Saturday 2 February 2008

Is in and out in or out?

I knew I was edging towards the controversial when I mentioned waist size - I wasn't actually referring to the way belts are more often worn now, at about pelvis level. I assume that a waist measurement still means the smallest part of the middle. And the fact is that a much larger size is the norm than it used to be.

For example, a while ago I read a quote from Fergie (the Duchess, not the Black Eyed Pea) saying that she'd worked hard to get a 29" waist and she was proud of it. And only a week or two ago, I read that Victoria Beckham has an unhealthily tiny 24" waist. But my own waist measures 28" and is not small so that's obviously nonsense as she is very thin indeed.

I'm not remarking on what a woman's waist 'should' measure, or what is fat, thin or just right. This really isn't my point at all, and being a quarter of the way into my intended weight loss, I may be quite pleased about myself right now, but I still wish I hadn't spent my forties putting on two bloody stone that now need to be shed and which are responsible for the pain I now am in when I walk (though not for the arthritis, which simply happened, as stuff does).

No, what takes my attention, and the Chairwoman, my contemporary, feels the same, is the speed with which 'normal' body shapes have changed and that pundits seem to have forgotten that. That's what's odd, not what size or shape anyone is but that our shapes seem to have changed to fit the fashion. This is understandable, I suppose, in some respects because, whether or not we wore panty-girdles or whatever you wish to call them, we had waistbands. Not elasticated either. You had a firm band of cloth around your middle and you did hold your tummy in, so it constricted your waist. The girdle wouldn't actually hold in the waist, because that was where it finished - if anything, it would leave a little roll of flesh above - it was tightening of the bottom and holding in the tum that was its purpose. But those of us in our teens and twenties 40 years ago didn't want to wear the constricting underwear that our mothers did, but we still thought that having a waist and a fairly flat stomach were desirable.

There's another thing - back when I was a girl, big busts were out. Or rather, they were not 'in'. I was spot on there, and never had more than an A cup, but not many people did - A or B was the norm. Even 20 years ago, I often didn't wear a bra in hot weather, and I am sure no one noticed (girls, don't believe a word anyone says about breastfeeding making you sag, it isn't true). But now, we want bigger breasts and, looking around, lots of us seem to have obliged. We can't all have had enlargements? I haven't, and I've been various sizes at different times in my life, but it's only been in the past few years that I've burgeoned in that respect. There's one of the girls, for example, at the hairdresser. She's fit and sporty and works out regularly. I'll guess her hips measure 34". But she hasn't a waist, she's straight as a boy. Not in the chest area though, where she's well endowed.

I said in yesterday's comments that, as a teenager, I thought I was fat. Small bust, slim waist, where did I think I was going wrong? Ah, but everyone had those. I had hips. Just natural, curvy ones, but certainly hips. And I thought my legs were fat. They just weren't thin. I'd have been too self-conscious to have my photo taken, but maybe if I had I'd have realised. Sad, isn't it? Just as well that I now know it doesn't really matter anyway...pity I didn't then.


Unknown said...

Photo please!

Z said...

You've got one of the eye already, what more do you want?

Monozygote said...

Things that make one's bosoms bigger:
1. The pill
2. Fatness
3. Handling
4. Padded bras, or those things that some people put inside their bra on purpose.

I'm still not sure if you're saying that actual women have changed, or just what pundits present as the norm.

Z said...

Well yes, but I've gone from A to D myself and none of these apply to me - fatness yes, but what used to go all to my arse now redistributes itself differently.

I don't know what I'm saying either, to tell the truth. But then, if you look at Edwardian women and then at 20s flappers, it's much the same difference in a generation too.


Yoga Gal said...

