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CLOTHING BEHAVIOR, BODY CATHEXIS, AND APPEARANCE MANAGEMENT OF WOMEN
ENROLLED IN A COMMERCIAL WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM
by
Tammy Renee’ Robinson
Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
in
Clothing and Textiles
Committee Members:
Valerie L. Giddings, Chair
Carol A. Bailey
Doris H. Kincade
Robert S. Schulman
Sherry Schofield-Tomschin
July 28, 2003
Blacksburg, Virginia
Key Words: clothing behavior, body cathexis, weight loss
Copyright

2003 by Tammy R. Robinson
CLOTHING BEHAVIOR, BODY CATHEXIS, AND APPEARANCE MANAGEMENT OF WOMEN
ENROLLED IN A COMMERICAL WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM
by
Tammy Renee' Robinson
(ABSTRACT)
The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between appearance
management, created appearance, body cathexis, and clothing behavior for a group of women
enrolled in a commercial weight loss program. Subjects were 171 females enrolled in Weight
Watchers

programs in Christiansburg, Virginia. No previous research had investigated clothing
behavior, appearance management, created appearance, and body cathexis of women in a
weight loss program. Because clothing is such an integral part of the self, it was important to
examine the influences and contributions of this variable to weight loss.
The proposed research model hypothesized that the following variables would be
related: appearance management and created appearance, created appearance and body
cathexis, body cathexis and current clothing behavior, and created appearance and current
clothing behavior. Other hypotheses tested the relationships between current clothing behavior
and prior clothing and between demographics and the following variables: appearance
management, created appearance, body cathexis, and current clothing behavior.
Results indicated that a greater percentage of weight loss was related to a higher
average body cathexis score. Respondents wore clothing that emphasized body parts with
which they were more satisfied, and wore clothing that did not emphasize body parts with which
they were less satisfied. Results indicated that after weight loss, respondents wore clothing that
would emphasize their body with more frequency and also wore clothing that would hide or
camouflage their body with less frequency. Current clothing behavior also seemed to be
influenced by age and marital status.
Findings from the present study provide new information about how women choose
clothing based on the level of satisfaction with their bodies and where they have experienced a
weight loss. The findings also provide information about the types and styles of clothing that
women choose as a result of losing weight. Women in weight loss programs can use clothing to
enhance their appearance and improve their body image. By increasing body satisfaction and
feeling better about their bodies as they are going through the weight loss program, they may be
more likely to continue with their efforts and be more successful in their weight loss.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The researcher wishes to thank:
Dr. Valerie Giddings, Dr. Doris Kincade, Dr. Carol Bailey, Dr. Sherry Schofield-Tomschin, and
Dr. Robert Schulman, committee members, for their advice, encouragement, and most of all,
their patience throughout the research process.
A special thanks to Dr. Schulman, for his knowledge of statistics and invaluable help during the
data analysis.
The staff and members of Weight Watchers

for their assistance during the data collection
process.
Jennifer, Bernie, Tom, and Dave, for their advice and friendship.
My family, for their encouragement and support.
My husband, Vince, for being so supportive and so patient throughout the entire process, and
for his many hours of help in the computer lab.
iii
DEDICATION
To my parents, Tom and Barbara Allen, for their love, encouragement, and support.
iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER PAGE
ABSTRACT................................................................................................................................... ii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .............................................................................................................iii
DEDICATION............................................................................................................................... iv
LIST OF FIGURES .....................................................................................................................viii
LIST OF TABLES......................................................................................................................... ix
CHAPTER I – INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................... 1
Background Information .................................................................................................... 1
The thin cultural ideal ............................................................................................ 1
Appearance management ..................................................................................... 2
Dieting and weight loss ......................................................................................... 2
Use of clothing....................................................................................................... 3
Summary ............................................................................................................... 3
Key Concepts.................................................................................................................... 4
Conceptual Framework ..................................................................................................... 6
Social Comparison Theory .................................................................................... 6
Social Identity Theory ............................................................................................ 6
Appearance Management Theory ......................................................................... 7
Rudd and Lennon Model ....................................................................................... 7
Proposed Research Model................................................................................................ 9
Definitions ....................................................................................................................... 12
CHAPTER II – REVIEW OF LITERATURE ................................................................................ 14
Body Image ..................................................................................................................... 14
Measures of Body Image ................................................................................................ 15
Body Cathexis ................................................................................................................. 17
Gender Differences and Body Image .............................................................................. 18
Women and Body Image................................................................................................. 20
Perceived Weight and Body Image ................................................................................. 22
Weight Loss and Body Image ......................................................................................... 23
Weight loss and distorted body images............................................................... 24
Clothing and Body Image ................................................................................................ 25
Satisfaction with clothing and body cathexis ....................................................... 26
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