Do You Pursue an Hourglass Figure?

By Jim F

When it comes to the hourglass figure – many women pursue it, and it seems that men pursue women with it.

Psychologists at the University of Texas (obviously with way too much time on their hands) have reviewed hundreds of years worth of literature and concluded: Men lust after slender-waisted women.

Apparently it all comes down to Waist-to-Hip ratio. A slender waist is seen as “a core feature of feminine beauty that transcends ethnic-morphological differences”.

…waist size was always described as narrow or small; there were 66 romantic descriptions of waist in these three centuries, and every one of them referred to a narrow waist. “They all seemed to like women with a low waist-to-hip ratio.”

Here’s the reality check on the hourglass phenomenon. Only 8.4% of women actually have an hourglass figure (source).


Media’s Love-Hate Relationship with the Hourglass

There is a strange dichotomy in the fashion world. Very lean high-fashion models regularly get called ‘fat’, yet we also laud hourglass figures on the cover of magazines.

NY Mag

Actress Christina Hendricks talks about body shape in New York magazine – in particular how her figure has been discussed more than her acting ability.

Anytime someone talks about your figure constantly, you get nervous, you get really self-conscious. I was working my butt off on the show, and then all anyone was talking about was my body!”

Hendricks was criticized in the NY Times recently for appearing at the Gloden Globes in a “big” dress:

Not pretty Christina Hendricks in Christian Siriano’s exploding ruffle dress. (As one stylist said, “You don’t put a big girl in a big dress. That’s rule number one.”)

Big girl?

The 8.4%

Body shapes go in and out of fashion, and they also change – (see a gallery of changing body shape over the 20th Century). A few years ago a survey of body size undertaken in the UK showed that only 8.4% actually have an hourglass figure. Most women are generally a rectangle or spoon shape.

Sophia Loren (1955)
The quintessential hourglass

The hourglass figure is indicated where the waist circumference is 9 inches smaller than the bust. Hips and bust are of a similar size (but bust can be up to 1 inch larger than hips). If the bust is larger than this, then you have a triangle figure.

The hourglass figure was more common in earlier times (think Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Jayne Mansfield).

High fashion will always be about thin women modeling clothes. However actresses are a different story – they tend to reflect the fickle body shape trends of the day.


  1. briannajane

    also its confusing because rectangle and hourglass are almost the same except its 9″ or SMALLER difference compared to 9″ or LARGER difference and several women skipped over that when labeling themselves

  2. briannajane

    i just measured myself and i am 30 26 36, am i doing something wrong???? i dont understand how so many women could be 6 inches wider around the chest than me!!!! i am not even that small (5’6″ 135 pounds) and i actually thought my chest/ribs were quite large!

  3. shiny

    mine 36-34-39 which shape is this?

  4. TheActress

    Well, i’m a ourglass figure.
    1’m 39-27-38
    and honestly, i wish i was smaller.
    fashion doesn’t co-inside with the big boobs adn wide hips.

    hate. it.

  5. Jesi

    Damn straight! 🙂

  6. Angela W

    Did anyone else notice that there’s over 10% of body shapes unaccounted for by these statistics? I’m in between spoon and hourglass. My hip to waist ratio fits the spoon but not the hourglass,and my bust to waist ratio fits the hourglass but not the spoon. My wide shoulders balance my wide hips, and my hip measurement is somewhat due to a bubble butt. I just comfort myself with the thought that my body looks just like Marilyn Monroe’s in her Playboy spread.

  7. Angela W

    Okay, the idea that these traits were supposed to predict fertility levels in unproven women comes from the fact that thousands of years ago, there were no better predictors. So, a woman with large breasts would be assumed to have the ability to feed children well. Wider hips were supposed to indicate the ease of childbirth and that, hopefully, the mother wouldn’t die in childbirth because humans had no awareness of the pubic angle or that it was important for passing the baby’s head through. The microscope was also a relatively recent invention, so the idea of sperm and egg as necessary for conception is new as well. Possibly, men do not find pregnant women as particularly attractive because she’s already pregnant! There’s no need for coitus because a child has already been created by someone else.

    Yes, cultural preferences do differ, but for a long time a certain degree of pudge in most cultures was desirable. It was a sign of health and money if you had a little too much food. Also a breastfeeding woman would not starve to death in the process.

  8. madeleine

    it’s funny how only 8.40% have an hourglass figure, yet almost every woman on here says she’s an hourglass…
    some liars aren’t we?
    I’m 5″3
    31-23-31 in the morning
    then again I’m almost 15 and weigh very little.
    At least I’m honest about my brickness…

  9. j

    I’m 4’11” and my measurements are 33-25-34 1/2… in between a spoon and a rectangle? a half inch short of a spoon – 1 1/2 inch bigger than a rectangle — and not enough bust for an hourglass. I tend to gain weight right in the middle more than hips and butt all around. It gets there yes, but it ads a LITTLE bit more at the top of the hips, I get that boxy hip thing. If I don’t gain weight, I’m okay with the way things look, numbers wise is good, just need to be more tone.

