ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (12): 2419-2440.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.02419

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles    

The influence of others and self-dressing style on consumer behavior: An interpretation based on regulatory focus theory

YAN Yan, LIU Wumei, WANG Xuefeng()   

  1. School of Management, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • Received:2023-01-25 Online:2023-12-15 Published:2023-09-11


Dressing is a material supplement to the body, including primary dressing (such as tops and pants) and extended dressing (such as jewelry and accessories). Compared to extended dressing, primary dressing covers a larger part of the body and has a greater impact on forming impressions on others and initiating self-concept. Within primary dressing, formal attire and casual attire are among the most significant classifications of dressing styles.

Existing literature has explored the influence of consumers' own formal attire (versus casual attire) on their cognition, emotions, and behavior from the perspectives of observers or wearers. These studies have examined the impact of individuals other than the consumer themselves, such as waiters, salespeople, advertising models, and other customers. While these studies have utilized various theoretical perspectives, such as social comparison theory, signaling theory, and clothing cognition theory, to explain the phenomenon and mechanisms of dressing style influencing consumer behavior, these theories have been introduced based on specific research purposes. As a result, the interpretation of the mechanisms underlying the influence of dressing style on consumer behavior remains fragmented, limiting the explanatory power of existing research conclusions. Specifically, it is difficult to provide a comprehensive theoretical perspective that explains when and how dressing style influences consumer behavior.

After reviewing existing empirical research on dressing style, we have identified a correlation between this topic and regulatory focus theory. Formal attire (versus casual attire) can lead to either a promotion-focused orientation (versus a prevention-focused orientation), resulting in promotion-focused response strategies (versus prevention-focused response strategies), or a prevention-focused orientation (versus a promotion-focused orientation), resulting in prevention-focused response strategies (versus promotion-focused response strategies) for consumers. The key question is: When does formal attire (versus casual attire) lead consumers to adopt promotion-focused strategies (versus prevention-focused strategies), and when does it lead them to adopt prevention-focused strategies (versus promotion-focused strategies)? What are the underlying mechanisms behind these differential responses? This study aims to answer these questions.

Therefore, this paper builds a model framework for the influence of dressing style (formal vs. casual) on consumer psychology and behavior based on regulatory focus theory. The main objective is to utilize regulatory focus theory to summarize consumer behavioral responses triggered by dressing style and to provide an integrated explanation of the mechanisms through which dressing style (formal attire vs. casual attire) influences consumer psychology and behavior within a single theoretical framework.

This study holds significant importance and necessity in the field of consumer behavior research on dressing. Its significance lies in the fact that it establishes a novel and integrative research framework based on regulatory focus theory, advancing existing theoretical research. The necessity can be explained as follows: Building on regulatory focus theory and adopting a dual-process perspective, this study introduces moderating variables to reconcile divergent findings in existing research. Previous studies on the influence of dressing style on individual behavior have mostly emphasized the positive effects of formal attire (versus casual attire) based on outcome valence. However, this study takes a motivational process perspective and highlights the bidirectional influence of formal attire (versus casual attire) on consumer behavior. This contributes to a deeper understanding of how dressing style affects consumer behavior in academia.This study compares the differential impact of others' formal attire (versus casual attire) and one's own formal attire (versus casual attire) on consumer behavior based on regulatory focus theory.

Specifically, this study found that from the observer's perspective, when others are dressed formally (versus casually), consumers exhibit promotion-focused responses through the motivation dimensions of gain focus, positive emotional experiences, and representation of aspirational goals. Consumers also show prevention-focused responses through the motivation dimensions of threat focus, negative emotional experiences, and cautious behavioral strategies. From the wearer's perspective, when consumers themselves are dressed formally (versus casually), they display promotion-focused responses through the motivation dimensions of ideal self-guidance, representation of aspirational goals, and positive emotional experiences. Consumers also exhibit prevention-focused responses through the motivation dimensions of responsibility self-guidance, moral requirements, and attention to negative outcomes. In these processes, variables such as self-construction, involvement, self-monitoring, and environmental norms play a moderating role by influencing the characteristics and states of regulatory focus.

Future research should continue to focus on the following topics: The interactive effects of dispositional and situational regulatory focus on consumer responses to dressing. Examining how individual differences in regulatory focus, along with contextual factors, influence consumer reactions to dressing style would provide valuable insights. Applying regulatory focus theory to explain the effects of other types of dressing on consumer behavior. Investigating how different dressing styles beyond formal and casual attire impact consumer behavior through the lens of regulatory focus theory would enhance our understanding of the broader implications of dressing. Identifying the moderating variables that determine whether dressing style leads to promotion-focused or prevention-focused consumer orientations. Exploring the factors that moderate the relationship between dressing style and consumer regulatory focus orientations would contribute to a more nuanced understanding of this dynamic. Exploring additional consequences of dressing style on consumer behavior. Investigating other potential outcomes or downstream effects of dressing style on consumer decision-making, attitudes, and perceptions would provide a comprehensive understanding of the influence of dressing on consumer behavior.By addressing these areas of inquiry, future research can further advance our knowledge of the complex relationship between dressing style and consumer behavior.

Key words: dress style, consumer behavior, regulatory focus theory

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