Change Without Buying: An Application of Adaptable Design in Apparel

EPA Grant Number: SU834323
Title: Change Without Buying: An Application of Adaptable Design in Apparel
Investigators: Cao, Huantian , Chang, Rita , Kallal, Mary Jo , McCord, Jennifer , Shaw, Jenna , Starner, Heather
Current Investigators: Cao, Huantian , Chang, Rita , Kallal, Mary Jo , Malano, Grace , McCord, Jennifer , Shaw, Jenna , Starner, Heather
Institution: University of Delaware
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2010
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Excess consumption of apparel is driven by the apparel industry to offer more styles at lower prices in shorter time and the consumers’ desire to change fashion. Environmental problems such as pollution, hazardous waste, and natural resource depletion are related to excess apparel consumption. To address the excess apparel consumption problem and extend the lifespan of apparel products, we will implement adaptable design in apparel and demonstrate that adaptable apparel will meet consumers’ needs to change while reduce overall production and consumption. We will accomplish three objectives in this project: a) design and produce adaptable apparel by using environmentally friendly materials; b) evaluate the adaptability, consumers’ acceptance, and cost of our design and product; and c) revise the design based on evaluation results and develop educational tool.


In this project, the target users are female college students. We will start our adaptable design with the selection and evaluation of materials. The material selection criteria focus on the environmental impact during production, using and disposal. We will also test the strength of the fabrics to assure the durability of the fabrics meets the requirement of extended lifespan for the adaptable apparel. Ranging from practical to decorative, the adaptability features will include function adaptability, fit adaptability, and style adaptability. A human subject test will be conducted to evaluate extendibility of functions (function adaptability), upgradability of modules (style adaptability), and customizability of components (fit adaptability). A questionnaire survey and a focus group discussion with female college students will be conducted to evaluate consumers’ acceptance. We will estimate the total cost of the adaptable garment including material cost and the time needed for production, i.e., design, cutting and assembly. In accordance with the findings from the adaptability and acceptance evaluation, we will revise the design. This project will be used as educational tools at department, university, community and national levels. The project will be integrated into a required course for both Fashion Merchandising and Apparel Design majors as a case study unit. The student team will present this project in different university and community settings. Conference abstract and manuscript will be submitted for national dissemination.

Expected Results:

At the end of this project, we will have the demonstration package including description of all the environmentally friendly materials used in the design, the CAD file of the design pattern to be used by apparel industry and other designers, adaptable apparel prototype, and the evaluation results.

Supplemental Keywords:

material conservation, environmentally conscious manufacturing, inherently benign materials and chemicals, reuse,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report