For science!

Waist to Hip Ratios

Ok, so I have nothing at all of my own to blog about today since yesterday’s down-time was spent exclusively playing Dragon’s Dogma (which is not as awesome as Dragon Age or Skyrim or Kingdoms of Amalur, but is at least in the right ballpark if you are, as I am, a sucker for an open-world fantasy RPG), so instead I’m going to throw some links around.

First off, this is a neat article on some body-proportion research that I totally cribbed off Ali of the Wardrobe, Reimagined. Can I just say it really drives me nuts when news articles report on some kind of “scientific finding” and then don’t include a reference to the publication? Other than that it’s a fun read, however. Spoiler alert: apparently almost half of us (at least in the UK, which is where the majority of my genetic material and cultural traditions come from) are “rectangles.” But my “rectangle” shape also fits their parametres for a “spoon” (aka pear) shape. Hmm.

In a similar vein,ย Steph of 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World is collecting waist/hip measurementsย for her own arcane pants-fitting research, so if you haven’t already, please grab your tape measure and bop over there with your measurements in cm. It’s anonymous, so don’t duck out because you don’t like your own ratios! (I know I sure don’t. ๐Ÿ˜› ) So go contribute!

Oh, and Sigrid of Analog Me wrote this neat post on the history of measurements used by the pattern companies. Not reassuring, that’s for sure.

Anyone else know some cool links on body proportion research? Or just a good RPG?



Filed under Sewing

25 responses to “For science!

  1. Thanks for the links. One thing I find disturbing about the first article “shape of things. . .” is that it assumes that just because the hourglass silhouette was popular in the 1950s, it was the natural shape of women past. C’mon we know that corsets formed the 19th century form, and it’s pretty obvious from reading any women’s magazine from the 1950s, that girdles had a lot to do with the hourglass shape of the mid 20th century. And my mom has plenty of stories about falsies in the 50s, too. Look at any photo of Sophia Loren and it’s pretty obvious that she had a fair bit of help with the undergarments.

    I think, RTW manufactures have never been able to fit the female form because they don’t know what it is are in a state not sculpted by whale bone, bindings, rubber, elastic, lycra, silicone, padding etc. I suppose we are partly to blame for this because we wear all that. . .

    • Yeah, I definitely agree re. the historical reality of the hourglass. I think it’s always been an ideal. It may have been more common in the past just because fewer people were overweight, but I doubt it was ever as standard as the 50s illustrations (and photos) would suggest. I guess at this point we’ll never know ;).

  2. Interesting links! Honestly, I’m pretty resigned to the fact that RTW is just never going to fit me – I have an extreme difference in waist to hips (13-14″ depending on recent brownie consumption) that is never going to be fit off the rack. Sigh. Thank goodness I can do something about it.

    • And I have the opposite problem (on a good day my waist-hip difference is 8″)—which is why off-the-rack is always going to be limited. I was surprised to see in the one British article that “rectangles” were so common, though—of course, it’d be equally interesting to see how those shape categories vary by BMI… I can’t help but think that one of the reasons low-rise, boot-cut, stretch jeans took the world by storm in the early aughties was that they have to be one of the easiest styles to fit and still look good—since you only have to fit hip and thigh, rather than waist, hip, thigh, and lower leg.

  3. Off to enter my waist/hip ratio, though my extremely rectangular self will probably throw off her calculations. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for the heads up, I’d be very interested in her experiment if it would end up that she could figure out how to make pants/jeans that fit me without a belt or elastic….

  4. Great post and thanks for the links.I don’t think I normally have problems with RTW clothing. I have certain brands I stick to, knowing they fit me. From the bodytype-chart I’m a spoon??? (cm: 94-73-99) I find that a little strange since I’ve always been told that I’m hourglass-shaped and what I see in the mirror is not exactly a spoon. :-/

    • I think the definition of “spoon”/pear shape in that article is a bit off—I don’t see myself as bottom-heavy, either, even though my hips are distinctly bigger than my bust. There’s a lot of other factors—ribcage size (as opposed to bust size), shoulder breadth.

      My biggest problem with RTW was always length—but the more I sew, the more picky I get and the more things I see wrong! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Thanks for the link. ๐Ÿ™‚ The numbers are really interesting, and the more of them I get the better my equations and charts… I’m at 253 right now. ๐Ÿ™‚

    That article on body shapes is interesting… Always, always with a grain of salt though…

    Oh what I would do to get my hands on that SizeUSA survey numbers… Yum.

  6. Kate

    for a price, you can get the SizeUSA data – – I didn’t click through to see what the price might be ..
    a quick google search turned up scads more articles about the study, and about the usefulness of it and other ‘body scanning technology’ and also some snarkiness about the willingness of Vegas waitresses to disrobe.

