How long did it take you to get ready this morning? 20 minutes? An hour? The whole day? Okay, so that last one probably isn’t too accurate, but we do live in a world where people care a huge amount about their outward appearance. After all, you’ve gotta rake in those fire emojis on your Instagram, haven’t you? However, the definition of beauty and size has changed over the years, and it seems as though what we see as the “average” size is constantly chopping and changing. Just like our hairstyles. Because of this, size 14 is no longer the average size for an American woman.
The average size
Because society seems to care so much about body image and our size, these thoughts and beliefs have been ingrained into our daily lives. We like to make sure we look our best, that our eyebrows are always on fleek, and that we’re always wearing a fire outfit that shows off what our mommas gave us.
While we all look different, experts have often tried to distinguish the “average” size of women.
To keep track of clothing size and body image over the years, the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education have conducted a survey.
Within this study, experts decided to compare the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1988 to 2010 to the ASTM International Misses & Women’s Plus Size clothing information. Yep, this may sound like a mouthful, but do bear with us…
In the past
Before this study, it was a well-known fact that the average American woman wore size 14 clothing. This became the general consensus for beautiful ladies across the country, and everyone was happy with the conclusion that 14 was the number of the decade.
However, it seems as though this has now changed, and this isn’t the kind of change we should be pulling our hair out over. The average size has now increased to between 16 and 18.
All about the waist
So, how did they come to this conclusion? The genius minds behind this study whipped out their tape measures and recorded the waist sizes of over 5,000 women over the course of 22 years, and discovered that the waist measurements were getting bigger.
In 1988, the average size of a woman’s waist came in at 34.9 inches, but in 2010 that increased to 37.5 inches. However, this isn’t a bad thing!
Although many health experts would link this increase in waist size to the rising tide of obesity in the US, that’s not the missing link we’ve been searching for. Over the course of history, debates have opened up surrounding the “average size.”
After all, every woman is completely different, and the lovely ladies of the US come in all shapes and sizes. This new information means that we can reevaluate our depiction of “average.”
Of course, it’s always important to know and appreciate your own self-worth, and for some women, this average could bring them a new lease of life. One of the leading experts on the study, Susan Dunn, spoke to TODAY about the matter.
She suggested that “knowing where the average is” can help many women understand that they are not too big or too small, but that they fall between the boundaries of the rest of the population.
A change in clothing
More than anything, Susan hopes that this new information will also help retailers to rethink their products. If the average size of women has increased, they need to think about their sizing and how their clothing fits their customers.
Yet, this information should be taken with a pinch of salt. Over the course of history, the “ideal” and “average” female body has changed more times than we can count. How long will this average last?
The Gibson era
Although the average body has been changing since the dawn of time, it’s fair to say that it has changed an incredible amount in the past century. The 1910s saw the rise of the “The Gibson Girl,” and she was the epitome of beauty.
This look was brought into the public eye by a male illustrator called Charles Gibson, and it’s safe to say that he had some requirements when it came to his dream woman.
A figure of eight
So, what was so special about the Gibson Girl? The best way to describe this “average” woman of the 1910s is that she looked just like a figure of eight.
She had a large bust and chest, her waist was cinched and tiny, but her hips were curvaceous and round. Most of the time, women are not born with this specific body type so they would have to use corsets to create this Gibson era body.
While saying “The Flapper” may sound as though we’re being a little rude, this era proved to be amazingly iconic in the fashion world and brought a new meaning to body image and size.
When thinking of this era, it’s best to imagine Joe Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, and the exploits of those in The Great Gatsby. In just a decade, tall women had gone out of fashion, and petite women had found their place.
Streamlined and petite
In fact, the 1920s saw the rise of the average streamlined and petite female. Curves were no longer a part of society, and it was best to look straight and narrow in knee-length shimmy dresses that would allow women to dance the night away.
A small bust and hips were all the rage during this era, and it seemed as though the natural curves of a woman were replaced by androgynous lines.
By the time the 1930s came around, the ideal female body had changed once again. The slender body of the roaring 20s had been overtaken by the famous “Bread Diet” that took this decade by storm.
Women attempted to lose weight by eating up to six slices of bread a day, and this led to a fuller, rounder figure. Although curves made a comeback, they only made a small comeback.
A fitted silhouette
The fashion of the 1930s also showcased the change in body image and the average size of woman. Instead of donning straight-up-and-down dresses, complete with enough sparkle and tassels to require sunglasses, women chose a more fitted silhouette.
Round shoulders were in, and the small bust line added a tiny amount of shape to the otherwise boxy and streamlined silhouettes. However, the average woman was soon about to change.
Standing to attention
As the war raged on in the 1940s, political turmoil allowed a new kind of woman to make her way out of the woodwork. As their husbands went off to war, women embraced the military look to take on the responsibility at home.
They stood to attention, and they decided to show this off with their angular and powerful outfits. In this instance, the taller and more muscular women reigned supreme.
