The shape of things to wear: scientists identify how women's figures have changed in 50 years

The fashion industry is ignoring the changing shapes of women's bodies, a study claims today. Designers and manufacturers still insist on making clothes that fit the traditional hourglass figure, when women's shapes are more likely to be top-heavy, rectangular or pear-shaped.

The research found that although only 8 per cent of women now had the sort of hourglass figure flaunted by curvaceous 1950s film stars such as Sophia Loren, designers and manufacturers continued to make clothes to fit a slim-line version of that figure.

Of the 6,000 women's body shapes analysed, 46 per cent were described as rectangular, with the waist less than nine inches smaller than the hips or bust. Just over 20 per cent of women were bottom-heavy "spoons", or pear shapes, with hips two inches larger than busts or more, while almost 14 per cent were "inverted triangles" - women whose busts were three or more inches bigger than their hips.

The study, by the North Carolina State University, was based on data from a two-year study of American body types, SizeUSA. It was commissioned by Alva Products, a manufacturer of designers' mannequins determined to force the industry to design clothes for the majority rather than the minority of women.

Janice Wang, the firm's chief executive, said: "The majority of retailers are designing clothes for people with an hourglass figure." She added that industry standards for size measurements were out of date. "That needs to change if the industry wants to serve the markets they currently aren't reaching."

The fashion house Liz Claiborne has taken note. David Baron, a vice-president, said it would introduce "gradual changes" to eventually provide "better-fitting" clothes.

Although the study concentrated on American women, its implications were relevant for British women, Ms Wang said, because eating habits and lifestyle meant the shapes of women in the two societies "mirrored each other".

The British fashion designer Katherine Hamnett agreed that women who did not conform to a svelte size 10 continued to be neglected by fashion.

"The fashion industry ignores the true size of women at its peril," she said. "As to why they do, stupidity is the only reason I can think of. It is the result of adhering unthinkingly to a tradition."

And the idea that larger women are not the ideal to design for is a myth. "I have measured film stars who have 42 inch hips, and are still getting a lot of work. It is not how fat you are, it is whether you are fit that matters. People can be beautiful when they are any shape or size."

Breast enhancements and other types of cosmetic surgery could influence the findings, Ms Hamnett said. With breast enhancements likely to create the "inverted triangle" body type, the popularity of cosmetic surgery means there are new shapes that are less likely to be affected by diet or exercise.

The findings concur with a similar study of British women, SizeUK, published late last year, which found that the average woman's waistline had expanded by six inches since the 1950s.

Carried out by University College London and the London College of Fashion, the study found that women and men had shot up and out, with today's woman taller, with a bigger bust and hips than her 1950s counterpart.

Hourglass

Exemplified by the actress Sophia Loren, only 8 per cent of women tend to have equal hip and bust measurements with a narrow waist

The spoon

Just over 20 per cent of women, like Jennifer Lopez, have a pear-shaped figure, where the hip measurement is larger than the bust

Rectangular

Forty-six per cent of women fit this shape, where the waist is less than nine inches smaller than the hips or bust. Mel C is a good example

Inverted triangle

Another modern outline, where the bust is bigger than the hips. The swimmer Sharron Davies is one of the 14 per cent who fits this shape

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones