The popular science magazine Nature published the results of a study led by Michel Hopkins to find what part of the female body looks most attractive to men. The group of American scientists discovered that the most appealing feature of the female body was the waist, and the smaller the better. Yet a recent study in the UK has shown that the waist of the average woman is in serious decline. Over the past 60 years, the difference between the average bust/hips and waist measurements has shrunk from 10 inches (25 cm) to 4 inches (10 cm). Such a significant change should present a serious challenge both to male susceptibilities and to the fashion industry.
The study reported in Nature claimed that male appreciation of the female waist has a long history. A study of English poetry from Elizabethan times showed that slender waists were extolled far more often than breasts or thighs. It concluded that long legs, tall height and small weight are all standards of our times imposed on society by the high-fashion business and advertising. Famous fashion models such as Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen were said not to have any waist. As has so often been observed, the world of Haute Culture ignores the preferences of the majority of men.
High fashion favours the parallel figure and so it should welcome the trend of the disappearing waist. Yet while it seeks to reduce the female form to a single vertical line, real women are expanding in all three dimensions. A triangular dispersion is developing as the fashion industry, the male majority and real women drift ever further apart. The established norms of high fashion are rigidly upheld and men are slow to change their preferences, so it is the poor neglected average woman who feels under pressure to resolve the situation by trying to change her body shape.
One Harley Street clinic in London recently reported a 40 per cent increased interest in body-sculpting waistline-reduction treatments from women wishing to emulate the waistline of the 1950s, as portrayed in the ‘Mad Men’ television series. This would suggest that the average woman is more interested in seeking to please men than in trying to conform to the unrealistic ideals of the fashion industry. However, an even healthier approach would be for each woman to feel content with her body form and seek to wear clothes adapted to enhance her individual natural beauty.
It has been observed that the waistline of modern clothing is now considerably below the waist as defined anatomically. With the advent of pants and skirts that do not require support from above, the clothing waist has moved down to a position where the body starts to expand and support is provided. With changes in fashion the waistline moves up and down. It can also be emphasised or concealed. This is one of the many ways that fashion can be adapted to suit body shape and bring confidence and elegance to the wearer. High fashion has eliminated the female waist and women are losing their hourglass form so it is now up to men to accept the realities on our time.