  7. I’m going to read those articles now.
    Just to weigh in on the hourglass issue Sigrid mentioned though: I’ve been collecting 50’s magazines lately and my impression is that the extreme hourglass figure was to women then what size 0 is to us today. A fashion ideal which many might try to achieve, but very few actually did (although I think more women could fake the hourglass than a very small size).
    That said, don’t forget that it’s not all genetic make-up which determines one’s body shape. It also makes a difference whether at the age of 12 (right in the middle of your final growth spurt), you get your first girdle or your first pair of low-riding skinny jeans…

    Anyway, I’d also like to mention that, in honour of your personal project, I’ve posted some pictures of 1950’s drop-waist dresses on my blog

    • I wish they’d had low-rise jeans when I was 12… (ok, actually my jeans-fitting issues didn’t really show up until I was fourteen or fifteen and into women’s sizes.) You’re right, though, there are so many environmental factors at work, from diet to growth hormones to exercise.

      Thanks so much for thinking of me! Those are some awesome pictures. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Ok, I’ll have to dig out my measuring tape and give it a try! I am pretty sure I am a pear, but I change sizes dramatically for all kinds of reasons (right now I’m gaining a lot of weight because I’m on antibiotics).

    I wonder how much participation in athletics shapes body types too. I was an athlete all the way through college, my mother twirled the baton and my grandmother wouldn’t have dreamed of doing sports. My grandmother was always very petite and small-boned, while my mom and uncle are taller and strapping but nothing unusual for their era. My cousins and I are comparatively HUGE, but some of that is actually larger bone mass.

    • Now I’m thinking of the prophylactic antibiotics they give feed lot cattle to make them bulk up…

      I was told by a doctor once that the trend for each generation getting taller had pretty much finished after the baby boomers—apparently it took a couple of generations of super nutrition but we’ve now maxed out our genetic height. Activity etc. is a good question, though. On the other hand, my mother always had more muscle mass than me, probably from growing up on a farm doing chores. And I’ve noticed in my kids that personality really drives some features—Syo is considerably more muscular than Tyo, not necessarily genetically, but she’s always (and I mean from two weeks old) been more driven to *use* her muscles.

  9. Interesting! I have about a 25cm difference (9 inches) from waist to hip… But about a 10cm difference from the bust to the hip (hip is the largest) so I guess I am a spoon? I just know whenever I have to find pants they either won’t fit past my knee, or if I can pull them up past my knee then they droop right back down because the waist is so huge! Sewing = pants that fit = magic.

    • Yeah, pants fitting is always a joy, isn’t it? For low-rise styles I didn’t have too much trouble as long as the back didn’t gape, but length was my big hangup. High-waisted styles—well, that was a whole ‘nother pile of problem.

  10. sizing is very strange. i would have said based on the fit of RTW clothes that i own that i was a pear, as everything that fits on the hips/ thighs is huge on the waist, and i am a size smaller on top than on bottom. but according to sewing patterns, my waist is a size bigger than my hips, and my bust and hips are the same size! so no idea what that makes me.

    • That’s interesting! If it helps, according to the sewing pattern standards, my waist is two to three sizes bigger than the rest of me… so your one size may actually be fairly hourglass/pear typical! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I wonder whether you can really guage the body shape with circumference comparisons. What if you’re more spread out front-to-back or side-to-side than all-the-way-around?

    On RTW, I don’t blame the manufacturers as clearly there are loads of variations in our shape and sizes. They’d never be able to please everybody. The trick is obviously finding the brands that targets shape like yours – if there are any. I’m sure for some there won’t be much choices. Which is a good reason to learn sewing and fitting.

    But designer clothing, I would have thought they’re targeted at the long rectangles, borderline inverted triangles! Most of those models they use on runway have boyish figures as they’re mostly underage girls! Maybe you gals need to go more upmarket! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Yeah, I wonder about that, too. Like—I have very little hip from side to side, but quite a lot of curve in the back (thankyou swayback). But it’s at least a starting place. I think the thing about the sizing issue is that while they certainly have to design for an average, they don’t actually seem to know what the average is. On the other hand, maybe that’s a good thing—if all the brands designed for the same average, those of us who aren’t that would never find *anything*.

      Back when I was buying RTW jeans I did have better luck when I looked at more expensive brands, if only because it was easier to find a custom leg-length. That being said, bone doesn’t change shape no matter how skinny you are, and plenty of runway models have *way* more hip than I do, even if they have 2% body fat.

  12. Those charts never work well for me. Technically I’m a pear shape, with my hips 5″ larger than my bust, but I don’t really look it due to having wide shoulders. RTW clothes are a trial, but I’d still rather go through the pain of buying pants than go through the pain of fitting them to myself!

    I’ve been replaying Final Fantasy VII on my PSP this month, and it has sucked up some sewing time. I haven’t gotten Dragon’s Dogma yet, hmm…

  13. Pingback: Invisible standards & splitting hair « The Overflowing Stash

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