  10. rymez

    That’s my measurement!! I’m 34-26-35

  11. Victoria

    I used to be a true hourglass up to the age of 28 my measurements were 34-19.5-32. I ate like a pig and never gained an inch on my waist. Then I started having thyroid problems and am now a little less of an hourglass but not quite a spoon because my waist is still much smaller. I am now 38-25-39.5. Stupid thyroid.

  12. Marie

    I’m totally confused….. my waist to hip ratio is exactly .7, but my bust is 4 inches smaller than my hips. my measurements are 33-26-37.( it goes bust, waist, hip) and I have broad shoulders which measure to about 41 inches. I normally pack weight on my lower body because I have big muscular legs( i think so, some people don’t) and I have a rounded slightly bigger butt, but I’m no Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, or J-lo. I’m 5’3, by height I guess I’m considered petite, but In my opinion I am relatively big for my height. So, I personally narrowed it down to either a pear, spoon, or hourglass figure. But, the only problem is, I have large shoulders, so I don’t fit in to any of those descriptions. Maybe, I’m just reading everything wrong…. ughhhhh this is so complicated.

  13. Ekaterina

    Hey! one of my best friends is a model with an hourglass figure, yes she is very skinny, but she (and i) swim (like sports practice) at least 6 times a week. We both eat more than the average , i am more average weight with a between triangle and hourglass, it all comes down to genetics.

  14. WindyLea

    Are you an hourglass figure? If you are, I have to ask: what are you complaining about? Even if a thousand ads are made about “real women” (as you put it), it will do little to change the fact that men like narrow waists. So, if you have a narrow waist, why would it bother you WHAT other women do to comfort themselves. I’ve never heard people describe hourglasses in a negative way, no matter how jealous they were. And in spite of the fact that the really slim rectangle shape does take a certain degree of media flak–that same media caters to them. Does it really hurt the most popular shapes to have to share a little camera time with the more common shapes? I am not about to argue the greater desirability of a narrow waist–I have no problem with it, myself–but greater desirability and rarity correlate directly to popularity, not superiority…

  15. WindyLea

    You’re not a vase. Although the difference between your bust-to-waist is only 9 inches, everything still seems really balanced. I’d say you’re an hourglass just teetering on the more athletic-looking rectangle. Most of the people I know would prefer either the hourglass or the sort of straight-cut athletic build (which I guess is the rectangle, but they only would want to be the rectangle if they were slim, but anyway…) I’d say you’re pretty well set.

  16. WindyLea

    If you’re only 14 you might not be done growing? Give a look at your family members–taking into account their habits–and you might get a better view of what’s in store for you. Also, if it does come down to a need to try and lose some weight, research carefully. “Diet” is a word that should refer to a lifestyle change, not some temporary attempt to drop some pounds. Steady and healthy is always the best choice, even if it changes you little.

  17. WindyLea

    Raesh, the descriptions are relatively easy to sort out, but if your measurements are 34-32-36 as I think you said, you’re probably a rectangle.

    Samantha, given the difference between your bust and waist, I would say you are a spoon even though your bust and hip are only one inch apart.

    On that note, a lot of people on here don’t fit this site’s description for an hourglass figure, but are claiming to have one anyway. Is it that horrifying to believe you might be a spoon–albeit sexy spoons? (Granted, the name is not attractive…)

    Just to be fair, I am a 38.6 bust, 29.5 waist, and probably a 40 waist. The roughly two inches of difference between my bust and waist suggest spoon, and even though the difference between my waist is 9.1 (>9.0 makes hourglass on this site), it is less than 9.25 (<9.25 bust-to-waist + 2 waist-to-hip = spoon, barely) Furthermore, I am an E/F cup (depends on what country I am in at the time), but all the sticking out happens vertically, not horizontally, so the spoon thing makes more sense. Though, I think that's an awful name...

  18. hollie

    and also, does that count as an hourglass?

  19. hollie

    im 14- i’ve got a hip measurment of 30, bust ” 30″, and waist “20”, but i realli need 2 put on weight, is there a way 2 do this, but without loosing my shape??
    do shapes still stay the same, as your weight goes up??

  20. Sami

    I’m a spoon.


    I wish my bust were a bit bigger so that my waist would look smaller.

  21. whathellshapeami

    im a 36 23 33 what be i? it says triangle is 3.6 or bigger but im only 3 bigger

  22. Angel

    hi my first time on this ^ ^
    my measurements are 36-27-36 and i have long legs and i am 14 and 5″6(i am asian btw). am i an hourglass? i always turn out as a hourglass in trinny and susannahs body calculator but recently this girl told me she doesnt think i am an hourglass she thinks i am a vase shape. what do you think?

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