# Curvy does not mean plus sized

If you need to catch up, the answer to yesterday’s quiz (and part two) is woman A is curviest and now I’m going to tell you why. Actually, I’ll prove it using the least likely of models -that of Courtney Love who is famously thin.

By the way, this all came about because The Sartorialist found himself in hot water over his use of the term “curvy”. It was cause for much ire and outrage on the web. Scott asks:

Is there a minimum degree of curviness to be considered “curvy”?

To which I’d say, yes there is and I’m so glad you asked. The technical definition of curvy refers to a waist-hip differential of .75 . For example, a woman with a 36″ hip is curvy if her waist is 27″ or less. This is a nine inch difference but does not hold true for all dimensions because curvy is relative. It’s math, not opinion. By way of comparison, a hip measure of 46″ is only curvy if her waist is 34.5″ or less, a difference of 11.5″.

Using my photo of Courtney Love, I drew a line to match her waist girth. Then I copied and pasted the exact same line at her bust and hip respectively. You can see there’s quite a difference between her total hip and bust girths as compared to her waist. So, bone thin as she may be, she is -from a technical, industry terminology (but not marketing) standpoint- significantly curvier than your average size 18. It’s too bad that her hat is in the way but the green bar of her waist length hasn’t even reached the midpoint of her opposing breast. I know this is no comparison but I have another one further down using the examples of woman A & B from yesterday.

The reason that plus size patterns are not curvy or are much less curvy is because as a body gains weight, the small depressions of the body fill in and commensurate padding isn’t added to the high points. A useful analogy is illustrated by observing your driveway after a rain. There are little puddles in the low points although the entire surface is wet. As more rain falls, larger sloping depressions fill in further. It isn’t until it floods (morbid obesity) that any low points are completely smoothed over.

Another reason plus size patterns are flatter as opposed to curvier is due to styling. In larger sizes, people’s bodies form rolls of flesh. So while it is possible to draft to emphasize the size and location of rolls, I don’t know anyone who would consider that a feature worth paying for. Most people don’t want that emphasized.

Now here’s the back to back comparison of a thin vs plus sized woman from yesterday’s post. On each respective body, I drew a line at the waist and then copied and pasted the same line over the bust and hips. In the image you can see there’s a significant gap between the thin woman’s waist, hip and bust size. This difference is not as pronounced in the plus sized figure. The bust of the plus sized woman is almost the same as her waist and the hip is only a bit larger than her waist.

True, without measurements we cannot say for certain that the thinner woman is curvy but we can definitely eliminate the plus sized woman from the curvy pool. A basic top pattern for the larger woman will be a trapezoid with waist and hip nearly the same and the pattern for the thinner woman would be an hourglass.

The curvy-definition disconnect between consumer culture and the apparel industry may become a greater problem over the year to come; new sizing charts are working their way through committee and a dramatic change is the addition of measurements for curvy women. I told a couple of women about it and they became very excited but unfortunately, they assumed it mean plus sized. Curvy sizes will range (within the D5585) from sizes 00-20. Very thin women can be significantly curvier than plus sized because from a technical (pattern) standpoint, patterns for thinner people are significantly curvier than those for plus sizes.

I’m not certain what if any long term trend will result in adoption of the new charts. I only know that you will have to know the difference. Already there are dress forms specific to the curvy body type (I bought one) and in a variety of sizes. Meaning that if you order a curvy form and were expecting a plus sized form, you will be disappointed and it won’t be the vendor’s fault. Likewise, if you ask a pattern maker to use the ASTM dimensions of a curvy size 18 for your patterns, you may be disappointed to learn the waist may be much smaller than you had expected. One thing is clear, the creation of a curvy fit profile means it is likely that pants sized for pear shapes may become more common and it is possible there will be a set aside for this designation at retail. Frankly, I can’t imagine how retailers are going to pitch it.

Slightly off topic: It used to be (has always been) that a simple 8-10 inches was subtracted from the hip measure to arrive at the waist measure across the board but using this .75 equation is more accurate because it is relative to the body in question -which is how we draft patterns.

It is also ironic. I don’t know how many 46″ hipped women have waists that are 11.5″ smaller than their hips but I suspect it is a much smaller market. Meaning, it is less likely that “curvy” women will be wearing patterns drafted using curvy measuring standards.

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1. Karen says:

SO nice to see a post about this! I have never, ever been able to fit in pants off the rack because of my curvy figure, and I’m not in a plus-size range. I sure hope I can buy clothing sized for my body someday…i don’t have the time to sew everything myself!

