Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rational Decision Making

I'm a nerd, so I love when what I am learning in school applies to something I am doing outside of school.  In my English Lit class last year, I had a tendency to remember the approximate time spans of various writing styles (Metaphysical, Neoclassical, Romantic, etc.) by the era's approximate corresponding style of clothing (17th century/Baroque/Jacobean, 18th century/Georgian, Regency, etc -- as I said, approximate).  So, I was understandably inordinately excited when I realized that I could apply the principles of rational decision making that I learned about first semester in Economics to help me come to a decision about crinolines.

I recently had to make a decision of what kind of hoop skirt I want for my 1860s underwear set that I'm making in my Foundations of Apparel class.  (Recap time: my school has allowed me to design my own class in garment history, in which I will be making the foundational garments of a young, educated woman during the Elizabethan period and the American Civil War.  It's awesome.)

I had a few options: I could draft my own crinoline using basic mathematical principles (which I would probably botch by making it overcomplicated and finding the volume of the hoopskirt oops I just mathed: it's approximately 42 inches to my waist from the ground, but hoopskirts don't go all the way to the ground, so I'm putting the y-intercept at 32 inches.  I found the x-intercept by using C=2πr and finding r when C=120 (the circumference of the lowest hoop) gives us x=60/π.  Then plugged the coordinate (60/π, 0) into the equation y=-(x^2)(n) + 32, and find the constant n, which is n=(2π^2)/225, so the curve of the hoopskirt is y=-(2π^2*x^2)/225+32.  The volume is then 2π∫ ((x)(-(2π^2*x^2)/225+32), x, 0, 60/π) = 18,334.649 cubic inches, or 10.610 cubic feet.  Whoa.  Sorry, what was I talking about again?), buy a pattern from any number of companies, or buy a kit.  After reviewing the different options available and comparing them to original crinolines and pictures from the era, I decided on the Wooded Hamlet Crinoline Kit.

Those of you familiar with the kit are wondering: of all the options, why did Adi choose what is arguably the most expensive one and the one for which general consensus says is the hardest to assemble?

The answer is rational decision making.

I compared the costs of each option versus how much I liked the option (based on its quality and historical accuracy) versus how much I was willing to pay for the option (based on how much I liked it).  Economics says to choose the option with the greatest marginal benefit when the marginal cost is subtracted: in other words, choose the option that has the greatest positive "how much I am willing to pay" minus "how much it costs."

For me, that ended up being the Wooded Hamlet kit because I value historical accuracy a lot.  A lot a lot.  Beaucoup.

Cage crinoline, 1860s, at the Met

Cage Crinoline, ca. 1862, at the Met. 

Cage crinoline, 1862, at the Met.  

Cage Crinoline by the Royal Worcester Corset Company, 1862-62, at the Met.

Crinoline, ca. 1860, at the Met
Obviously, the choice going to be different for everyone based on their tastes and their finances.  And it helps that my parents are generous.  

So now I'm off to assemble the kit.

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