So the least I could do was hunt through the literature to see what academia has done about this. Unfortunately none of this turned up in the spot. Still, I can put it here.
Dress up, get better service in a fashion store. Perhaps a no-brainer. Today Tonight put together a one-shot TV experiment. Two nice women,dressed differently go into retail stores and get different levels of service. Switch them, dress one down and the other up, reverse the service levels.
I suppose I have some practical experience to draw on. Haven't we all worked retail before? In a menswear store in Prospect and older Italian guy straight from the produce market at 10am pulled out a pile of cash and peeled off notes after I'd spent an hour with him selecting some clothes.
But there are dozens of studies that have looked at it. The strongest argument comes from "social identity theory" - that people gravitate to those they are closest to. As a bit of an empiricist I like this little marketing letters study from 2000 - "Will You Help Me Please? The Effects of Race, Gender and Manner of Dress on Retail Service". The only problem - as with much research, mixed pictures.
To be honest, their results didn't strongly support a "dressing" effect - in fact the raw waiting times increased for a well dressed woman, and decreased for a well dressed man and that's a whole other (important) issue. This little study has a few weaknesses though, they had a whole bunch of extraneous variables - number of people in the store, how many registers were open etc.
As always, data can be recalcitrant. None of this picture - of course - made it to the "pretty woman" TT story, but that wasnt really their purpose. It was a fun story and im glad they asked me. And it fed the hungry beast for a while.
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