2. Seth M-G says:

My wife has found that the best fit for her is ‘curvy’, and she’s 5’2″ and around 100#. Her current favorite pair of jeans are True Religion; they seem to have more curve built into a lot of the patterns they use for women.

I remember being at a Levi’s store a few month back and noticing that they were making three different fits of jeans for women; the difference in waist to hip size in the curvy jeans was quite dramatic. …And yet, they still used a straight waistband. :/

3. Colleen P. says:

This is very enlightening, and it’s helpful to have it explained this way. It certainly gives me more insight on why certain patterns just haven’t worked for me. More than that, it gives me some idea of what to look for and how to alter patterns to get a better fit.

4. Wow I never knew there was an exact number to define curvy, I’m glad I do now. I’m not in the plus-size range but I’ve always said I was curvy and now I know I really am. This is an excellent post, thank you for sharing.

5. Leah says:

I have been “curvy” no matter what size I wear… At size 22, I often had a 6″ gap at the waistband… now wearing a size 6/8 I still have a gap at the waist — on that note, I can usually buy a skirt a size or two smaller than my pants… I like the Riders by Lee – Curvier jeans – the waistband ALMOST fits!

6. Cassandra says:

I can only assume that this relative ratio (you mention waist to hip) also applies to a waist to bust ratio for the Curvy classification.

If you can pitch it right there is definitely a market for clothing for custom figure shapes. Bravissimo has just launched a full scale clothing label to fit the top heavy curvy girls. They started producing one clothing item years ago – a single top with a built in bra – years ago and have just built up their manufacturing side of the business over the years to great success. The sizing system is quite interesting: http://www.bravissimo.com/pepperberry/

7. Noxie says:

Interesting… I always have trouble finding pants because I’m short and my waist & hip measurements are almost 13″ apart (waist 28″- hips 40.5″)… so does my mum who’s obese, but very curvy… like, 32 inch waist and 46 inch hips

8. Kathleen says:

I can only assume that this relative ratio (you mention waist to hip) also applies to a waist to bust ratio for the Curvy classification.

One would think but that is not the case. I’ve known it for years but find I still need to recalibrate my expectations occasionally. I’ve thought about it some and have a few theories as to why, not that it helps us any. It’s one of the reasons I’m not wild on the EN13402 because it essentially eliminates the possibility of a greater bust disparity in mandated sizing. Doesn’t strike me as fair. I need to update that entry but if the sizing police/sizing militants in the EU had their way, it would be illegal to sell any clothing that did not conform to the standards. Iow, product lines like Bravissimo (there are quite a few) couldn’t be sold there.

9. Teijo says:

Kathleen, would you mind me asking how you feel EN 13402 eliminates the possibility of a greater bust disparity in mandated sizing? I thought that except for setting dimension steps and how sizes are shown, the standard places no restrictions on what a manufacturer may do.

Under it, dresses, for example, are sized by bust, waist and hip girths, of which the bust is considered the primary dimension. If only the bust size is listed, it does look like the waist and hip dimensions are assumed to deviate from the bust by a “standard” amount. However – unless I’m mistaken – as long as all pertinent dimensions are listed accurately, a hypothetical garment with the somewhat improbable size of 119-125 (bust), 62-66 (waist), 150-155 (hips) would be just as compliant as the more common 119-125 (B), 103-109 (W), 125-130 (H) combination with the same bust girth.

I’ve not found much information regarding the alternative five-character shorthand size codes. However, while they probably don’t encompass the whole gamut of possible size combinations, I would think that as long as the required dimensions are indicated on the size labels one is not obligated to use the letter sizes or codes.

The primary restriction is see is that the XXS – ?XL letter sizes are defined based on the entire population of Europe rather than just the manufacturer’s own clientele. It certainly looks like they are assumed to fall within a given standard size/shape range. However, speaking just for myself, I’ve never found letter codes too useful anyway…

Again speaking just for myself, I am attracted to the standard because it because e.g. a 70 cm waist girth is always 70 cm, and a hip girth of 100 cm is always 100 regardless of the manufacturer – and the pertinent dimensions are clearly indicated on each item. (I get confused when numbers shown in a given context don’t mean the same thing every time I see them.)

10. Theresa in Tucson says:

As a former “curvy” I have joined the standard ranks as my waistline has aged and I am now approaching the age where the waist starts to disappear. At one time I used to buy Land’s End or LL Bean trousers and take in the waist, when the waistband still had a center back seam. Now LL Bean makes a “curvy” pant that I could have used twenty years ago. Good discussion Kathleen, what we think is true, isn’t always so.

