Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Physically active adult women's experiences with plus-size athletic apparel

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  • Substantial research on the functionality of athletic apparel has been conducted; however little consideration has been given to the plus size figure. Societal messages suggest that overweight women are lazy and therefore would not be interested in athletic apparel. The purpose of this study was to determine overweight adult women's experience with athletic clothing. The sample consisted of 14 women, ages 30 to 65 who wore size 1X to 3X. They were each supplied with a Nike brand athletic outfit and participated in two in depth interviews. Data collection methods included qualitative interviews, quantitative surveys and guided journaling. The major findings suggest that overweight women have difficulty shopping for clothing. Difficulty and frustration was experienced on a number of levels including; limited stores, limited selection and styles, fitting issues, over-priced items and less color options compared to smaller sizes. The findings suggest overweight women experience emotional anxiety when trying on clothing for the first time. Dissatisfaction with clothing fit was attributed to the belief their body is unsuitable and needs to change. Satisfaction with clothing fit was attributed to the ability of the apparel designer. Many negative experiences have left this sample feeling disappointed and marginalized. Some participant's experienced increased desire to participate in physical activity while others felt exercise was a necessity regardless of the clothing available. By trying on the Nike brand clothing, it gave the women in this study an alternative way of dressing themselves which has enabled several women to feel differently about their size and their body in athletic clothing. The current sample showed behaviors of internalization by using dehumanizing terms to describe body parts. The sample felt discriminated against in the media and wanted to see larger women modeling clothing. Apparel companies should include a wider variety of sizes in their brick and mortar stores as to not alienate a population. Apparel companies should incorporate diverse models into advertisement to include the plus-size population. Proving high quality athletic apparel to plus size women provided an opportunity for them to experience their bodies in a new perspective. Future studies should develop new pattern making, grading and sizing techniques in order to provide better fitting athletic apparel for large size bodies. Studies expanding on fit and comfort of athletic apparel for large bodies should be explored. This paper provides an initial indication of how plus size women experience athletic apparel. Further understanding of clothing, fit and exercise behavior are needed.
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