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Clothes Make a Difference: The Role of Self-Objectification


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.

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Correspondence to Marika Tiggemann.

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Tiggemann, M., Andrew, R. Clothes Make a Difference: The Role of Self-Objectification. Sex Roles 66, 646–654 (2012).

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  • Self-objectification
  • Clothing
  • Objectification theory
  • Body shame
  • Body dissatisfaction