11. Kathleen says:

Kathleen, would you mind me asking how you feel EN 13402 eliminates the possibility of a greater bust disparity in mandated sizing? I thought that except for setting dimension steps and how sizes are shown, the standard places no restrictions on what a manufacturer may do.

Okay, the devil is always in the details. The project has “progressed” since then to simplify (expedite) sizing designations. Necessarily -considering the incalculable range the theoretical EN encompasses- sizes must be whittled down into commercial guidelines because retailers need to buy sizing fixtures for racks, stands etc. It simply is not tenable to have a rack of 100’s with differing subcategories for the possible gamut of waist and hip variations etc.

The design of the sizing designation is pretty clever but it cuts a lot of people out. For example, your example isn’t tenable under the size/numbering system. The bust to waist is static with hip being the only variation. Ex: a 76cm bust and 60cm waist are grouped together with the only variation being hip.
Specifically this is a size 10:
76 cm bust
60 cm waist
76 cm hip

this is a size 11:
76 cm bust
60 cm waist
80 cm hip

this is a size 12:
76 cm bust
60 cm waist
84 cm hip

on up to size 14 with a 92 cm hip. The sequence restarts at size 15 in terms of bust/waist ration, specifically 80cm bust, 64cm waist, 80cm hip –all measures but hip being static up to size 19 with a 96 cm hip.

Iow, the new size designations will run from size 10 to size 87. I’ll send you the spreadsheet I created so you can see what I mean. Point is, while it may be much easier for someone to find clothing based on hip measure, if their bust is out of the ordinary, they’re out of luck. Iow, if someone is the traditional slender hourglass 36-26-36, they will cross three size designations and will wear either a 30 (waist too big by 4″), 22 (bust too small by 3″, waist too big by 1″) or a 26 (bust too small by 1″, waist too big by 2″).

There are some things I like about it tho, namely there are (minimal) size breaks. Maybe it was accidental in getting the data to normalize but whatever.

I’m all for making size designations clearer to customers but it is ridiculous to mandate that clothing must be produced to match these dimensions because it forces others who are differently sized out of the market. Are we all supposed to get bust reductions? It’s silly.

Interesting. I’ve always thought that “curvy” was used by most people and/or the media as a euphemism for plump, just as they seem to refer to someone having “hips” when they actually mean the person has a “butt.”

13. Arobinson says:

I think Teijo touched on an important point when they mentioned that current sizing specs are based off of surveys of European communities. Perhaps this is one reason why certain minority owned companies that cater to the curvy body type which is found more often in minority communities has become so successful. Applebottom jeans comes to mind. I have known older women of color who barely have a clue who the celebrity designer/rap artist is, yet swear by the company’s jeans. Obese or thin, in certain ethnic groups the “curvy” shape is such a common occurrence that it’s become somewhat of a stereotype. I’ve found it to be true for many Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and women in the African diaspora. Lack of clothing that “fits” becomes an example of the marginalization felt by those communities when dealing with a fashion and manufacturing industry that does not have them in mind when devising size specs.

Within those communities there is an often shared frustration with finding any sort of off the rack clothing that accomodates the sometimes wide variation in measurements. This is because for many in these communities, even as the body increases in weight, the fat placement will continue to settle only in certain designated areas. The curvy shape when thin becomes a caricature of curviness when obese rather than filling in as suggested in Kathleen’s post. On a personal note, at my heaviest my hip measurement was a full 20″ difference from my waist measurement and my bust fell somewhere in between. I have never been able to find a pair of pants or jeans that fit my butt & thighs as well as my waist. There’s always so much gaping as to be absurd. I have so many friends & family that have the same experience. The only solution for me at either end of the scale has been to alter my purchased clothing. I think that as the industry is forced to embrace a multicultural/global consumer in order to survive that there will be even greater realizations where sizing/fit norms are concerned.

14. I think Teijo touched on an important point when they mentioned that current sizing specs are based off of surveys of European communities. Perhaps this is one reason why certain minority owned companies that cater to the curvy body type which is found more often in minority communities has become so successful.

The sizing specs in question are specific to the EU so it only stands to reason that they should reflect their community in the same way that Japanese sizes in Japan are derived from that market, China – same thing etc. Fitting a populace that is as genetically diverse as the US is a greater problem -hence the creation of specialty product lines like applebottom -and previously, bravissima etc.

