An exploration into aesthetics and comfort of dress shoes for working Australian women

Brindley-Mills, S 2018, An exploration into aesthetics and comfort of dress shoes for working Australian women, Masters by Research, Fashion and Textiles, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title An exploration into aesthetics and comfort of dress shoes for working Australian women
Author(s) Brindley-Mills, S
Year 2018
Abstract The majority of ready-to-wear shoes available in Australia are currently made in South-East Asian countries, mimicking current fashion styles, but compromising on quality to reduce cost for the Western market. It can be a challenge for women to purchase a suitable pair of dress shoes that is visually pleasing, functional and appropriate for a work environment. This research project investigated the availability of suitable dress footwear for working women within the Australian market.

There are plenty of visually appealing shoes available on the Australian retail market and online, although if the shoe is not also comfortable, it may cause harm to feet. It is generally accepted that good fitting footwear with a medium heel height will minimise harm to the foot and discomfort to the wearer, but working women still predominantly select footwear based on aesthetic appearance, influencing footwear design. Comfort and practicality are not necessarily considered as high a priority, yet adverse pathologies become increasingly apparent during prolonged wear.

A survey was undertaken to determine the criteria by which Australian women select shoes, on the understanding that this selection was from the current range of footwear available. The survey results suggested that women had problems purchasing the correct size shoes for their feet and had problems with fit, while some women had problems purchasing the appropriate style of shoe for their requirements. Appearance and colour were the primary selection criteria, while comfort, fit, quality and price were considered less important by the women surveyed. In the results of the foot scanning study there was variability in women’s feet in terms of length and width, even though they all considered themselves a size 38.

It was noticeable that there was also variability in women’s foot sizes and in shoe dimensions for any particular shoe size, which contributed to discomfort when wearing shoes. To investigate these concerns, a selection of Australian women (n=15), within the specified 30 to 60 age group and with the same shoe size (38), were enrolled into a scanning study. Each woman had her feet scanned to measure length, height, width, circumference and angle for both left and right feet. Since many of these women had purchased cheaper but aesthetically-pleasing shoes imported from China, manufacturers from this country were also selected when purchasing six pairs of size 38 shoes. The inner dimensions (i.e. shoe size) of these shoes were then measured by inserting silicone rubber into the left shoe of each pair and then scanning this cast (once set) in the same way as the women’s feet above. The 3D scanning measurements for the feet and shoe casts were then compared, with the results indicating that shoes made in China were narrower in width and had a smaller ball girth circumference than the scanned feet. It was apparent that women considered a number of factors before purchasing shoes for work, but the priority and relevance of these factors was not clear. To investigate and elucidate the potential concerns faced by woman when purchasing shoes, a focus group of Australian working women (n=8), within the specified age group, was enrolled in a co-design study. This co-design workshop invited a collaboration of ideas from the focus group participants, to share their personal experiences, thoughts and preferences in shoe design. During the workshop the participants developed concept ideas through group discussion of their own individual criteria for purchasing shoes, experiences, comfort and visual appeal preferences, to create versions of more desirable dress shoes. The focus group developed three different shoe design styles that they believed would be improved shoe designs options for the working woman as the outcome from the co-design workshop. The shoe designs were then manufactured in China to create prototypes for product testing and feedback. It was evident from the outcomes in this study that currently-available dress shoes in the Australian retail market were inadequate to address the requirements of fit and aesthetics for the workplace. Women have expressed concern about the challenges of buying a pair of shoes that meets their criteria of comfort and suitable heel height and are suitable for walking and standing in a work environment. This is partly related to the fact that shoes that are available are inconsistent and variable from their stated size, in terms of shorter length, being narrower in width and having a smaller ball girth circumference. A significant concern to working women was also that choice was limited by the availability of footwear. This thesis has also demonstrated the value of a co-design study to determine what is more desirable in dress shoes. Application of these findings can be useful to retailers, designers, manufacturers, importers and working women towards ensuring that comfortable and aesthetic shoes are available in the Australian market.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Fashion and Textiles
Subjects Textile and Fashion Design
Keyword(s) footwear
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Created: Wed, 19 Sep 2018, 16:19:25 EST by Keely Chapman
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