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Please answer a few questions listed below using the attached articleOPIC & SELECTION: Introduce your article topic area and why you selected this specific article;DATABASE: State the name of the college database where you located the specific article;SUMMARY: In a concise manner, briefly summarize the article details, including the core topic, the investigative question being sought, the methodology, and discussion of results;FIELDS OF PSYCHOLOGY: Discuss how the article relates to a specific field (or fields) of psychology (explain to which fields of psychology the article relates);RESEARCH METHODS: Discuss the general research methods utilized in alignment with the course information on research methods in Chapter 2 (in general, is it an experimental design? A case study approach? Correlational? Etc.);APA REFERENCE: Include a reference for the specific article in APA format;

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Johnson et al. Fashion and Textiles 2014, 1:20
Open Access
Dress, body and self: research in the social
psychology of dress
Kim Johnson1*, Sharron J Lennon2 and Nancy Rudd3
* Correspondence:
University of Minnesota, 240
McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave, St
Paul, MN, USA
Full list of author information is
available at the end of the article
The purpose of this research was to provide a critical review of key research areas
within the social psychology of dress. The review addresses published research in
two broad areas: (1) dress as a stimulus and its influence on (a) attributions by
others, attributions about self, and on one’s behavior and (2) relationships between
dress, the body, and the self. We identify theoretical approaches used in conducting
research in these areas, provide an abbreviated background of research in these
areas highlighting key findings, and identify future research directions and
possibilities. The subject matter presented features developing topics within the
social psychology of dress and is useful for undergraduate students who want an
overview of the content area. It is also useful for graduate students (1) who want to
learn about the major scholars in these key areas of inquiry who have moved the
field forward, or (2) who are looking for ideas for their own thesis or dissertation
research. Finally, information in this paper is useful for professors who research or
teach the social psychology of dress.
Keywords: Body; Dress; Review; Self; Social psychology; Theories
A few social scientists in the 19th Century studied dress as related to culture, individuals, and social groups, but it was not until the middle of the 20th Century that home
economists began to pursue a scholarly interest in social science aspects of dress
(Roach-Higgins 1993). Dress is defined as “an assemblage of modifications of the body
and/or supplements to the body” (Roach-Higgins & Eicher 1992, p. 1). Body modifications include cosmetic use, suntanning, piercing, tattooing, dieting, exercising, and
cosmetic surgery among others. Body supplements include, but are not limited to, accessories, clothing, hearing aids, and glasses. By the 1950s social science theories from
economics, psychology, social psychology, and sociology were being used to study
dress and human behavior (Rudd 1991, p. 24).
A range of topics might be included under the phrase social psychology of dress but
we use it to refer to research that attempts to answer questions concerned with how
an individual’s dress-related beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, feelings, and behaviors are
shaped by others and one’s self. The social psychology of dress is concerned with how
an individual’s dress affects the behavior of self as well as the behavior of others toward
the self (Johnson & Lennon 2014).
© 2014 Johnson et al.; licensee Springer. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly credited.
Johnson et al. Fashion and Textiles 2014, 1:20
Among several topics that could be included in a critical review of research addressing the social psychology of dress, we focused our work on a review of published research in two broad areas: (1) dress as a stimulus and its influence on (a) attributions
by others, attributions about self, and on one’s own behavior and (2) relationships between dress, the body, and the self. Our goal was to identify theoretical approaches
used in conducting research in these areas, provide an abbreviated background of research in these areas highlighting key findings, and to identify future research directions and possibilities. The content presented features developing topics within the
social psychology of dress and is useful for undergraduate students who want an overview of the content area. It is also useful for graduate students (1) who want to learn
about the major scholars in these key areas of inquiry who have moved the field forward, or (2) who are looking for ideas for their own thesis or dissertation research. Finally, information in this paper is useful for professors who research or teach the social
psychology of dress.
Body supplements as stimulus variables
In studying the social psychology of dress, researchers have often focused on dress as a
stimulus variable; for example, the effects of dress on impression formation, attributions, and social perception (see Lennon & Davis 1989) or the effects of dress on behaviors (see Johnson et al. 2008). The context within which dress is perceived
(Damhorst 1984-85) as well as characteristics of perceivers of clothed individuals
(Burns & Lennon 1993) also has a profound effect on what is perceived about others.
