Thesis Title

Effect of Clothing Size on Women's Body Image, Self-Esteem and Mood


Sonal Patel

Date of Graduation

Spring 2005


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

Brooke Whisenhunt


Women’s pant sizes are not consistently based on standard waist and inseam measurements, and the numbers indicating size may be unpredictable and changing. The current research poses the following two questions: 1) Is pant size arbitrary for women? 2) If so, do such arbitrary markers have an impact on self-esteem, body image, and mood in women? To test the first hypothesis, two styles of pants were measured from 5 clothing stores. Waist and thigh measurement ranges indicated that women’s pant size is in fact variable. To examine the second question, 79 female undergraduate students completed measures assessing mood, self-esteem and body image. Participants were then randomly assigned to try on pants the same size as their self-reported size, try on pants a size smaller than indicated by self-report, or try on pants a size larger than indicated by self-report. The actual size of the pants was concealed with a cover tag that showed the participant’s self-reported size. While wearing the pants, participants completed the post-test measures. Although an interaction between condition and time was hypothesized, only a main effect for time was found for body image. In addition, when the appearance based self-esteem was examined, results indicated that participants in all conditions felt worse about their appearance regardless of condition after trying on the pants. This data suggests that the act of trying on the pants was enough to alter the way a woman felt about her body, regardless of participants’ assigned condition. The results indicate that mood was unaffected by the manipulation, but body image and appearance based self-esteem worsened as function of trying on pants.


body image, self-esteem, mood, clothing size, external cues

Subject Categories



© Sonal Patel