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In pursuit of an identity – fashion marketing and the development of eating disorders

Parekh, Fatima S. and Schmidt, Ruth A. (2003) In pursuit of an identity – fashion marketing and the development of eating disorders. ISSN 0007-070X

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Abstract

Set against a background of rapid growth in the dieting industry and increasing trends towards eating disorders (EDs) in Western societies, this study examines the impact of fashion marketing on the development of EDs in young women. Using a phenomenological approach, a qualitative exploratory study was carried out by making use of electronic questionnaires administered to a sample of ED sufferers recruited through Internet chatroom contacts, as well as to a control group of young women not affected by the condition. The study revealed that the psychological pressures inflicted by society, in particular through fashion marketing images, were felt to be very powerful influences on respondents’ self-image and dieting habits. Where the eating disorder victims were able to use the industry’s messages as a mechanism for fuelling their illness, the control respondents showed dangerously similar signs of allowing themselves to be consumed by the same feelings and behaviours. The study also found that all respondents came across as relying very heavily on social acceptance as the prime bearer of how they felt comforted in their social surroundings, and believe the acceptance is dependent on how thin they are.

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