The Hourglass era
A huge change in body image came into our lives in the 1950s. In this era, Jessica Rabbit inspired a brand new woman who embraced her curves and took pride in her voluptuous appearance. In fact, the women in the ‘50s were encouraged to take weight-gaining supplements to achieve this look and fill out their curves.
Many lovely ladies aimed to look just like Elizabeth Taylor with her 36/21/36 measurements.
All about the shape
This era was all about shape, and this was the case within body image as a whole and the fashion world. The goal was to make your body look as curvaceous and well-rounded as possible, and even if you did have a tiny waist and a large chest, you could definitely utilize a sweetheart neckline.
Most women also allowed circle skirts the chance to become a major part of their fashion repertoire.
The change between the 1950s and the 1960s was a drastic one and seemed to happen overnight. It was during this era that the likes of Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton took the modeling world by storm – and everyone wanted to be just like them.
With their petite frames and their short stature, they were known for being especially thin. During this era, the number of women using medication for weight loss grew and grew.
Despite the small waists and the slim figures of the women during this era, the shift dress was flying off the shelves like hot cakes. This gave women the chance to hide the fact that they didn’t have any curves, and give their style a more androgynous look. That’s because the 1950s was all about the face.
Petite and doll-like faces were reigning supreme, and this was normally matched with a giant pair of sunglasses.
By the time the 1970s came along, most women had been struck down by disco fever. All they wanted to do was make their way to the dance floor and party the night away with their big hair and their giant flares.
Yep, everyone wanted to be the dancing queen, feeling the beat of the tambourine! Despite the flared trousers and the sparkles, the women underneath these extravagant clothes were still fairly slim.
All about the diets
In fact, the 1970s was all about diets. Dr. Robert Atkins was spouting his weight loss tips to anyone who would hear them, Weight Watchers was in full swing, and Lucky Strike was advertising their products to lose weight. The women of these era had straight hips, a small bust, and relatively long legs, just like Farrah Fawcett.
This Charlie’s Angel soon became the hot topic of the 1970s.
Models were already making their mark on the world in the 1970s, but the 1980s sparked a supermodel revolution. Of course, these models didn’t just wear normal clothes. They were making their way down the runway in spandex and leotards, because this era was all about the aerobics, baby!
To pull off this look, leggy models such as Naomi Campbell and Elle Macpherson showed us that they had legs for days.
Elle Macpherson was one of the most famous women of the era, and her nickname of “The Body” made her the one to watch. Everyone wanted to embody the athletic frame, which meant that any hint of a curve was out of the window.
This decade was all about height, strength, and stamina, and those with curves and edges weren’t allowed in the metaphorical aerobics class of society.
The grunge scene
The idea of being slim and strong also made its way into the 1990s, as Kate Moss became the most sought-after model in the business. However, this was also an area to denounce the general idea of femininity and try something new.
With grunge taking over the world, women were covering their slim frames with slouchy jeans, oversized sweaters, and large clothing that men would also wear.
The 1990s also saw the introduction of Spanx, and it’s fair to say that women were impressed with their ability to hold everything in. This was further encouragement for them to lose weight and conform to the slim ideals of the era.
However, it seems as though some people weren’t taken by this change in body image, as Sir Mix-a-Lot had a lot to say about what he liked…
Toned and ready
Because many believed that the models and women in the 1990s were too gaunt and pale, the average size changed once again in the next decade. The year 2000 saw the rise of the buff beauty, who would show off her toned physique, her exposed abs, and her muscled arms.
Of course, women didn’t have to work for this if they didn’t want to. That’s what the spray-on abs were for!
When you think of the ‘00s, there’s a high chance that you immediately think of Britney Spears. This icon was at the top of her game during this decade, she embodied what many believed was the perfect woman.
She wore crop tops that showed off her toned abs, she avoided long-sleeved shirts like the plague, and she wore tight pants to enhance her strong legs. It was all about the muscles.
Junk in the trunk
After the athleticism and the muscles of 2000, it came as a surprise to many to see the trend of 2010. Thanks to the rise of stars such as Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, and Nicki Minaj, everyone wanted to show off the junk in their trunks.
Kim K even broke the internet with her famous asset! Everyone wanted to add a few pounds to the scales to achieve this look.
Instead of being shamed for their larger bust and booty like in the past, women with curves in all of the right places were praised for their shape. Ladies made their way to the gym to maintain their squat count, and these assets were showcased in social media posts and music videos alike.
After all, we’ve all seen a few high-waisted bikini shots in our time, and we reckon we’ll see a few more.
Over the years, there’s no doubt about the fact that body image and size has changed dramatically. It seems as though new trends and styles are coming in and out of fashion all of the time, which brings up the “average” woman debate once again.
If the average size is changing so often, how can we have an average? We can only assume the numbers will change again.
Keeping the average
For the time being, having an average could be a benefit to society. Women in this day and age will be able to understand and appreciate their bodies if they fall within this average, but what about those that don’t at this moment in time and fit better into another era?
For now, however, the biggest jump is that size 14 is no longer the average size.