Don't tell me that thin isn't a feminist issue

While men like to be seen with girls who look like supermodels, they dream of girls with old-style curves
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The Independent Online

Women are going straight. It's official. After months, years of painstaking research, physiologists in Vienna have come up with incontrovertible proof that the female torso is becoming more androgynous. Or, to put it another way, less like an egg-timer, more like a breadboard.

Women are going straight. It's official. After months, years of painstaking research, physiologists in Vienna have come up with incontrovertible proof that the female torso is becoming more androgynous. Or, to put it another way, less like an egg-timer, more like a breadboard.

So what's new and why has it taken those Viennese eggheads this long to cotton on to a trend that anyone who has ever been to Top Shop could have told them 10 years ago? Dress size 10 used to be considered small and, if you asked for an eight, the assistant looked at you as if you had escaped from a circus. Nowadays no one bats an eyelid if you ask for a dress size six. But this is Cool Britannia and not old-fashioned Austria where gentlemen still bow and kiss your hand and women still wear dirndls like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

Oh yes they do. I've just been to a wedding in Austria, coincidentally in the very church in Mondsee, near Salzburg, where Ms Andrews married Captain von Trapp in the film and everyone sang Edelweiss. The bride, my best friend's daughter, wore a dirndl and so did most of the female guests. If there is one requirement to looking good in a dirndl, it is curves. Without what used to be described in romantic novels as a full bosom, a dirndl looks as uninviting as an empty pillowcase. But these glamour fraus and fräuleins filled their frothy white décolleté blouses with plenitude and panache.

Where was I, apart from at my friend's wedding on Mondsee? Ah yes, academics in Vienna and androgynous women. No longer it seems are the groves of academe removed from the rude cut and thrust of everyday life. Absent-minded professors are in the thick of it. For their research into the increasing incidence of female androgyny those dedicated researchers worked their way through 50 years of Playboy magazine back issues checking to see whether contemporary centrefolds have smaller boobs, thicker waists and slimmer hips than their predecessors.

What a chore. For the record, vital statistics have changed dramatically from the old gold standard, namely Marilyn Monroe's 37-23-36, to a more straightforward 35-26-34, and the way things are going we'll soon be proportionally the same as I was at seven when I was measured for my school uniform coat. My mother looked incredulously at the label which read: chest 24, waist 24, hips 24, length 24.

I did my own research. I went into my 18-year-old son's room and looked at the pin-ups and I'm bound to say that androgynous is not the word that sprang to mind. This is strange. Most of the young women who come through the kitchen on the way to his room are fashionably skinny. I have this theory that while men like to be seen with girls who look like supermodels, they dream about girls with old-fashioned curves. No one would dispute that to look convincing in spangly Lycra tank-tops and leather pants you have to be a stick insect with a severe eating disorder but this is strictly leisurewear, not the stuff that dreams are made on. I don't know how many Viennese academics you would need to prove that, given a choice between Marilyn Monroe (37-23-36) and Kate Moss (29-29-29), most men would go for MM.

And anyway, Christmas is not the time to worry about vital statistics. I have just stocked up on enough stodge in the shape of plum puddings, Christmas cakes and mince pies to turn a plague of locusts into Teletubbies. It is dangerous to generalise but, in my experience, fat people are more fun than skinnymalinks. There will be no room for androgyny round my Christmas table, that's for sure, but particularly this year when, for a change, instead of listening to the Queen's Speech, we're going to play the new board game I've just been sent by my favourite adman at Mother Merriment. It's a variation of that old chestnut, except that this one is called No Cluedo.

The blurb on the back describes it as a game for "every royalist, red-top reader and would-be republican, starting with a crime and working up to a sleazy climax of tabloid proportions". To find out whodunit, you use a telephoto lens and a cheque book while the characters include the Queen of Hearts, the Duchess of Pork, Phil the Greek, HRH Monstrous Carbuncle and, of course, Ze Queen. It sounds like perfect after-dinner entertainment for every dysfunctional family.

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