Friday, September 18, 2009

how tight?

An interesting observation made by fashion historian Valerie Steele and cited in Judith Flanders' book Inside the Victorian Home:

She notes that in the Leicestershire Museums Service there is a collection of 197 corsets, only one of which has a waist measuring 18" when fastened; eleven measure 19", and the remainder are between 20" and 26"-- in other words, not much below the waist sizes of many women today, who substitute exercise for corsets. She adds that we do not know why these corsets were preserved; it may have been that they were considered particularly small or pretty.

20" and 26"?! Considering Flanders' book was published in 2003, I wonder where Steele's stats on waist sizes come from. Is this an average of women's waist sizes in a specific country, such as England, or in general? Steele never actually says that this number is an average, so is it just women she knows who consist of her "many women today?" Or do those numbers only count for women who exercise?

From my online research I am coming up short on finding an "average" waist size being 20" and 26". I am finding, however, that most American women seem to be well over that mark. What I am finding, however, is that a healthy waist size has nothing to do with how many inches the measuring tape records around your middle, but is based on a waist to hip ratio:

Waist Hip Ratio is calculated by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement. (Hips are the widest part of your butt).
Ideally, women should have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8 or less.
Ideally, men should have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.95 or less.
From a non measurement stand point, if your waist is smaller then your hips, you have a healthy waist line.
While a waist smaller than hips certainly looks healthier, I wonder if a cap exists for how small a healthy waist/hip ratio can actually be:

image source: Pardesh Baata

"Hourglass" is an understatement. Ouch.

1 comment:

  1. If most of the corsets were between 20-26" this doesn't mean that the women who wore them had natural waists this size. Corsets are usually 3-5" smaller than natural waist size, so a woman with a 30" waist would probably wear a 26" corset. Far more common than you seem to have assumed, though admittedly not 'average' by today's standards.