I think it is the wrong tack to think of it as “forcing” the industry “to embrace a multicultural/global consumer in order to survive” as much as it is incumbent upon dissatisfied consumers to become manufacturers themselves. That is the only way it has been done, people do it every day (applebottom, bravissima, lane bryant), I don’t know why people assume it is someone else’s duty or responsibility particularly if a given manufacturer already has a customer that is satisfied with their products. We hashed a lot of this in many of the plus size debate entries.

I feel there has been a turn around in consumer expectations, some are calling it narcissism. I don’t understand it because I have never thought that someone owed this to me (not saying you think that). I know enough about sizing to know that few women are shaped like me so the best I can do is make my own or start a niche line for other women like me -but I don’t think I’m being discriminated against, marginalized, ignored, maligned or anything like that.

What’s worse, when specialty lines are launched, they are then criticized because they don’t meet the styling, fabrication or cost preferences of the consumer. Meaning, if you could multiply -for example- the theoretical 87 sizes (actually 77, EN sizes are 10-87) and design products to fit the myriad expectations of cost and styling, well, this theoretical firm would literally have to be the largest corporation in the world. It is not tenable. And consider your shopping experience, it would be overwhelming to go to a store and find 77 different sizes. I don’t know of a store that could afford to carry all those sizes (think of the rack space!). This is why stores themselves specialize. I’m not saying it’s easy but you shop stores that reflect your styling, sizing and cost preferences.

There is no vast cabal or conspiracy. No one is being discriminated against, marginalized, ignored or maligned. Rather, it is an opportunity. If it is as profitable to provide X as everyone says it is, be grateful for that hole in the market and use the opportunity to make your pile. This is an equal opportunity business.

15. Grace says:

I’m glad that you put a specific ratio that defines curvy.
I retook my measurements recently and compared it against periodic measurements in my sewing notebooks.
As a teen competitive athlete, I measured 26.5/39″.
As a 40 something desk jockey mom, I am 28/38″.

Under the old LL Bean sizing standard, the waists were too big on their one fit.
Now they have two fits, and look at the waist/hip ratio of the curvy fit!
http://www.llbean.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ShowSizeChart?categoryId=71437&productId=1031239&langId=-1

Where were they when I was an extremely thin and curvy size 4-6?
In their current sizing scheme, I am neither curvy nor straight fit.
How many people will have a 27.5/40.5=.68 waist to hip ratio?
If this curvy fit effort fails, they might incorrectly assume that the curvy customer doesn’t exist.
I still can’t buy stuff that fits me.

• AlexaFaie says:

I know this is an old post, but I measure the following:
Bust: 38″
Waist: 26″
Hips: 38″
My waist to hip ratio (and waist to bust too since my bust and hips measure the same) is 0.68
If 0.75 is the current definition of “curvy” then I am way beyond that! I was already beyond regular size charts back when I was 34″, 24″, 34″ which gives a waist to hip ratio of 0.71 and back then 0.70 was the standard for curvy/hourglass figures. So the curvy level seems to have gone down some! I’d have to gain two and a half inches on my waist nowadays in order to be considered “curvy” even though I am in fact much curvier!
I guess I’m also the exception to the rule that as one puts on weight the smaller parts fill out and you become less curvy. Having gained 4″ to my bust = 5 cup sizes (my band size stayed the same so I went from a 32C to a 32FF in UK bra sizes) and 4″ to my hips whilst only gaining 2″ on my waist, its just not the truth that the smallest part gains weight first.

I for one would welcome curvier clothes patterns but it seems like any changes only involve the waist and hips which is fine for pear shapes but not so much for curvy hourglass shapes. Finding clothes which fit well is hell. I usually just have to opt for stretchy fabrics so I can fit my waist comfortably (I can’t abide loose fitting clothes at the waist) and hope it can cope with my boobs. I can’t make use of Bravisimo’s Pepperberry clothes because their smallest size has its waist larger than my own and the bust does not go as curvy. You can get their super duper curvy fit in a 10, but not an 8. In some ways its a good thing as their designs are frumpy. But I would like to have options at least close!

16. Matthew Pius says:

Kathleen and Arobinson both have good points which are not mutually exclusive. What this discussion comes down to (for me at least) is that curvy and size are independent variables. You can be small and curvy or small and not-curvy — as well as large and curvy or large and not-curvy. I share Kathleen’s distaste for euphemisms and other things which destroy the precision of language. By using “curvy” to mean “large”, “plus-size”, or even “fat” people just confuse the issue more. Without using precise language, the discussion can not be had. Thanks, Kathleen for pointing out a technical definition of curvy!

