Study: As average women’s dress size increases, supermodels’ waists keep shrinking

BOSTON — A person’s value should never be determined based on their physical appearance. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped modern society, Hollywood producers, and advertisers from bombarding consumers with unrealistic depictions of what should be considered “beautiful.” Now, a new study on Victoria’s Secret fashion models is illustrating just how off base the popular lingerie company is in its depictions of women.

Over the past 20 years, the average American woman’s waist circumference and dress size has steadily increased. Conversely, Victoria’s Secret fashion models just keep getting smaller and skinnier. The average lingerie model has seen her bust, waist, hips and dress size all decrease over the past two decades, although the average waist to hip (WHR) ratio of Victoria’s Secret models hasn’t changed.

Victoria’s Secret “Angels,” or fashion models, are often considered sex symbols in American culture. Millions of women are constantly inundated with the message that if they want to be beautiful and desirable, they should strive to look like they do. As such, the research team from Boston University School of Medicine say that the popular brand is doing an incredible disservice to countless women by promoting an image of beauty that is a far cry from the Average U.S. woman.

The attractiveness of a female body is not an objective subject, and is influenced by a number of varying factors across individuals, according to the study’s authors. Examples of these contributing factors include physical and non-physical traits, media and cultural exposure, and sociocultural standards and or expectations. Interestingly, one factor regarding female attractiveness that has stayed relatively constant across time periods and cultures is waist to hip ratio (WHR), which measures body fat distribution. An ideal WHR is typically considered a narrow waist combined with fuller hips.

Researchers measured and compared Victoria’s Secret models between 1995-2018. Since the first Victoria’s Secret runway show in 1995, it has become the most popular fashion show in the world, regularly viewed by millions each year.

The data revealed that these models keep getting thinner and thinner, while their WHR has remained the same.

“Conversely, the average American woman’s waist circumference and dress size has increased and varies between a misses size 16 and 18,” explains corresponding author Neelam Vashi, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine, in a release.

Researchers believe it is no coincidence that over the same time period more and more American women are opting for cosmetic surgery. Since 2000, buttock lift procedures have increased by 4,295% and lower body lifts have increased 256%.

“Our results represent a potentially changing weight ideal of beauty that is moving farther away from the characteristics of the average American woman; however, a constant idealized WHR remains intact,” Dr. Vashi concludes.

The study is published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

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