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The Effects of Clothing on the Self-Esteem of Teen Girls

author image Patti Richards
Patti Richards has been a writer since 1990. She writes children’s books and articles on parenting, women's health and education. Her credits include San Diego Family Magazine, Metro Parent Magazine, Boys' Quest Magazine and many others. Richards has a Bachelor of Science in English/secondary education from Welch College.
The Effects of Clothing on the Self-Esteem of Teen Girls
Teenagers shopping and socializing at a mall. Photo Credit: Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Getty Images

For teen girls, self-esteem can be impacted not only by the way they look, but how they feel about the way they look. Self-esteem can also be tied up in how a teen girl feels about her abilities and talents, no matter how successful she is in school or other areas. Anita Gurian, Ph.D., with, points out that eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem are the most common mental-health problems in young girls. The clothing that teen girls wear can sometimes say more about her self-esteem than her personal style.

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For girls who have an unhealthy view of their bodies, the issue of modesty can play a role in their self-esteem. Girls are increasingly sexualized in the areas of clothing, with items like bras, thongs and even revealing swimsuits for very young girls. According to the American Psychological Association Taskforce on the Sexualization of Girls, girls who are sexually objectified begin to adopt the way the culture views them as the primary way they see themselves. Taskforce research found a direct link between the sexualization of girls and the three most-common mental health problems of girls and women: depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem.


Some girls connect the price they pay for clothing with their self-esteem. Designer items at specialty stores cost far more than clothing from discount retailers and outlet stores, but peer groups can associate a person’s value with the cost of their wardrobe. Helping your daughter understand how to choose stylish items that fit into the family budget can help her feel good about herself while teaching her the value of money. The Child Mind Institute suggests the reason girls succumb to pressure from their peers to wear certain clothing is because they are still trying to figure out who they are, what their values are and what kind of person they want to become.


Trends in fashion that do not fit every body size and shape can cause girls to struggle with self-esteem. Popular shops catering to only certain sizes make girls feel “less-than” because they do not have what is considered to be the ideal teen body. Magazines geared toward teens can be some of the biggest culprits when it comes to promoting a certain look based on a particular body type. According to the Child Development Department at the University of Denver, teen magazines tell girls how their bodies should be rather than meeting them where they are.

Personal Taste

Personal taste can also wreak havoc on a girl’s self-esteem. Girls like to feel they fit in, and without a strong personality, a young girl can be teased or marginalized because of the clothing she likes and chooses to wear. Writer and founder of, Sally McGraw, for "The Huffington Post," suggests girls give thought to what they will be doing throughout the day and choose clothes that make them feel comfortable, powerful and proud of who they are, rather than just bending to what their peers think is the right look. McGraw reminds girls and women that dressing with care will look different for every person, which is a good thing.

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