Dressing the body: the role of clothing in sustaining body pride and managing body distress

Hannah Frith, K. Gleeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This qualitative research extends current theorizing on behavioural strategies for managing body distress by exploring how women manage body image through clothing practices. Eighty two women reported their subjective understanding of how body evaluation and clothing practices are interconnected in response to open-ended questionnaires. Thematic analysis of responses revealed that clothing practices are a mundane and agentic part of the adjustive and self-regulatory processes for managing distressing body image (cf. Cash, 2002b). Clothing is used strategically to manage bodily appearance and anxiety by hiding 'problem areas', accentuating 'assets' and flattering the figure. Body image is actively negotiated and managed through everyday behaviours which fluctuate on 'fat' days and 'thin' days. These data illustrate the processes which underpin the active negotiation of body image and capture the fluidity of body evaluations and strategies for managing the appearance of the body. These findings raise a number of challenges for theorizing and research including the need to adopt methods which capture the dynamic interplay of body image processes, and the need to address body appreciation as well as distress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-264
Number of pages16
JournalQualitative Research in Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2008

Bibliographical note

© 2008 Taylor & Francis


  • appearance fixing
  • body appreciation
  • body image
  • clothing


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