Think eco, be eco? the tension between attitudes and behaviours of millennial fashion consumers

Hannah Mary Cairns, Elaine L. Ritch*, Claire Bereziat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This research examines the tensions experienced by millennials between their desire to purchase fast-fashion and their growing concern for sustainability. The ethical and sustainable consumption literature has long recognised this misalignment of value, often referred to as an attitude-behaviour gap. While previous research has explored the reasons behind the attitude-behaviour gap and the rationales constructed by consumers to alleviate any associated tensions between mismatched values, this has not been framed within Festinger’s Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, particularly for fashion acquisition. This seems somewhat remiss, especially given that Festinger’s Theory of Cognitive Dissonance has been successfully applied in other consumption contexts and has offered commercial and social marketing opportunities for marketing activity development. The research utilises Festinger’s Theory of Cognitive Dissonance on qualitative data collected from 38 millennial participants living in Scotland. Adopting an interpretive approach, a semi-structured interview template was administered online and data were analysed thematically, revealing that an infusion of eco-fashion awareness was filtering into millennials’ consciousness. While the millennials reported feelings of cognitive dissonance when purchasing fast-fashion such as ‘irritation’ and ‘guilt’, unlike previous research, here they did not attempt to justify their behaviour in order to resolve their feelings of dissonance. Rather, the participants perceived this as an opportunity to reaffirm their preferences for sustainability for future consumption practice. Limitations include the small sample; nevertheless, the data contribute to the overall understanding of millennial eco-fashion consumption, the attitude-behaviour gap and the occurrence and resolutions of cognitive dissonance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1262-1277
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
Issue number4
Early online date18 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • action perception
  • cognitive dissonance
  • eco-fashion
  • fashion consumption
  • resolution of dissonance
  • attitude-behaviour gap
  • self-concept
  • belief
  • feelings of inconsistency
  • self-congruence
  • sustainable consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Think eco, be eco? the tension between attitudes and behaviours of millennial fashion consumers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this