In the remainder of this section we focus on three research streams that center on
dress (i.e., body supplements) as stimuli.
Provocative dress as stimuli
In the 1980s researchers were interested in women’s provocative (revealing, sexy) dress
and the extent to which men and women attributed the same meaning to it. For example, both Edmonds and Cahoon (1986) and Cahoon and Edmonds (1987) found ratings of women who wore provocative dress were more negative than ratings of women
who wore non-provocative dress. No specific theory was identified by these authors as
guiding their research. Overall, when wearing provocative dress a model was rated
more sexually appealing, more attractive, less faithful in marriage, more likely to engage
in sexual teasing, more likely to use sex for personal gain, more likely to be sexually experienced, and more likely to be raped than when wearing conservative dress. Cahoon
and Edmonds found that men and women made similar judgments, although men’s
were more extreme than women’s. Abbey et al. (1987) studied whether women’s sexual
intent and interest as conveyed by revealing dress was misinterpreted by men. The authors developed two dress conditions: revealing (slit skirt, low cut blouse, high heeled
shoes) and non-revealing (skirt without a slit, blouse buttoned to neck, boots). Participants rated the stimulus person on a series of adjective traits. As compared to when
wearing the non-revealing clothing, when wearing the revealing clothing the stimulus
person was rated significantly more flirtatious, sexy, seductive, promiscuous, sophisticated, assertive, and less sincere and considerate. This research was not guided by
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Johnson et al. Fashion and Textiles 2014, 1:20
Taking this research another step forward, in the 1990s dress researchers began to investigate how women’s provocative (revealing, sexy) dress was implicated in attributions of
responsibility for their own sexual assaults (Lewis & Johnson 1989; Workman & Freeburg
1999; Workman & Orr 1996) and sexual harassment (Johnson & Workman 1992, 1994;
Workman & Johnson 1991). These researchers tended to use attribution theories
(McLeod, 2010) to guide their research. Their results showed that provocative, skimpy,
see-through, or short items of dress, as well as use of heavy makeup (body modification),
were cues used to assign responsibility to women for their sexual assaults and experiences
of sexual harassment. For example, Johnson and Workman (1992) studied likelihood of
sexual harassment as a function of women’s provocative dress. A model was photographed
wearing a dark suit jacket, above-the-knee skirt, a low-cut blouse, dark hose, and high
heels (provocative condition) or wearing a dark suit jacket, below-the-knee skirt, high-cut
blouse, neutral hose, and moderate heels (non-provocative condition). As compared to
when wearing non-provocative dress, when wearing provocative dress the model was
rated as significantly more likely to provoke sexual harassment and to be sexually
Recently, researchers have resurrected the topic of provocative (revealing, sexy) dress.
However, their interest is in determining the extent to which women and girls are
depicted in provocative dress in the media (in magazines, in online retail stores) and
the potential consequences of those depictions, such as objectification. These researchers have often used objectification theory to guide their research. According to
objectification theory (Fredrickson & Roberts 1997) women living in sexually saturated cultures are looked at, evaluated, and potentially objectified and treated as objects
valued for their use by others. Objectification theory focuses on sexual objectification
as a function of objectifying gaze, which is experienced in actual social encounters,
media depictions of social encounters, and media depictions that focus on bodies and
body parts. The theory explains that objectifying gaze evokes an objectified state of
consciousness which influences self-perceptions. This objectified state of consciousness
has consequences such as habitual body and appearance monitoring and requires cognitive effort that can result in difficulty with task performance (Szymanski et al. 2011).
In such an environment, women may perceive their bodies from a third-person perspective, treating themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated.
Self-objectification occurs when people perceive and describe their bodies as a function of appearance instead of accomplishments (Harrison & Fredrickson 2003).
Experimental research shows that self-objectification in women can be induced by revealing clothing manipulations such as asking women to try on and evaluate the fit of a
swimsuit as compared to a bulky sweater (Fredrickson et al. 1998).
