Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management

First Advisor

Elena Karpova

Second Advisor

Mary Lynn Damhorst


Marketers incorporate young, attractive, and thin models in advertisements to help catch the attention of the viewer and showcase the product on display. Recently, there has been an increase in the use of dangerously thin models in media images. There is an association between exposure to idealized body images in advertisements and eating disorders (Botta, 1999; Harrison & Cantor, 1997; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw, & Stein, 1994; Tiggermann & Pickering, 1996). Even though most women do not develop eating disorders, overexposure to exceptionally thin, attractive models may help young women develop negative body image (Thorton & Moore, 1993). Given the possible negative effects of over-exposure to thin, beautiful models, it is important to explore whether female models who are not so thin are effective or deficient as apparel advertising stimuli. Consumer responses to plus-size versus thin models has not been widely studied. As the United States population continues to become more diverse, marketers and advertisers may want to incorporate models of various sizes to appeal to broader target markets. This study focused on college-aged women's attitudes and perceptions of both plus-size and thin fashion models in advertisements. Advertising stimuli were developed by digitally manipulating body size of three plus size models copied from an internet retail site and pretested for attractiveness. A thin version of each model was prepared, and a size manipulation check was conducted. Experimental data was collected from a random sample of 228 women at a Midwest university. The college-aged, female participants were contacted via university e-mail. The participants were asked to go to a website to view a full-color photograph of a fashion model that appeared to be about the same age as the participants. Participants were randomly assigned to view one of the six model stimuli, either thin or plus size, resulting in a 3 (model) x 2 (size) research design. Questionnaire items were answered on the website. The size of the model only affected one research variable, beliefs about the model's appearance. In contrast to expectations, participants felt that plus-size models were more attractive, appealing, credible, and eye-catching. Participants perceived the same level of similarity to both plus-size and thin models in terms of overall life style and appearance and the shape of specific body parts. Model size had no effect on perceived likeability and fashionability, and no effect on intention to purchase the model's outfit. Covariate analysis with participant weight and BMI did not change direction of results. However, when body satisfaction was accounted for through covariance, there was a significant effect of size treatment on perceived similarity to the model's specific body parts in that participants felt more similar to the plus size model. This exploratory study provides insight into a relatively unexplored area of apparel advertising. Findings from this study provide support for incorporating models of various sizes in apparel advertisements.


Copyright Owner

Angela Michelle Perrier



Date Available


File Format


File Size

128 pages