An Ethnographic Study of Collaborative Fashion Consumption: The Case of Temporary Clothing Swapping

Elena E. Karpova, Iva Jestratijevic, Juyoung Lee, Juanjuan Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This is the first research that has examined temporary swapping, a form of collaborative fashion consumption, that involves clothing exchange between two people that does not require the transfer of product ownership or monetary compensation. In this ethnographic study, we explored benefits, risks, and the meanings constructed by eight women before, during, and after exchanging parts of their wardrobes with a swap partner. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was used to organize the results of interpretation of participant diaries with photographs of swapped garments and created outfits over a six-month period. While the swapping experience addressed basic physiological needs and secured free resources (more clothing to wear) for all participants, the more advanced psychological (social, self-esteem) and personal growth needs (self-actualization, transcendence) were met for only some of them. Similarly, women perceived different risks (safety and self-esteem risks). Through a holistic interpretation of the results, we discovered two critical factors determining overall temporary swapping satisfaction and success: (1) closeness of the relationship between the swap partners and (2) participant love for clothes. Temporary swapping might play a critical role in the fashion marketplace transition to sustainable consumption practices because it provides a middle ground between product ownership and non-ownership and thus facilitates gradual dematerialization of consumer lifestyle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2499
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are very grateful to their swapping partners who agreed to participate in the study, shared parts of their wardrobes, answered many questions before and after the temporary swap, and diligently kept journals of their swapping experiences and took images of created outfits using swapped garments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Alternative clothing consumption
  • Collaborative consumption
  • Ethnographic
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  • Ownership transfer
  • Swapping


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