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Too new or too complex? Why consumers’ aesthetic sensitivity matters in apparel design evaluation

Christin Seifert (Department of Consumer and Design Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)
Veena Chattaraman (Department of Consumer Affairs, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the individual and joint effects of collative design factors, complexity and novelty, on aesthetic response to apparel products; and whether the influence of these factors is moderated by consumers’ centrality of visual product aesthetics (CVPA).


A mixed factorial experimental design, using women’s tops with design complexity and novelty (high vs low) manipulated orthogonally, was conducted among 260 female participants to test the model and its corresponding hypotheses.


Consumers’ aesthetic response was more positive for high than low complexity and novelty apparel designs. Further, when viewed in combination, high complexity + low novelty and low complexity + high novelty apparel designs were favored over high complexity + high novelty and low complexity + low novelty apparel designs, respectively. High CVPA consumers were more distinguishing than low CVPA consumers with respect to novelty in apparel designs.

Practical implications

This study suggests that firms need to be aware that complexity and novelty are crucial for consumers when judging apparel designs.


This study fills an important knowledge gap in the aesthetics literature by drawing on the processing fluency theory and Wundt curve and considering the joint effect of novelty and complexity, both critical determinants of a product’s marketplace success.



Seifert, C. and Chattaraman, V. (2017), "Too new or too complex? Why consumers’ aesthetic sensitivity matters in apparel design evaluation", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 262-276.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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