Fashion and Ageing
Katherine Townsend (Nottingham Trent University)
Anthony Kent (Nottingham Trent University)
Duration of project
2021 - present
The ageing population has become a significant topic in the contemporary research agenda. The post-industrial economy of improved health care, leisure and bio-medical technologies has affected both the biological and social spheres of ageing, producing new challenges for individuals, policy makers and associated industries, including fashion. The need to better cater to older individuals’ needs and expectations is the focus of Ania Sadkowska’s resesearch.
Ania applies user-centered and co-design approaches to fashion design for older adults (55+). Referred to as the ‘baby boomers’ this generation are the product of the cultural revolution of the 1960s, who consequently have a strong sense of their own ‘agency’, as conveyed through their clothing and style, but now find themselves stepping into the unknown territory of a limited market. The majority of fashion brands and stores are aimed at younger consumers, and with some exceptions, it is only high and niche designer labels who are offering stylish garments that complement the changing bodies of an older generation women with strong aesthetic values.
In response to this situation Ania and collaborators have developed an original research methodology which synthesizes fashion and textile design practices with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), resulting in an holistic, co-design and user-centred approach that responds to the emotional and physical needs of an ageing demographic.
Participatory, practice-based research has been undertaken with older women (age 55-75), to explore how their embodied clothing knowledge could inform a more inclusive and sustainable fashion methodology. The methodology involved a simultaneous approach to designing textiles and garments in relation to body shape, creative low waste pattern cutting, underpinned by phenomenological analysis of individuals lived experiences of fashion undertaken by Sadkowska. Semi-structured interviews, co-creative workshops, fitting sessions and collaborative photoshoots were undertaken. As a result they co-created over 30 prototypes comprising different silhouettes and fabrications for mature women. A short film, ‘Emotional Fit’, was co-produced to inform and capture the research-through-making process.
Building upon this work they have developed a new small-scale business model based on facilitating in-depth understanding and responding to mature female consumers’ needs and expectations towards fashionable clothing.
Ania has also explored how older British men have experienced fashion and clothing throughout their lives, and how they negotiate their ageing identities through those mediums. A series of three fashion artefacts (pictured below) were created in response to empirical data gathered via in-depth interviews and personal inventories with the study participants. The making processes of the Mirroring, Dis-Comforting, and Peacocking suit jackets, involved de-construction of a series of second-hand garments, a scenario-based reflective performance, visiting clothing archives, and various practical experimentations. “Making,” as a means of embodied, visual enquiry became an analytical tool that afforded the advanced insights into older men’s lived experiences.
Ania’s research in this area has been widely disseminated via conferences and exhibitions including Research through Design 2017, Crafting Anatomies, Bonington Gallery, Nottingham; and 2016 End of Fashion, Wellington, New Zealand and through articles for The Conversation.
Her practice has been shared through the Fashion Salon event in association with Fashion Revolution Week, and the the Emotional Fit film was presented at the Women’s Over Fifty Film Festival in 2017 and 2018, and shortlisted at Best of the Fest, HOME, Manchester in 2019.
The emerging researach approaches have been applied through a series of creative practical workshops delivered to BA Fashion students and BA International Fashion Business students, resulting in design work being exhibited in Kew Gardens, London, UK.
- Sadkowska, A. (2020). Pioneering, Nonconforming, and Rematerializing. Crafting Anatomies: Archives, Dialogues, Fabrications, 67
- Townsend, K., & Sadkowska, A. (2020). Re-Making fashion experience: A model for ‘participatory research through clothing design’. Journal of Arts & Communities, 11(1-2), 13-33.
- Townsend, K., Kent, A., & Sadkowska, A. (2019). Fashioning clothing with and for mature women: a small-scale sustainable design business model. Management Decision, 57(1), 3-20. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-12-2016-0942
- Sadkowska, A., & Townsend, K. (2018, April). Older Men’s Experiences of Fashion and Clothing: Mirroring, Peacocking and Dis-comforting. In 20th Annual Conference for the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes (pp. 319-329). Donghua University, Shanghai, China.
- Townsend, K., Sissons, J., & Sadkowska, A. (2017). Emotional Fit: Developing a new fashion methodology with older women. Clothing Cultures, 4(3), 235-251.
- Townsend, K., & Sadkowska, A. (2017). Textiles as material Gestalt: Cloth as a catalyst in the co-designing process. Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice, 5(2), 208-231.
- Sadkowska, A., Townsend, K., Fisher, T., & Wilde, D. (2017). (Dis-) engaged older men? Hegemonic masculinity, fashion and ageing. Clothing Cultures, 4(3), 185-201.
- Sadkowska, A. (2017). Making and writing; writing and making: Co-constructing experiential knowledge in and through'doing'fashion. In Proceedings of the 3rd Biennial Research Through Design Conference (pp. 469-485). figshare.
- Sadkowska, A., Wilde, D., & Fisher, T. (2015). Third age men’s experience of fashion and clothing: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2(1), 33-68.