17. Arobinson says:

Kathleen, I love your blog and the way that you’ve always committed yourself to open dialogue with your readers. I am the last person to run around crying foul over every perceived wrong, especially where business is concerned. However, while the manufacturing and by extension fashion industry may not be some archetypal villain, one has to admit that it is made up of human beings. Human beings each with their own issues, prejudices, and problems. I will never forget a long ago blog post written in response to an issue raised by one of the DEs in the private forum. The DE worried that the models’ ethnicity showing her line would affect the public (buyer) perception of the line. It was an eye opener for me.

My own experiences have taught me that in an industry where so much money is at stake for both the small and little players, very little is left to chance. Everything is about branding. From the models you choose to the font of your logo to the sizing specs that you follow—it’s all about branding. You can’t divorce the back end from the front end. Everything is seen as an opportunity to communicate the market share that you desire, the demographic that you seek. I suppose from that perspective, it is correct that nothing is personal, it is business. However the industry perceptions of who makes up those various market categories can be best described as dated and at worse as outright prejudiced.

I get what is being said about niche markets but if the “norm” is not meeting the standards of a company’s new “average” consumer, exactly how is it the “norm”? It becomes more about an unwillingness to make changes and flawed individual perceptions about what constitutes average. Perfect example is the high end market. It has traditionally been associated with a certain customer. This is one reason why many companies catering to that market have sizing that corresponds to euro sizes and traditionally have found it unnecessary to include models of a variety of ethnicities in their marketing campaigns. That is changing rapidly. The primary consumer of high end goods is more likely to be Asian than your traditional WASP. Expecting that companies will make changes to properly fit their customers is not expecting companies to cater to niche markets but rather expecting them to use best business practice-sell to who’s there, not who you want to be there or who used to be there. Perhaps this translates into a move away from the idea of market categories and instead the development of catering to niches within those traditional categories as the rule rather than the exception for anyone to survive, both small and large. Ahh… sounds good to me and seems to go hand-in-hand with lean manufacturing as well. I’ve been away for a long while, so I’m sure this has been hashed and re-hashed. Forgive me, I’m in the process of catching up.

18. Wyncia says:

Ok, I am a bit late, and a bit OT of design, but having been thin and having “smoothed out” with age, I say, “Thin has greater angles. Full figure has curves.” It is all in the comfort of the hug. Skinny = sharp and pokey. Full= soft and, well, curvy! Tee hee.

19. dexez says:

Wow, I have learned a lot both from this post and the comments.
I once read a study about what makes women beautiful to men and the most mentioned feature was a certain waist-hip difference. The word curvy was mentioned and that was the only accurate information I had about it.
The internet and the images promoted by the industry have created this confusion, that curvy is an eufemism for bigger sizes.
I’m glad I know the accurate difference now and will know how to alter clothes for this type of body. :)

20. Paul says:

As you show in the side view, curvy is not just the difference between waist and hip measurements, but it used to assume that there was some curvature across the buttocks. You could have the 0.75 ratio between the waist and hip with a very flat bottom and I don’t think many would describe that profile as “curvy”. Here in China there are many women that look curvy from the front, but have a completely flat butt and few describe this shape as curvy.
A good example of curvy might be my wife who has a 23 inch waist and 36.5 inch hips. From the front she appears to be somewhat curvy between her waist and hip, but the difference is most notable from the back. She cannot fit into many of the clothing produced here for her hip-to-waist (HTW) ratio because the back of the pants or shorts is too flat.
WTH ratio most commonly describes curviness, but in the not too distant past it also included a similar ratio between the bust and hip. Your HTW ratio o 0.75 might be a maximum to define curvy, because greater differences are also curvy. A HTW ratio that is considered most attractive in China has been found to be closer to the range of 0.55 to 0.65. My wife has told me that she gets more compliments on her shape from other women, especially when she goes to the bath-house. She is 152.5cm (5′ 0″) and her hip-to-waist is quite dramatic looking. Her bust to waist ratio is the same as her HTW ratio.

21. Kathleen says:

Arobinson: I appreciate your thoughtful comment… in some ways it causes me to ponder (again) the matter of how companies start and who starts them. Namely 97% are started by women but 98% end up being owned by men. I can only imagine that firms run by women probably run truer to core mission of being broadly more inclusive with respect to outlier figure types but perhaps this falls by the wayside when firms are taken over by men? I don’t know.

