I have some seriously beautiful friends. Friends with long legs. Friends with translucently pale skin. Friends with interesting faces and luxuriously thick heads of hair. They know how to dress, these friends, and have that mystically quality of looking put-together without as if they tried to look put together. They walk with an elegant, confident stride. They can go without make-up, have enviable tiny waists and project an air of confidence that's hard to ignore.
There is no question that when I'm with these women, I'm the odd one out. I am not statuesque nor tall like most of them are. My hair refuses to be coaxed into submission, and becomes rebelliously disheveled the longer the day drags on. And it's red - aggressively red. Without mascara, I look half-asleep. And I have a few very prominent tattoos that make me appear both quirky and slightly dangerous.
But I like spending time with these women. We meet over drinks and laugh and share appetizers and gossip about blogging stuff. But we've rarely gone shopping together. I was thinking about this when I wrote last week's post regarding shopping as a female bonding activity. Then I came upon an article in the Huffington Post that's somewhat related. According to a study conducted by Science Daily, as reported in the Journal of Consumer Research, new research shows that when you feel unhappy about your body while trying on an outfit in a store and you see an attractive customer or salesperson wearing that same outfit, you are less likely to buy it.
The authors of the paper write:
"If [the low self-esteem customer] sees a dress on an attractive consumer in the store and is trying on the same dress herself, as she looks in the mirror she now thinks to herself, 'That dress is really cute and stylish on me, but compared to her, I look terrible!'"For this phenomenon to occur, both parties needed to be wearing the same item. In the study, the negative evaluations did not occur if the other shopper was merely carrying the item or if consumers didn't try on the item but saw someone else wearing it. It should also be noted that the sample population the study relied on had low body image to begin with, and as a result, the findings only apply when shoppers have low self-esteem before entering a store. But I found it compelling that we, as consumers, are so influenced by the shoppers (and salespeople) around us that they might prevent us from making a purchase. That's because consumers take in social cues when shopping, meaning even if a shopper thinks a shirt looks stylish on the rack or on another person wearing the item in a store, when the shopper tries on the item, he or she has a tendency to think, "I look terrible compared to the good-looking person who had this on!"
The study concludes that retailers should design their stores so shoppers can try on clothes without having to leave private dressing rooms and be distracted by other people. It also questions whether employees should be required to wear a brand's clothing. States like California already have laws in place to prevent brands such as Abercrombie, Gap and Polo Ralph Lauren from requiring their employees to buy and wear their clothes, but there are no laws requiring stores to have private dressing rooms
It is nearly an impossible task to avoid comparing yourself to other women when we're wearing the same clothes as they are. In addition, when we're already struggling with low self-esteem, concurrent body image issues aren't that far behind. When I'm feeling especially low about how look (which is approximately 75% of the time) the last thing I want to do is examine how I stack up to my gorgeous friends or customers wearing the same clothes. Women with low opinions of their physical appearance are at a greater risk for negative effects from any sort of media or environmental influence, whether it's advertisements with skinny models or commercials related to dieting or weight loss.
I'm wondering what you think of the results of this study. Do you think attractive customers and salespeople influence the buying habits of consumers? Would you be less inclined to make a purchase if you saw someone attractive trying on the same clothes you're considering? How much of a influence do you believe low self-esteem and body image plays into buying habits? Are you less likely to buy when you're having negative thoughts about your appearance?
In case you missed it:
I currently have TWO giveaways running this week!
- Win a pack of custom business cards from UPrinting (giveaway ends on October 5th.)
- Win a Missoni for Target winter gift set (giveaway ends October 7th.)