I was shocked to see that that Spice Girl had a 24" wasit, I have a 24" wasit and I'm not as tiny as she. I saw her at a Strabucks in Malibu and she look skinny even compared to L.A. standards! I understand how belts and low hip huggers pants are designed these days are frustrating. Oh the pill doesn't increase your bust size, I'm on the pill they feel bigger because the pill causes more blood flow to your breast like one is when we have our flow. I'm a 36 C cup and exercise is best way to keep those breast full and firm. I've had gal pal with huge natural breast that when they took off their bras their nipples went down to their waist line not very pretty. Be happy what you got.

Monozygote said...

Well, I just don't believe that actual body shapes have actually changed. I think there's always been diversity, and that there still is.

If there's any change apparent in the photographic record, I'd suggest that's the result of selective sampling, and reflects nothing more than changing "fashions" in women's body types.

Chairwoman of the bored said...

dandelion - When Z and I were young women (or 'girls' as we were known at the time), a size 12 dress measured 34" bust, 24" waist and 36" hips. I think you will find the measurements considerably larger today.

Dress manufacturers say that women are bigger all over, going on the old sizing, a size 0 would have 24" hips.

I know that you have a duty to dispute everything I say, but as somebody whose mother had a womens clothes shop, and who was actually there at the time we are talking about, let me assure you that shapes have changed.

Monozygote said...

Well, I am glad you said this, chair, it explains a lot.

If we are talking about dress sizes, I do remember there being some discussion in the media about ten years ago, bemoaning the fact that women's dress sizes hadn't changed since the 50's, even though women had got bigger.

Around this same time, very few clothes shops had anything less than a size 10. I know, because I looked everywhere. The only place that reliably sold an 8 or less was the Gap, and I was buying size 6 because I was anorexic. After that experience, and knowing how small a size 6 was, I've never understood how there can be women at a size zero and still alive, unless the sizing has changed. Which, if it has, was never announced, to my knowledge.

There must have been a moment when people who thought they were one size, suddenly found that when they went shopping, that size was inexplicably too big for them. What a headfuck.

(I still dispute that body shapes have changed (much less evolved), btw, beyond any change associated with more fat. Sorry if it annoys you.)

Z said...

Indeed, clothes sizings have changed and I find it difficult to find anything that, if it fits round the hips, isn't too loose around the middle. I'm not putting this down to general fatness or criticising anyone's shape, however. At the start, I said that waists are bigger. We all agree that low-waisted trousers are much the reason for that. We know that people, generally, have a higher BMI than they used to, because we're always being told that.

And fashion photos are altered now and have always been and we're not taking them as read, are we? Though many unhappy women do and are discontented with their normal shapes.

My mother had a pair of her grandmother's gloves. Elbow-length, leather (kid I suppose) evening gloves. I couldn't get my hand into them at all, though my hands are not particularly large. When I was at school, I reckoned my size 5 feet were quite big, and there was only one girl in the class with size 8s. When my daughter was at school, her size 5s were considered pretty small - and now I know pre-pubescent children whose feet are bigger than that.

Monozygote said...

This is getting scary. D'you know when you see a really old house, and the door is like, tiny, like maybe four foot....oh, this is giving me the willies!

Z said...

In our house, which is Tudor, there is one door I have to bend double to get through...

Now I feel like Alice in Wonderland again

Anonymous said...

Dandelion - "Size 0" is an ignorance of the typically thick British journalist. Size Zero is an Americanism equivalent to a British size 4, but don't expect your typical British journalist to have the brains to work that one out.

I also remember that survey of body sizes. One of the reasons they gave was the Pill. Another was earlier onset on puberty. And a third 'working out' which builds muscles differently from old-fashioned backbreaking housework etc.

People can be very delusional about size. I read somewhere a few years back how MArtine McCutcheon struggled to fit into a size 12 dress, and they gave her measurements. I forget W and H but her bust was 38 which is never a size 12!

Z said...

I remember an American friend who, visiting Scotland a few years ago, bought a kilt for her friend at home, as requested. Friend (possibly ex-friend) was offended and wouldn't try it on, as it was a size 12. Sheila explained that this was British sizing, but she wouldn't have it, nor pay for it either