The thought of trying on a swimsuit is enough to put a woman in a bad mood, according to a new study.

Australian researchers have found that when women think about trying on togs they have elevated feelings of self-objectification or feeling like they're only being valued as objects.

"Self-objectification has a variety of negative consequences - always worrying about how you look, shame about the body and [it] is linked to eating disorders and depression," study researcher Marika Tiggemann, a psychologist at Flinders University in Australia, told LiveScience.

Self-objectification is a personality trait, so some women are more likely to objectify themselves in general than others, the reported. But certain situations can also increase the feeling, regardless of the starting point. Tiggemann and her colleagues wanted to know what sort of differences clothing made.


"We wear and choose clothes every day," Tiggemann told LiveScience.

"Clothes are controllable aspects of our appearance, in a way that body size and shape are not."

Researchers read four scenarios to about 100 women. In one, women were asked to imagine themselves trying on a swimsuit. In another they had to imagine walking down the beach in their togs. The other two scenarios were the same, only the women imagined wearing jeans and a jersey.

After each exercise the women filled in a questionnaire measuring mood, feelings about their body and self-objectification.

Not surprisingly, women always felt worse when wearing their swimsuit. However, it was pulling it on in a fitting room that made them the most uncomfortable - not strutting around seaside.

The results show how much self-objectification is truly an internal process, Tiggemann and her colleagues reported in May in the journal Sex Roles.

"The physical presence of observers is clearly not necessary," they wrote.

"More particularly, the dressing room of a clothing store contains a number of potentially objectifying features: [often several] mirrors, bright lighting, and the virtual demand that women engage in close evaluation of their body in evaluating how the clothes appear and fit."

It's not easy to prevent negative self-objectification, but Tiggemann suggests avoiding mirrors and comparisons with others, and focusing on activities that emphasise the function, not the appearance, of the body, like yoga, sports or sailing.