Paul: curvy is a technical, mathematical concept related to human anatomy void of value. My entry is an attempt to steer the conversation away from the socially nuanced definition which is laden with personal and cultural preferences and the highly variable attractive vs unattractive.

Iow, your wife regardless of where she lives and predominating preferences of local culture AND/OR whomever thinks she is attractive or not and regardless of the shape of her derriere, is curvy if her waist is 23″ and hips are 36″.

Curvy definitively describes drafting complexity. It refers to proportionately greater dimensional changes within a short span (the soccer ball) than drafting a long shaped curve (hot air balloon). The former is abrupt -hence curvy; the latter is a more gradual slope. The matter of aesthetic preferences is another story and varies widely.

22. Leslie says:

It would be great if the industy would use “full-figured” rather than “curvy” as a euphamism for large or fleshy. To Wyncia: I am thin, small and curvy. I am NOT sharp and pokey. I am 5’5″, have a 34/23.5/37″ b/w/h ratio, and wear a D cup. I can close my fingers around my wrist with space for two fingers between. I am not underweight for my size or my frame. I also have a great deal of trouble finding clothing off the rack, and usually wear skirts as a consequence. Woven shirts will usually gape at the bust if they fit my shoulders, and that kind of shirt is always very loose at the waist. I also am on the small side for many companies that cater to a true curvy figure.

I am also a patternmaker in the knitwear industry and have been a wovens patternmaker as well. For those shapes that are more columnar (have less ratio differences between b/w/h) you can wory less about dart position/intake and hiking at the hem or curves across the body (waist must dip more between the hip and the cf for a curvy pattern than a columnar pattern. Frankly, it is easier to make and fit patterns for the more columnar shaped figure. This is one factor in why I consider men’s patterns to be less difficult than women’s patterns. They are easier to draft and easier to fit. I meanly (and incorrectly, I know) sometimes wonder if this has also been a factor in deciding who will be the fit model/the silhouette of many large fashion brands. I am not trying to promote some sort of conspiracy theory; I know that curvy figures are less common than columnar figures, especially as the target customer ages. It makes sense that a non-curvy figure would be the target silhouette. Still, all companies have a bottom line, and the more quickly a fit is approved the more quickly it can be on the shelves. Personally, I am glad that some brands are now selling figure variants, despite the extra fit time and expense of additional fit models/dress forms.

23. Jess says:

Um, sadly, my hips are currently 46″ at their widest, and I have a 33″ waist. That makes me still curvy by your calculations, though you might consider me “plus” as well. I’m about 5’10” and legitimately large-boned; I can’t come close to closing my fingers around my wristbone. At my thinnest, my waist was 26″ and my hips were 40″. So, yes, I’m curvy at any weight apparently. I also have a bust of about 42-44″ depending on weight.

Thin or chubby, I’ve found that clothes are just not made to fit me. They are cut much too straight. When I was thin, I had a very flat stomach, and now I have a small amount of poochiness, but nothing near the waistline manufacturers assume will match my bust and waist. Most size charts that even include my bust size list a commensurate waist measurement of nearly 40 inches. It’s also hard to be motivated to get thin again when I know that nothing will fit me properly even at my smallest. How many articles of clothing are designed for tall women measuring 42-26-40 or 44-33-46. None, really.

24. Amb says:

I quite agree that the plussize=curvy is wrong, and very annoying in fact. There seems to be the idea that once you reach a certain size, everyone is the same body type, and we can just use “plus-size” or “curvy” as synonyms.
As a plus-sized, curvy woman (Meaurements 50-33-47, making my waist-to-hip ratio 0.66, and my bra a 34L. Good luck finding clothes!), I am looking for very different things, when I look for curvy clothes vs. plus-sized clothing. I have experienced going into a plus-size store, asking for clothes that fit a curvy body, and gotten the answer “This is all for curvy women”, and then every single item in the store was tent-shaped. That’s not curvy!

25. Holly says:

Hi Kathleen, I know this is a very old post but on the off-chance you see this comment… You mention, “I don’t know how many 46″ hipped women have waists that are 11.5″ smaller than their hips….”

I suspect not many because I am such a one and I know how tough it is to find things that fit. Ok, my hips are really *only* 45 inches, but with a 28″ waist, I think that definitely makes me curvy. Also a 30HH bra size. It would actually be easier to find clothes if I had more stomach fat, but I don’t store much fat on my middle or my back. I guess if I became morbidly obese that might change, but I suspect I’d still have a proportionately small waist while my hips got the brunt of it.