To examine changes in sexualizing (provocative) characteristics with which girls are
portrayed in the media, researchers have content analyzed girls’ clothing in two magazines (Graff et al. 2013). Clothing was coded as having sexualizing characteristics (e.g.,
tightness, bare midriffs, high-heeled shoes) and childlike characteristics (e.g., frills,
childlike print, pigtail hair styles). The researchers found an increase in sexualized aspects of dress in depictions of girls from 1971 through 2011. To determine the extent
of sexualization in girls’ clothing, researchers have content analyzed girls’ clothing available on 15 retailer websites (Goodin et al. 2011). Every girl’s clothing item on each of
the retailer websites was coded for sexualizing aspects; 4% was coded as definitely
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Johnson et al. Fashion and Textiles 2014, 1:20
sexualizing. Ambiguously sexualizing clothing (25%) had both sexualizing and childlike
characteristics. Abercrombie Kids’ clothing had a higher percentage of sexualizing characteristics than all the other stores (44% versus 4%). These two studies document that
girls are increasingly depicted in sexualizing clothing in U.S. media and that they are
offered sexualized clothing by major retailers via their websites.
Since girls are increasingly sexualized, to determine if sexualized dress affects how
girls are perceived by others Graff et al. (2012) designed an experiment wherein they
manipulated the sexualizing aspects of the clothing of a 5th grade girl. There were three
clothing conditions: childlike (a grey t-shirt, jeans, and black Mary Jane shoes), ambiguously sexualized (leopard print dress of moderate length), highly sexualized (short
dress, leopard print cardigan, purse). In the definitely sexualized condition, undergraduate students rated the girl as less moral, self-respecting, capable, determined, competent, and intelligent than when she was depicted in either the childlike or the
ambiguously sexualized conditions. Thus, wearing sexualized clothing can affect how
girls are perceived by others, so it is possible that sexualized clothing could lead to selfobjectification in girls just as in the case of women (Tiggemann & Andrew 2012).
Objectification theory has been useful in identifying probable processes underlying
the association between women’s provocative dress and negative inferences. In a study
using adult stimuli, Gurung and Chrouser (2007) presented photos of female Olympic
athletes in uniform and in provocative (defined as minimal) dress. College women rated
the photos and when provocatively dressed, as compared to the uniform condition, the
women were rated as more attractive, more feminine, more sexually experienced, more
desirable, but also less capable, less strong, less determined, less intelligent, and as having less self-respect. These results are similar to what had previously been found by researchers in the 1980s (Abbey et al. 1987; Cahoon & Edmonds 1987; Edmonds &
Cahoon 1986). This outcome is considered objectifying because the overall impression
is negative and sexist. Thus, this line of research does more than demonstrate that provocative dress evokes inferences, it suggests the process by which that occurs: provocative dress leads to objectification of the woman so dressed and it is the objectification
that leads to the inferences.
In a more direct assessment of the relationship between provocative dress and objectification of others, Holland and Haslam (2013) manipulated the dress (provocative or plain
clothing) of two models (thin or overweight) who were rated equally attractive in facial attractiveness. Since objectification involves inspecting the body, the authors measured participants’ attention to the models’ bodies. Objectification also involves denying human
qualities to the objectified person. Two such qualities are perceived agency (e.g., ability to
think and form intentions) and moral agency (e.g., capacity to engage in moral or immoral
actions). Several findings are relevant to the research on provocative dress. As compared
to models wearing plain clothing, models wearing provocative clothing were attributed
less perceived agency (e.g., ability to reason, ability to choose) and less moral agency [e.g.,
“how intentional do you believe the woman’s behavior is?” (p. 463)]. Results showed that
more objectified gaze was directed toward the bodies of the models when they were
dressed in provocative clothing as compared to when dressed in plain clothing. This outcome is considered objectifying because the models’ bodies were inspected more when
wearing provocative dress, and because in that condition they were perceived as having
less of the qualities normally attributed to humans.
