Fashion, social media, and identity expression : an intersectional approach to understanding the fashion consumption patterns of black middle-class women
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The ability to freely express one’s identity through apparel is a staple of U.S. cultural freedom. The rise of social networking sites (SNSs) have increased these liberties, as fashion-related user-generated content has curtailed much of the influence of fashion industry powerhouses. This ability to freely use apparel to express identity, however, is not fully available to all Americans—particularly members of historically marginalized groups like black middle-class female consumers. In spite of this marginalization, these women have historically impacted popular fashion trends, frequently use SNSs to exchange fashion-related information, and have strong buying power. Despite their value, however, knowledge of their apparel-related consumption behaviors is limited. Using an intersectional theoretical approach guided by theories of black feminism and black respectability politics, this study utilized Photovoice and in-depth interview methods to explore the complex relationship between black middle-class female identity and apparel-related consumption. The four themes that emerged from this data (cultural double-standards and appearance, the respectability politics of fashion, within-group differences, and #BlackGirlMagic) provide valuable theoretical and practical insights, including increased evidence for the use of an intersectional approach in Consumer Culture Theory research, a proposed extension of the Model of Situational Ethnicity and Consumer Behavior, and suggestions for cultural-relevant marketing and advertising messages, both on and off-line.