Update: Research on Garment Workers in Southern China and Cambodia

Creating Self Identity Through Clothing Choices:

a study of female garment workers in Southern China and Cambodia


We all make choices about what we wear. These decisions may be subconscious but most often the decisions are intentional. Our clothing says something about who we are and where we come from. Clothing also indicates social class and occupation. Intentional decisions to craft identity through clothing are especially true in the context of leisure.

Migrant workers are a displaced subpopulation. Their move from rural to urban is a negotiation of many things, one of which is the transformation of identity. In the garment manufacturing industry young woman constitute over 70 percent of the work force. For most of these women their entrance into the industrial work force is a coming-of-age story, an opportunity to create an identity separate from their family and a way to assert independence. Clothing is the most obvious form of self-expression. Therefore the consumption of clothing is a legitimate context through which to look at identity.

Garment workers are immersed in their industry. What role does clothing play in their lives? What kinds of consumption habits do these women practice? How do young migrant women think about their identity in relation to their work? This study aims to investigate how identity and clothing consumption of garment workers might or might not connect.


—–The project is coming along really well. I have secured translators in both locations and am thrilled with the enthusiasm and support I’m receiving. The project summary above is drastically different form that of my last blog post but it is actually closer to my original proposal. The scope of the research is much more tangible for me.