The Impact of Online Activewear Shopping on Women’s Body Image
In today’s fast-paced world, activewear has become more than just clothing for workouts; it has evolved into a lifestyle choice for many women. With its association with a dynamic lifestyle, positive well-being, and overall good health, activewear has gained immense popularity, especially among women.
The Rising Popularity of Athleisure
Before delving into the study’s findings, let’s understand the context. Athleisure, a blend of athletic clothing and everyday wear, has witnessed a significant surge in demand since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its versatility and comfort have made it a preferred choice for women, not only during workouts but also for casual wear. According to projections, the athleisure market is expected to surpass $548 billion globally by 2024.
Unveiling the Psychological Impact
Led by Dr. Ross Hollett, a psychology researcher at ECU, the two groundbreaking studies utilized eye-tracking technology to explore the psychological outcomes of online shopping for activewear. Women participating in the experiments were randomly assigned to browse either an activewear, casualwear, or home decor website for 15-20 minutes.
After the shopping activity, the researchers measured the participants’ body image and self-esteem using a combination of self-report and reaction time measures. Additionally, the eye-tracking technology was used to analyze changes in their gaze behavior towards a new set of female images, examining if the websites they browsed influenced their attention.
Disturbing Results: Negative Impact on Body Image
Both studies revealed troubling results. Women who browsed activewear websites reported feeling worse about their looks and experienced lower self-esteem compared to those who browsed casual clothing or homeware websites. Dr. Hollett pointed out that activewear retailers often employ body-focused marketing strategies, showcasing tight, form-fitting, or revealing clothing. Furthermore, they frequently use images of toned athletic models, emphasizing specific body parts such as buttocks or breasts. Such imagery tends to promote an idealized and often unattainable physique, leading to feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction among women.
Insights from Gaze Behavior
The first study’s eye-tracking data provided intriguing insights. Women who browsed activewear sites showed a significantly lower body gaze, indicating a preference for focusing on faces rather than bodies when looking at new female images. Dr. Hollett suggested that this behavior might be attributed to the threat perceived by women concerning their body image after encountering the body-focused imagery on activewear websites. When women’s body image is threatened, they may avoid further scrutinizing other women’s bodies, feeling more uncomfortable in the process.
Choose Wisely: Impact on Self-Esteem
As the studies highlighted, almost all women involved in the research had engaged in online clothes shopping, with activewear ranking second only to casualwear in popularity. Dr. Hollett acknowledged that online shopping, in general, could serve as a distraction from everyday stress and alleviate negative mood. However, he stressed the importance of choosing websites wisely to safeguard self-esteem.
“Browsing some apparel websites might put women at risk of negative self-concept because they are comparing themselves with fit and toned models in tight fitting clothing which may contribute to longer-term issues such as body shame and depression,” he cautioned.
Responsible Marketing: Minimizing Impact
With the activewear industry continuing to flourish, it’s essential for clothing retailers to be mindful of the impact their marketing strategies can have on consumers’ well-being. While ethical considerations regarding fair wages and environmental impact are gaining attention, this research emphasizes the significance of minimizing the negative effects of retail imagery on psychological well-being.
Dr. Hollett advocated for exploring alternative marketing strategies that achieve retailers’ objectives while avoiding threats to consumers’ self-worth. Companies may embrace body, gender, and cultural diversity in their advertising to create a positive and inclusive image, encouraging customers to feel good about themselves.
The research conducted by Edith Cowan University sheds light on a previously unexplored aspect of online shopping for activewear. The study’s findings underscore the potential harm it can cause to women’s body image and self-esteem. As the athleisure market continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important for both consumers and retailers to be aware of the psychological impact of clothing choices. Encouraging responsible marketing practices and fostering body positivity can contribute to a healthier and more empowering shopping experience for women.
- Does online shopping for activewear have a negative impact on all women? The studies conducted by Edith Cowan University revealed that women who browsed activewear websites tended to experience negative effects on their body image and self-esteem.
- Are there any alternative marketing strategies that can be employed by activewear retailers? Yes, retailers can focus on promoting body, gender, and cultural diversity in their advertising to create a more inclusive and positive image for consumers.
- What is the significance of athleisure in the clothing market? Athleisure, a blend of athletic clothing and everyday wear, has gained immense popularity and is estimated to become a $548 billion market globally by 2024.
- How can women protect their self-esteem while shopping online for clothes? Women can protect their self-esteem by choosing websites that showcase a diverse range of models and avoid those that solely focus on idealized and unrealistic body images.
- What other factors can contribute to body positivity and well-being? Aside from responsible marketing, fostering body positivity and encouraging a supportive and accepting culture can significantly contribute to women’s well-being.