I had a look at a couple of studies to find out which body shapes men found more attractive. They seem to blow the 0.7 hip-to-waist ratio as the golden rule for the ideal female body shape out of the water.
They showed 40 male students colour photographs of 50 women, with their faces hidden, and asked them to rate how attractive they found them. Unfailingly, the men opted for women with a BMI of 18-21, regardless of shape. Health-wise this category is at the light end of normal weight. The most attractive BMI was found to be 20, which the men awarded five points on average. As soon as women’s weights dropped below 18 their attractiveness started to plunge rapidly.
At the other end of the scale there was a gentle decline, so that a woman rated as overweight still rated a four. The slow decline in attractiveness mirrored the slow decline in health and fertility that accompanies putting on weight. In all, women’s weight accounted for 75 per cent of men’s preferences whereas waist-to-hip ratio accounted for two per cent.
With further analysis, the researchers examined other body shape dimensions, including waist/bust ratio, bust/hip ratio and leg length/torso length ratio. None of these was found to contribute significantly to attractiveness ratings. Dr Tovee said: “There’s been a lot of work on waist-to-hip ratio but it has all been very bad. They could not distinguish between it and BMI.”
There has been a recent study into the changing shape of playboy centrefolds..
In the 1950s, the most attractive female body mass index was considered to be about 20, and the centrefolds reflected this. The optimum waist to hip ratio was believed to be slightly lower than 0.7.
But Voracek and Fisher found that over time, the bust and hip size of the models decreased, while waist size increased. Although weight remained fairly stable, height increased. “This means more recent models have a more skinny and tubular-shaped appearance,” Voracek says.
The typical body mass index of a Playboy centrefold from the late 1990s is 18 – lower than it was in the 1950s. The average waist to hip ratio of these later models is slightly above 0.7 – with an upwards trend.
It has to be said, that the first study still holds up the ideal BMI as 20, why it has changed to 18 in Playboy I’m not sure. A quick rifle through the top shelf in the news agents will show that the cheaper magazines prefer a curvier model. Possibly they are preferring a slightly ‘classier look’ for Playboy, with lower body fat, as higher BMI does have associations with lower social classes.
For the average woman (5’5”) this would make the ideal weight about 8st 10lbs for a BMI of 20, 7st 11lbs for a BMI of 18. So centrefold models are about 13lbs lighter than the standard ‘most attractive’ weight.
A BMI of 18 is considered to be slightly underweight (according to the BMI calculator), and right at the point were attractiveness rapidly drops off. I have to say, this is looking like a cultural trend not a biological one. Is the modern media really that fat-phobic?
The average man seem to rather less bothered by a few extra pounds than by being thin, as attractiveness slopes of slowly off with weight gain, but drops sharply with a BMI of under 18.
I’m guessing, for real life purposes, a BMI of 20 plus a hip to waist ratio of 0.7 would be most attractive.