A Fashionable Pair of Blinders

What we buy and where we shop are two very personal considerations in consumer spending habits. We are constantly targeted through smart and enticing marketing tactics to create a sense of ease for shopping across multiple platforms with reckless abandon. What you spend your money on can be influenced by your personality, mood, economic circumstance, or personal connection to a brand. Marketing strategists consider all of these factors when it comes to how one might interact with their wares.

My thesis topic explores the historical evolution and development of consumer practices: how demand and desire, power and influence, and psychological factors have impacted our purchasing habits and trends. I pose these questions: How much control does a consumer have when it comes to the decisions they make about the objects they choose to acquire? How much do marketing tactics, societal influence, emotion, mythology, and personal history dictate the way we engage in the consumer market? I have chosen to study this topic because my consumer behavior is one that is fraught with anomalies that often leave me wondering, “why did I buy that?” In order to come to terms with the reality of my own consumption, I have analyzed my spending habits, so that I might have a better understanding of how to be a more conscientious consumer in the future.

Through personal narrative, I explore topics that will be familiar to most consumers, such as impulse-buying, product placement in media, planned obsolescence, and fast fashion. Additionally, I seek to gain some insight into how my consumption habits can affect the rest of the world, such as the production of goods through cheap labor and the questionable human rights issues that surround it. My hope is that by studying these topics, I will gain more insight into how much of my consumer behavior is affected by outside influence, to point out some of the problematic tactics that are used along the way, and to make more informed spending decisions in the future.

Laura M. Young

Thesis advisor:
Ian Lynam

Alongside my in depth study of consumerism and why we buy, I began tracking my own purchase history. I wanted to learn what my spending said about me as a consumer and how frequently I would make non-essential purchases. For six months I reviewed my purchases and then documented them in the form of digital drawings.