Anyway, thank you for this informative, as ever, post. I still have trouble finding things for actual curvy girls as opposed to simply plus sized ones, but everyone has that problem to an extent, and I am understanding from your blog that my dimensions are not typical and I can’t expect mass market clothes to cater to them. In the meantime, wrap dresses are my friends, as is my friendly local seamstress who gets a lot of business taking in dresses, skirts and trousers at the waist…

26. Kathleen says:

FYI: blog admin sees every new comment no matter how old the post. People who have subscribed to the comments thread also see it as do RSS comment subscribers. Lastly, there’s a widget on the front page listing the most recent comments regardless of post date.

I just mention this to encourage new comments on old entries. A lot of the content on this site is such that it doesn’t age or ages slowly and commenting is a way to give older entries another airing. Anyway, thanks for your comment!

27. Holly says:

Good to know! And yes, I discovered your blog only two days ago and I haven’t stopped reading since. It’s incredibly informative, it illustrates points in a way someone with no knowledge or understanding of clothing design, manufacture and selling (ie me) can understand and it has some lovely touches of wry humour. Although I don’t require plus sizes, I am sympathetic to those who do, and it’s interesting to see why it’s not as simple as simply creating the same clothes but larger. I’d been under the impression that clothing companies simply didn’t care about that market, or didn’t want their clothes to be seen on bigger folk. Glad to be informed and corrected.

It’s intriguing finding out about all the nuances and behind the scenes reasons for why I have trouble finding clothes that fit, or working out what size I even am…seems my uncommon dimensions are only part of the story. But how disappointing to find that my silly shape precludes me from ever becoming a fit model :)

Here in the UK, we have a clothing line that caters for buxom women and uses a unique sizing system whereby each dress and top is sized for both waist and bust. So Woman 1 might wear a dress with a size 10 waist and a relatively small bust size (though the clothes are all made for busty women), while Woman 2 might also wear the same dress in a size 10 waist, but with a bigger bust size, and Woman 3 can wear the same dress in a size 10 waist, with a bust even bigger than that.

This company is very successful and I’m thrilled that it exists, but I’d be interested to know the sorts of issues and challenges it would have taken for this company to get started and maintain its product lines to customers’ satisfaction. If the mood ever strikes you, a post on that would be most interesting.

28. Bruce says:

Yes, there is a number that defines curviness, and it’s not .75. It’s 1.5 (either 1.5 or greater times waist to arrive at hips OR 1.5 or greater divided by hips to arrive at waist).

Let’s do some math. Remember the song Brick House by the Commodores? 36-24-36. 1.5 times 24 equals 36. Some women have EXTREME curves, like Kim K and Coco (Ice T’s wife). Their number exceeds 1.5.

Unfortunately, some groups within our society have watered down the definition. I guess they desire to be part of the curvy class. I guess that’s how they came up with .75. However, 36 hips times .75 equals a 27 inch waist which is NOT curvy.

29. Kathleen says:

[Bruce didn’t deign to respond to me via private email]

So… you’ve decided you’re a better qualified arbiter of curvy qualifications based on:
a. pop songs
b. popular culture figures
[if your objections were based on formidable trade experience, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. At the very least, you wouldn’t cite celebrities.]

This isn’t a consumer’s perspective or even that of an appreciative viewer of the female form. It is an engineering and drafting distinction. We had to draw the line somewhere -it is not personal. It’s not based on pop songs, popular culture, personal preferences or any of that.

This blog is not the place to object to these established guidelines amongst practitioners because I’m not the one who determined the criteria (if you’d read this post, its comments and followed the links therein). Rather, a better strategy would have been to join ASTM, get approved as a voting member and made your objections known first via balloting and then in committee week sessions where these sorts of topics are teased out. Which you’d know if you’d submitted a dissenting opinion when this item came up on the ballot some 3 years ago. It is not likely that a dissenting opinion based on a Commodore’s song would have gone very far.

30. sfriedberg says:

In addition to the Commodores’ contribution to the garment trade, Bruce has inverted the ratio discussed in the original posting. The ratio was originally given as waist over hip, while Bruce is looking at hip over waist. As it turns out, waist/hip = 0.75 is the same as hip/waist = 1.33, which is not that terribly far off from the R&B milestone of 1.50.

It’s a mistake to confuse a typical measurement with the threshold measurement. One is in the middle of the range, while the other by definition is at the very edge of the range. I imagine the Commodores were interested in writing about women who fell well within the curvy range, not right at the lower boundary.