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Johnson et al. Fashion and Textiles 2014, 1:20
In an experimental study guided by objectification theory, Tiggemann and Andrew
(2012) studied the effects of clothing on self-perceptions of state self-objectification,
state body shame, state body dissatisfaction, and negative mood. However, unlike studies (e.g., Fredrickson et al. 1998) in which participants were asked to try on and evaluate either a bathing suit or a sweater, Tiggemann and Andrew instructed their
participants to “imagine what you would be seeing, feeling, and thinking” (p. 648) in
scenarios. There were four scenarios: thinking about wearing a bathing suit in public,
thinking about wearing a bathing suit in a dressing room, thinking about wearing a
sweater in public, and thinking about wearing a sweater in a dressing room. The researchers found main effects for clothing such that as compared to thinking about
wearing a sweater, thinking about wearing a bathing suit resulted in higher state selfobjectification, higher state body shame, higher state body dissatisfaction, and greater
negative mood. The fact that the manipulation only involved thinking about wearing
clothing, rather than actually wearing such clothing, demonstrates the power of revealing (provocative, sexy) dress in that we only have to think about wearing it to have it
affect our self-perceptions.
Taking extant research into account we encourage researchers to continue to investigate the topic of provocative (sexy, revealing) dress for both men and women to replicate the results for women and to determine if revealing dress for men might evoke the
kinds of inferences evoked by women wearing revealing dress. Furthermore, research
that delineates the role of objectification in the process by which this association between dress and inferences occurs would be useful. Although it would not be ethical to
use the experimental strategy used by previous researchers (Fredrickson et al. 1998)
with children, it is possible that researchers could devise correlational studies to investigate the extent to which wearing and/or viewing sexualized clothing might lead to selfand other-objectification in girls.
Research on red dress
Researchers who study the social psychology of dress have seldom focused on dress color.
However, in the 1980s and 1990s a few researchers investigated color in the context of retail color analysis systems that focused on personal coloring (Abramov 1985; Francis &
Evans 1987; Hilliker & Rogers 1988; Radeloff 1991). For example, Francis and Evans
found that stimulus persons were actually perceived positively when not wearing their recommended personal colors. Hilliker and Rogers surveyed managers of apparel stores
about the use of color analysis systems and found some impact on the marketplace, but
disagreement among the managers on the value of the systems. Abramov critiqued color
analysis for being unclear, ambiguous, and for the inability to substantiate claims. Most of
these studies were not guided by a psychological theory of color.
Since the 1990s, researchers have developed a theory of color psychology (Elliot &
Maier 2007) called color-in-context theory. Like other variables that affect social perception, the theory explains that color also conveys meaning which varies as a function of the
context in which the color is perceived. Accordingly, the meanings of colors are learned
over time through repeated pairings with a particular experience or message (e.g., red stop
light and danger) or with biological tendencies to respond to color in certain contexts. For
example, female non-human primates display red on parts of their bodies when nearing
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Johnson et al. Fashion and Textiles 2014, 1:20
ovulation; hence red is associated with lust, fertility, and sexuality (Guéguen and Jacob
2013). As a function of these associations between colors and experiences, messages, or
biological tendencies, people either display approach responses or avoidance responses
but are largely unaware of how color affects them. In this section we review studies that
examine the effects of red in relational contexts such as interpersonal attraction. However,
there is evidence that red is detrimental in achievement (i.e., academic or hiring) contexts
(e.g., Maier et al. 2013) and that red signals dominance and affects outcomes in competitive sporting contests (e.g., Feltman and Elliot 2011; Hagemann et al. 2008).
Recently researchers have used color-in-context theory to study the effects of red
dress (shirts, dresses) on impressions related to sexual intent, attractiveness, dominance, and competence. Some of these studies were guided by color-in-context theory.
Guéguen (2012) studied men’s perceptions of women’s sexual intent and attractiveness
as a function of shirt color. Male participants viewed a photo of a woman wearing a tshirt that varied in color. When wearing a red t-shirt as compared to the other colors,
the woman was judged to be more attractive and to have greater sexual intent. Pazda
et al. (2014a, b) conducted an experiment designed to determine why men perceive
women who wear red to …
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