'I feel like a real fashionista!': A sense of distinction amongst middle-class women working in luxury-retail

Bryan Boyle, Kobe De Keere

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper


Aesthetic labour scholars have rightly deployed Bourdieusian concepts in understanding how styles of service encounters are tied to social class. However, this discussion has been limited by focussing only on how employers recruit middle-class dispositions. We explore the continued significance of distinction mechanisms, post-entry and on-the-job, by looking at how classifications of legitimate taste shape worker performance. We do so by looking at lower-middle class women working in luxury retail stores; a case we consider insightful given the distance between these workers, positioned in the halfway region of social space, and their customers, positioned in the economically-dominant. The 18 participants were recruited and interviewed in Amsterdam's luxury shopping districts. We found that: 1) workers constructed their labour as distinct from that of more 'popular' fashion stores; 2) workers adopted their company's fashion taste during their tenure, which was simultaneously viewed as an acquisition of a higher taste; 3) the latter process was aided by purchases via employee discount, the availability of which triggered workers' efforts to emulate their upper-class customers; and 4) embodying the company's fashion on the shop floor to aid selling, a bodywork practice self-described as 'walking advertisements', was viewed as fundamental to the fulfilment of their role. Despite the workers' feelings of elevation and fulfilment, the instances of allodoxia that emerged from analysis lead to a more critical conclusion: distinction as complimentary to exploitative labour extraction. In this sense, the article also tests dialogues between relational-centred and exploitation-centred models of class.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBSA Bourdieu Study Group's 2nd Biennial International Conference 2018
Place of PublicationLancaster University
Number of pages0
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Event BSA Bourdieu Study Group 2nd Biennial International Conference 2018: : Reproduction and Resistance - Lancaster University, Lancaster
Duration: 10 Jul 201812 Jul 2018


Conference BSA Bourdieu Study Group 2nd Biennial International Conference 2018


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