31. Holly says:

Maybe if we’re lucky, Bruce will continue to redefine technical dressmaking terms as defined by Baby Got Back.

32. F Brown says:

At 5’5″ & 140-145 lbs, with measurements of 44-29-42 I would consider myself to be curvy according to your calculations. I am a U.S. dress size 10 and wear a 34JJ cup bra. I have a waist to hip ratio of 0.69
waist to chest ratio of 0.66
and a chest to hip ratio of 1.05
I totally agree that being curvy/hourglass shape is not the same as being plus size.

33. kay says:

I am 5ft 9in. These are my measurements (in inches) bust 49, waist 38, hips 51. I end up making a lot of my own clothes because it is very hard to dress my body. It was actually easier 70 pounds heavier. I have noticed the more weight i loss the more odd the numbers get. My trainer is even stunned. He had a few others work with me to make sure he wasn’t missing something. So i am a plus size curvy lady. I don’t understand the big hype in being curvy.

34. kyri says:

I am 31-24-36 and I thought i am just skinny but according to this I think my shape is not as bad as I thought

35. maya says:

guess you just met the 47 inch hip women with the 32 inch waist. i am sure that fits into your “curvy” category considering there is an 15 inch difference so where are my pants? btw i am a 12 to 14 on the bottom and a 4, 6 or 8 on top

36. Kathleen says:

Your pants are waiting for you to make them. If there were a lot of women with your measurements, it would be profitable for someone to be manufacturing them and you wouldn’t have to make them.

37. Sam says:

I am so happy so know I’m not alone in this. Standard clothing size charts infuriate me to no end. Having a 12-13 inch difference between my waist and hips has been a real hassle trying to find proper fitting attire. I tend to gravitate towards fit and flare dresses as much as possible to deal with this issue. Alas winter doesn’t leave me with this option.

38. Nancy says:

Thank you for this article. I am linking to this in a blogpost I am currently putting together. My question is this. My measurements are 36-29-40. I consider myself curvy on both top and bottom for this reason. Although my bust measurement is 36, my upper bust is 31.5 and my under bust is 30.5. Does this have any bearing on the curvy formula? I don’t know if it does by industry standards, but it sure does for me when I am trying to get/make blouses or tops that fit. THanks!
Nancy

39. Lenir says:

Kay, as Kathleen and many others are trying to clarify in this blog, there’s no “hype” in being ANYTHING, plus size, curvy, regular, whatever. There is no judgement here. We’re just trying to figure out how clothes fit us based on the industry’s understanding of body types. I’m one who will be forever grateful if I can go to a store and take out of the rack a curvy, long, pair of pants that will fit my small frame without leaving a HUGE gap on my small back. No matter how my seamstress tries to reshape pants for me, they will always look funny because they weren’t patterned for the “curvy type.” (5’8″, 27″ waist, 38″ narrow hips with a “booty,” and long legs.) So, ladies, when you find a pair of pants that fit you, write a review saying why. I was surprised to read in the reviews in sites like Talbots, Inc Concepts, etc., comments about “curvy fit” pants that confuse the fit with plus sizes. So, thank you, Kathleen.

40. Rachel says:

I hate when curvy is equated with “big.” It does not necessarily mean you have extra meat on you. Well-said article. It’s all about proportions, not your weight or size…a skinny girl could technically be curvy. I’m very thin, I’m 102 pounds, 5’7″, and I have a 24 inch waist and like 34 or 35 inch hips. The only thing I don’t like about my body is my skinny legs. I used to have semi-thick thighs, but now I have a thigh gap. I’m trying to work out my legs to add muscle and get rid of my thigh gap.

41. Nikky says:

I am 36 waist
46 hips
40 bust
44 shoulders
My hips are the almost same as my shoulder and my waist is the smallest
From your example are you saying I am not curvy? I consider myself an hourglass. I used to think I was ruler but I have wide hips and I am not pear cos my hips are not bigger than my shoulders. And I know I am not inverted triangle I am not top heavy with small hips.
What category will I fall under? I thought atleast 8 inches difference in waist and hips is all you need

42. Adding shoulders to the mix is an interesting consideration but I haven’t given much thought to that. With respect to the curvy designation as per ASTM, the measures under consideration are limited to waist and hip. While it is a percentage and yours are not strictly within the parameters, you’re close enough that it is likely that curvy designed pants will make for a nicer fit for you.