How the body shape of the ideal woman has changed 1



View Profile

Has your figured rounded with age?  Well, it seems you are not alone, and it is not just the over 60s with the problem.  The ideal and average body shapes have shifted dramatically in recent years, and become a hotly debated issue.  This week a popular model was told off for being a size 6-8 by her modelling agency, and the media have gone into a tirade.  It brings us back to the reality of what the body shape has been over the 5 decades of life most people here have experienced fashion through.

It’s not often we sit back and remember just how different it was back in the 60s from a body image perspective, but a few bits in the media this week have everyone talking about the enormous juxtaposition we face.  On one front, waistlines have actually never been larger among “real” women, yet fashion models are under more pressure than ever to be a size 2 or 4 rather than an 8 or 10. The body image debate is one that will never go away, but there is some interesting thoughts I bet amongst you all today.

Let’s start at the very beginning… the era of our own mothers.  In the 1940s, when World War II was here, frugality was the fashion of the day.  Women had slim hips, and clothed that were cut to show a waistline.  Material was in short supply, making hems shorter (let’s say that’s the reasons eh ladies) and hats and coats went “military in their fashion”.  Shoulder pads were first seen during this era.

1940s day dress - war years


Square shoulders disappeared in the 1950s in favour of a softer, fuller skirted look, with, dare we say it, HIPS!  Hourglass figures were everywhere, and the brassieres and girdles came into their own in the 50s while everyone strove to train their bodies into the fashionable silhouettes of the day.



Then came the 60s… It started with the hourglass, and by the end women had lost their waists and the waife was here.  Women wore short short skirts, in bright bright colours.  Slender was style in the later sixties.



In the 70s, we moved to flares, and different srts of fashion.  Body shapes remained more like the 60s than the whole-bodied models of the early 60s.


Then came the era of the 80s and 90s, with healthy, fit, aerobic toned models, complete with colourful accessories.


With each passing decade, despite the ideals set in the pictures of the styled and stylish, it seems the women in reality are getting bigger.  Latest global figures confirm that our waists, busts and even our feet have been steadily expanding since the 1950s.

In 1951 the average female had a more hourglass figure – the sexy shape typified by film stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Bridget Bardot and Grace Kelly. Women tended to be curvy, with full breasts and hips, but a more nipped-in waist. The average woman rarely weighed more than 9st 10lb, wore a size 12 dress, a 30B bra, and tiny size-three shoes.

But 60 years on and our bodies have ballooned in all the wrong places. According to the UK National Sizing Survey, our once hourglass silhouette has swollen into a barrel or apple shape: this means chunkier waists, fatter backs and rounded bellies unfortunately.  The average woman is also about 7kgs heavier than she was back then with the average dress size sitting at a 14-16 and the bra at 36C/D.



Do you feel like your body shape has rounded out with the national average over 50+ years?

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. In the 60’s l was 34, 24 , 34 and young and happy…….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *