is followed by 17 percent that earn less than US$ 20,000. When the average number of household inhabitants is taken into account, the major per capita income ranges between US$ 17,361 and US$ 27,777, way below the estimated per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S. of US$ 46,400.(Source: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html)
Considering the per capita GDP, only 14 percent of DIYers earn at least the estimated GDP or even more.
Analysis of DIY behavior:

When examining the DIY behavior of participants, it becomes apparent that many have already been creating their own fashion before DIY’s resurgence during the early 1990s. A large number of people also started to create their own clothing not too long ago, from less than one year up to two years of activity.


No. of years participants have been creating their own clothing

When asked how they got started creating their own clothing, most still named the stimulus of a family member. Nevertheless, 35 percent and thereby the second highest percentage rate indicates that many are starting DIY nowadays out of own interest. The third highest mention attributed to the Internet underlines the importance of the role digitalization plays in the new handmade. However, home economics courses in school only have a minor influence on today’s DIY movement in contrast to former times, with a nomination rate of two percent.

Further investigation uncovered that the majority of DIYers (34 percent) create between five to ten pieces of clothing each year. The subsequent mentions are 1 to 4 pieces with 23 percent and more than ten pieces with 21 percent. Two percent of participants even create their whole wardrobe themselves and do not purchase any clothing in stores. Those numbers might not seem significant, but when compared to 48 (Source: National Geographic Documentation "The Human Footprint"), the number of clothing items that the average American purchases each year, it becomes apparent that most DIYers create between one tenth to one fifth of their new clothing themselves.

The main reasons cited for conducting DIY fashion are in hierarchical order:

1. To live out my creativity 62%

2. To modify clothing according to my wishes 51%

3. To create fashion that I cannot find in stores 49%

4. To express my individuality 46%

5. To wear clothing that nobody else has 44%

6. To wear clothing that fits perfectly 43%

7. To save money 31%

8. To be frugal during the current economic downturn 28%

9. To be independent from current fashion trends 27%

10. To counteract the environmental pollution of mass-production 26%

The above list makes it obvious that the main reasons for carrying out DIY fashion are the yearning to be creative and to tailor clothing to one’s wishes. This demonstrates the participants’ desire to be individual and wear clothing that fits perfectly their needs as well as their bodies. The next set of reasons expresses the aspiration of creating fashion oneself in order to save money in difficult economic times. After the economic motives, a longing for sustainability is stated through the following reasons. Surprisingly, the aim to be always dressed in the latest fashion belongs to the least named reasons. The belonging to a subculture is also part of the least cited reasons for creating DIY fashion, which underlines the exclusivity of subcultures.

The importance of the Internet can be seen in the fact that 41 percent of survey partakers spend between one to two hours a day online in regard to fashion. Another 39 percent are online less than one hour daily, while 16 percent spends more than two hours online each day concerning fashion. Only two percent do not explore the Web in relation to fashion. Altogether 233 participants, or 88 percent, belonged to at least one online community. In the course of the survey, participants named 38 different DIY online communities they belong to. The following online communities were most named:

1. BurdaStyle (172 times)
2. Pattern Review (80 times)
3. Wardrobe Refashion (73 times)
4. Crafster.org (69 times)
5. Ravelry (58 times)

The selection of online communities indicates that DIYers are interested in different crafting techniques, as well as different aspects of DIY. The main reason why participants are part of an online DIY community is the inspiration they can obtain from these communities. The following motives are the desire to find free patterns and tutorials, to learn new crafting techniques, and to receive tips. For around one quarter of participants the need to find persons with same interests and the desire to be part of a community are also essential. The urge to present their self-made clothing and to find new friends is of lesser importance to DIYers.

Analysis of purchasing behavior:

When asked about their purchasing patterns, most participants (30 percent) declared that they only buy clothing every two to three months. This statement was closely followed by once a month (22 percent), every two to three weeks (22 percent), and every four to six months (19 percent). These numbers are less than the average 2.9 times an average American goes shopping in shopping centers each month. 97 percent of DIYers claim that they purchase less clothing than the annual average of 48 items. Only three percent of participants buy as many or even more items as the average.


No. of clothing items participants purchase annually

The responses to the question “where they usually buy fashion” signify that DIYers foremost buy clothing in stores for worn clothing. Most named were thrift or charity stores, followed by second-hand or consignment stores, and flea markets/yard sales. The purchasing of used clothing can be carried out for reasons of frugality, as well as sustainability since the purchasing of second-hand clothing rescues it from the landfill. The next preferred stores are outlet and discount stores that sell branded clothing at lower prices. These are followed by high street chain stores and department stores which usually offer clothing at low prices. Then participants shop in online stores, specialty or brand stores, and eBay. The least preferred stores of participants are small independent boutiques, marketplaces for handmade goods and vintage stores, although these stores would support DIYers motive of individuality the most.

When asked to name their favorite stores, 48 participants named a thrift store, such as Oxfam, Salvation Army or Goodwill, as their favorite store. The next most named store (43 times) was Target, the second largest discount retailer in the U.S., followed by 39 mentions of H & M, the high street chain store known for its cheap fashion. The next most mentioned stores were GAP (18 times), Old Navy (17 times), Wal-Mart (16 times), Kohl’s (16 times), and Zara (15 times). Of those named the most, only GAP operates within the medium price range, all others are positioned in the lower price range. The price consciousness of participants can also be seen in the prices they would pay for a T-shirt or a pair of jeans. The amount of money they would spend on a T-shirt ranges from US$ 1 to US$ 55 with an average of US$ 17.17. For a pair of jeans participants would pay in average US$ 49.37 with answers ranging from US$ 3 to US$ 200. These average prices are above the lowest priced garments available but still below the prices of branded goods.

Participants named the perfect fit of garments as their most important factor when buying clothes, followed by good workmanship and high quality. The next factor which they consider to be important is low price, which stands in stark contrast to the subsequently mentioned factors of natural material, sustainability of product and manufactured in home country. For the survey participants it is of lesser importance that the product is made from organic materials. A recognized brand name is the least important factor for those partaking. In additional comments several stated that they consider how the product was produced, meaning its ecology and ethicalness, and who they support by buying it. However, as one participant affirmed, even though they would like to buy more responsibly, they cannot afford to do so.

When asked what they would change about store-bought fashion, the majority of participants (23 percent) chose a better quality of garments. This statement is followed by a desire for more garments manufactured in home country (13 percent) and less mass-produced garments (12 percent). Those wishes again stand out against a want of lower prices expressed by 12 percent of participants. The next points participants would like to change, are a higher versatility of garments (11 percent) and a larger size range (9 percent), which they specified in the comments as suitable for large busted and petite women, and as consistent sizing. Many also favor a larger offer of sustainable garments (9 percent) and a larger offer of garments made from organic materials (8 percent). Concerning those points, a clearly stated anti-sweatshop policy seems to be of particular importance as it was mentioned by several in the comments. A higher offer of mass customization is of negligible importance to participants (2 percent). In the comments section, several participants declared that they would like to see a larger offer of basics which can be worn for a longer time in contrast to fashionable, seasonable items. Some also pointed out that they miss stylish clothing that is targeted at older customers.