Objectification Theory contends that women self-objectify as a result of internalizing an observer’s perspective on their physical selves. Self-objectification has been examined as both a stable enduring trait and as a context dependent state. The present study aimed to assess the link between clothing, a neglected area of women’s appearance management, and self-objectification. Participants were 102 South Australian female undergraduate students who completed a questionnaire containing a trait measure of self-objectification, as well as four different scenarios varying in clothing worn and setting depicted, followed by state measures of self-objectification, negative mood, body shame, and body dissatisfaction. It was found that the scenarios involving revealing clothing (bathers) led to greater state self-objectification, body shame, body dissatisfaction and negative mood than the scenarios involving more modest clothing (sweater), especially for heavier women. In addition, the dressing room scenarios led to greater state self-objectification but less negative mood than the public scenarios. It was concluded that clothing represents an important contributor to the body and emotional experience of contemporary young women.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bell, B. T., Lawton, R., & Dittmar, H. (2007). The impact of thin models in music videos on adolescent girls’ body dissatisfaction. Body Image, 4, 137–145. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2007.02.003.
Breines, J. G., Crocker, J., & Garcia, J. A. (2008). Self-objectification and well-being in women’s daily lives. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 583–598. doi:10.1177/0146167207313727.
Calogero, R. M. (2004). A test of objectification theory: The effect of the male gaze on appearance concerns in college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28, 16–21. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2004.00118.x.
Cash, T. F., & Pruzinsky, T. (Eds.). (1990). Body images: Development, deviance and change. New York: Guilford.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.
Fredrickson, B. L., Roberts, T. A., Noll, S. M., Quinn, D. M., & Twenge, J. M. (1998). That swimsuit becomes you: Sex differences in self-objectification, restrained eating, and math performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 269–284. doi:10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2069.
Frith, H., & Gleeson, K. (2004). Clothing and embodiment: Men managing body image and appearance. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 5, 40–48. doi:10.1037/1524-9220.127.116.11.
Garrow, J. S., & Webster, B. S. (1985). Quetelet’s Index (W/H2) as a measure of fatness. International Journal of Obesity, 9, 147-153.
Harper, B. J., & Tiggemann, M. (2008). The effect of thin ideal media images on women’s self-obectification, mood, and body image. Sex Roles, 58, 649–657. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9379-x.
Heinberg, L. J., & Thompson, J. K. (1995). Body image and televised images of thinness and attractiveness: A controlled laboratory investigation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 14, 1–14. doi:10.1521/jscp.1918.104.22.1685.
Kwon, Y. H., & Parham, E. S. (1994). Effects of state of fatness perception on weight conscious women’s clothing practices. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 12, 16–21. doi:10.1177/0887302X9401200403.
Martins, Y., Tiggemann, M., & Kirkbride, A. (2007). Those Speedos become them: The role of self-objectification in gay and heterosexual men’s body image. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 634–647. doi:10.1177/0146167206297403.
McKinley, N. M. (1998). Gender differences in undergraduates’ body esteem: The mediating role of objectified body consciousness and actual/ideal weight discrepancy. Sex Roles, 39, 113–123. doi:10.1023/A:1018834001203.
McKinley, N. M., & Hyde, J. S. (1996). The objectified body consciousness scale: Development and validation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 20, 181–215. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1996.tb00467.x.
Moradi, B., Dirks, D., & Matteson, A. V. (2005). Roles of sexual objectification experiences and internalization of standards of beauty in eating disorder symptomatology: A test and extension of objectification theory. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52, 420–428. doi:10.1037/0022-022.214.171.1240.
Noll, S. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). A mediational model linking self-objectification, body shame and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 623–636. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1998.tb00181.x.
Prichard, I., & Tiggemann, M. (2005). Objectification in fitness centres: Self-objectification, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating in aerobic instructors and aerobic participants. Sex Roles, 53, 19–28. doi:10.1007/s11199-005-4270-0.
Roberts, T. A., & Gettman, J. Y. (2004). Mere exposure: Gender differences in the negative effects of priming a state of self-objectification. Sex Roles, 51, 17–27. doi:10.1023/B:SERS.0000032306.20462.22.
Rudd, N. A., & Lennon, S. J. (2000). Body image and appearance-management behaviors in college women. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 18, 152–162. doi:10.1177/0887302X0001800304.
Ruscher, J.B. (2009). Repeated measures multiple regression. Retrieved from http://www.tulane.edu/~PsycStat/ruscher/Psyc611/Psyc611.htm
Shafran, R., Lee, M., Payne, E., & Fairburn, C. G. (2007). An experimental analysis of body checking. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 113–121. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2006.01.015.
Slater, A., & Tiggemann, M. (2010). “Uncool to do sport”: A focus group study of adolescent girls’ reasons for withdrawing from physical activity. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, 619–626. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2010.07.006.
Smeets, E., Tiggemann, M., Kemps, E., Mills, J., Hollitt, S., Roefs, A., et al. (2011). Body checking induces an attentional bias for body-related cues. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 44, 50–57. doi:10.1002/eat.20776.
Swami, V., Frederick, D. A., Aavik, T., Alcalay, L., Allik, J., Anderson, D., et al. (2010). The attractive female body weight and female body dissatisfaction in 26 countries across 10 world regions: Results of the International Body Project I. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 309–325. doi:10.1177/0146167209359702.
Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (1996). Using multivariate statistics. New York: Harper Collins.
Tiggemann, M. (2001). Person x situation interactions in body dissatisfaction. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 29, 65–70. doi:10.1002/1098-108X(200101)29:1<65::AID-EAT10>3.0.CO;2-Y.
Tiggemann, M., & Slater, A. (2001). A test of objectification theory in former dancers and non-dancers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 25, 57–64. doi:10.1111/1471-6402.00007.
Tiggemann, M., & Kuring, J. K. (2004). The role of body objectification in disordered eating and depressed mood. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 43, 299–311. doi:10.1348/0144665031752925.
Tiggemann, M., & Boundy, M. (2008). Effect of environment and appearance compliment on college women’s self-objectification, mood, body shame, and cognitive performance. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 399–405. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00453.x.
Tiggemann, M., & Lacey, C. (2009). Shopping for clothes: Body satisfaction, appearance investment and clothing selection in female shoppers. Body Image, 6, 285–291. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2009.07.002.
Tylka, T. L., & Hill, S. (2004). Objectification theory as it relates to disordered eating among college women. Sex Roles, 51, 719–730. doi:10.1007/s11199-004-0721-2.
About this article
Cite this article
Tiggemann, M., Andrew, R. Clothes Make a Difference: The Role of Self-Objectification. Sex Roles 66, 646–654 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0085-3
- Objectification theory
- Body shame
- Body dissatisfaction