Rival Wears Prada: Luxury Consumption as a Female Intrasexual Competition Strategy

Publication Date: Thursday 10 April 2014
Author(s): Hudders, L.; De Backer, C.J.S.; Fisher, M. & Vyncke, P.
Appeared in: Monaco Symposium on Luxury


Previous studies on luxury consumption demonstrated that men spend large sums of money on luxury brands to signal their mate value to women, and thus, increase their reproductive success. Although women also spend copious amounts of money on luxuries, research focusing on women’s motives for luxury consumption is rather scarce. Relying on costly signaling and intrasexual competition theory, the goal of the current study was to test whether female intrasexual competition in a mate attraction context triggers women’s spending on luxuries. The results of the first experiment reveal that an intrasexual competition context enhances women’s preferences for attractiveness enhancing, but not for neutral luxuries. This finding indicates that women may use luxury consumption as a self-promotion strategy during within-sex competitions, as these luxuries improve their advantages against same-sex rivals for mates. A follow-up study shows that compared to women who do not consume luxuries, women who do so are perceived as more attractive, flirty, young, ambitious, sexy, and less loyal, mature and smart by other women. These results suggest that luxury consumption may provide information about a women’s willingness to engage in sex, as well as her views about other women, and consequently, her success in intrasexual competitions.

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