Hourglass figure

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The hourglass is one of four female body shapes. The other shapes are the rectangular, inverted triangle, and spoon. The hourglass shape is defined as a woman whose body measurements, the circumference of the bust, waist, and hips, are a wide bust, a narrow waist, and a wide hip that has similar measurements to that of the bust. This body shape is aptly named for its resemblance to that of an hourglass where the upper and lower half are wide while the portion at middle is narrow in circumference making the ratio wide-narrow-wide. Women who exhibit the hour glass figure are proven to be more admired which puts pressure on other women who are less attractive to strive to achieve the hour glass figure. This in return leads to body dissatisfaction which can cause eating disorders in young women from all over the globe. [1]

Evolution of Female Body Shape[edit]

It has been proposed by scientists that the evolutionary reason for the female body shape is in part due to sexual selection. Bipedalism may be related to the differences of the female and male body shapes. During pregnancy a woman’s body is transformed so it is properly able to carry the baby. To prevent the center of gravity in a women’s body from being off balance, it is believed that evolution could have favored fat deposits in the gluteal region and the thighs. [2]

Body Weight and Hormones[edit]

Fat distribution in women is at its highest from the early teens to late middle age. Sex hormones play an important role in specific regions of the body helping with the regulation and accumulation of fat. Fat distribution occurs in women because estrogen lessens the adipose distribution to the abdominal region, and stimulates fat growth in the gluteofemoral region. Testosterone, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. While estrogen lessens the production of fat in the abdominal region, testosterone stimulates the growth of fat in the abdominal region. This distribution means that women are more likely to be curvy thus making the hour glass figure a desirable and somewhat achievable body type. [1]


In the 1930s American goods such as the Coca-Cola bottle were exported for the first time to Jamaica. Today in the Jamaican culture the Coca-Cola bottle has now become the representation of a perfect women’s body. Women with curves that are shaped to look like the bottle get the highest compliments from men while skinny women get mocked and made fun of. [3]

Hourglass Figure and The Corset[edit]

In the mid to late 1800s, during the Victorian era, the hourglass corset was used to accentuate the hourglass body shape that had become popular and ideal. It acted on the waist by compressing and reducing the size of the woman’s waist by force. The corset is iconic with the image of a woman being helped by her maids. The maids are pulling on strings at the back of the woman’s corset in order to tighten it and reduce the size of the wearer’s waist.[4] The hourglass corset varied and developed as time passed but the design and intention of the corset remained the same at the core – the reduction of the waist line in order to create the ideal hourglass body shape where the bust and hips were similar in measurement while being much wider than the narrow waist.

The Hourglass Figure and Women's Fashion

The return of the hourglass figure has been influenced by many different things including the different roles women play at home and in the work place displaying that women in todays society have more control over what they look like. In the '60s women celebrated liberation by wearing skimpy mini skirts, in the seventies during the feminist movement bohemian fashion emerged and in the eighties the fought for equality in the work place forced women to dress more like men. [5]

Hourglass Figure and Plus-Size In The Fashion Industry[edit]

The hourglass figure is perhaps the most prominent body shapes out of the four as well as being the iconic body shape in the fashion industry. Such fashion designers as Christian Dior has designed clothes with specifically the female hourglass body shape in mind.[6]  Fashion designers of today continue to design clothes that fit the hourglass body shape even when the body shapes of modern women are changing and becoming much more varied.[7] Even now when plus-size is included in the fashion industry as well as being more commonly produced by various groups of clothing designers, the hourglass size is a great influence on the design of plus-sized clothes. Models of the plus size clothing still retain that hourglass figure albeit bigger than the models of regular clothing.[8] Research surveys conducted in Britain by the University College London and the London College of Fashion found that less than 10% of women had an hourglass body shape.[7] The smooth and narrow waist continues to dominate in fashion designs meant to cater to plus-size women even when that particular body shape, the hourglass, is not commonly found.  Although the fashion designs have remained relatively untouched, the reality is that women’s bodies are changing and modernistic fashion body shape ideals, primarily the hourglass body shape, are extremely uncommon for the average woman to have.


Recent research indicates men’s preference of the hour glass figure on women. These studies found that this shape was even more preferential than breast size or facial features. Scientist discovered that the perfect size waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7, or a waist that measures 70 percent of the circumference of the hip. Examples of women who possess or have possessed the perfect body were Marilyn Monroe, Jessica Alba and Alessandra Ambrosio. It should be noted that scientists have concluded that having such a figure is good for a women’s health and increases her rate of fertility. [9]


  1. ^ a b Singh, Devendra. "An Evolutionary Theory of Female Physical Attractiveness" (PDF). Fields of Psychology. 
  2. ^ Pawłowski, Bogusław; Grabarczyk, Marzena. "Center of Body Mass and the Evolution of Female Body Shape". American Journal Of Human Biology. 
  3. ^ Savacool, Julia (2009-09-15). The World Has Curves: The Global Quest for the Perfect Body. Rodale. ISBN 9781605293646. 
  4. ^ "Hourglass corset". Wikipedia. 2016-05-21. 
  5. ^ Coulson, Clare. "The big new look? It's right behind you The ultra-skinny look is being challenged by the return of the hourglass figure. Clare Coulson reports on a dramatic change in the female silhouette.". Daily Telegraph. 
  6. ^ "hourglass figure type Archives - University of Fashion Blog". University of Fashion Blog. Retrieved 2017-03-17. 
  7. ^ a b "The shape of things to wear: scientists identify how women's figures". The Independent. 2005-11-21. Retrieved 2017-03-17. 
  8. ^ "Why Is The Hourglass Figure The Only Celebrated Body Type In Plus Size Fashion? | Stylish Curves". Stylish Curves. 2017-03-01. Retrieved 2017-03-17. 
  9. ^ "Women with hourglass figures and perfect waists most attractive, study finds". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-04.