Weight of American beauty: Victoria's Secret models shrink as average US woman's size increases over 2 decades

In parallel with this trend, the percentage of women seeking cosmetic surgeries has gone up dramatically, with butt and lower body lift increasing by 4295% and 256%.


                            Weight of American beauty: Victoria's Secret models shrink as average US woman's size increases over 2 decades
The first Victoria’s Secret fashion show debuted 23 years ago and since then has been viewed by millions yearly. The show was canceled in 2019. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Victoria's Secret)

The average American woman's dress size and waist circumference have increased over the past 20 years, but Victoria's Secret fashion models have become thinner, with smaller busts, waist, hips and dress size. The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of the models, however, has not changed.

In parallel with this trend, the percentage of women seeking cosmetic surgical procedures has gone up dramatically, with butt and lower body lift increasing by 4,295% and 256%, respectively, since 2000, according to a new study by researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine. Such an increase in cosmetic surgeries might be due to the desire to achieve an ideal waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), which is a narrow waist set against fuller hips.

These findings, say the research team, represent a “potentially changing weight ideal of beauty” that continuously moves further away from the characteristics of the average American woman.

According to a study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there were nearly a quarter-million more cosmetic procedures performed in 2018 than the previous year. The annual plastic surgery statistics report said more than 17.7 million surgical and minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures were performed in the US in 2018, a number that has risen steadily over the past five years.

The first Victoria’s Secret runway show debuted 23 years ago and since then has been viewed by millions yearly, making it the most-watched fashion show worldwide. However, the ramp has continued to be dominated by figures far away from reality. In 2019, the fashion show was canceled after its ratings were hit by body image controversies and lack of diversity.

In the current study, researchers evaluated trends of physical body attributes among Victoria’s Secret models from 1995 to 2018. All models who walked in Victoria’s Secret fashion show from January 1995 to December 2018 were included in this study.

The study findings represent an ideal of beauty that continuously moves further away from the characteristics of the average American woman, says the research team. (Getty Images/Pixabay)

The researchers found that the average age of the models decreased with a mean age of 23.4 years in 1995-1998 versus 22 years in 2015-2018. Those of non-white race increased in representation from 27.1% in 1995-1998 to 43.5% in 2015-2018.

The analysis also shows that over time, Victoria's Secret fashion models have become more slender, with a decrease in bust, waist, hips and dress size, though their waist-to-hip ratio has remained constant. 

Model measurements in bust, waist, and hips decreased from 32.9, 24.7 and 34.9 inches in 1995-1998 to 32.0, 23.6, and 34.4 inches in 2015-2018, respectively. Dress size decreased in models from 5.2 in 1995-1998 to 3.7 in 2015-2018, says the study published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

"Conversely, the average American woman's waist circumference and dress size have increased over the past 21 years and varies between a misses size 16 and 18," says study author Dr Neelam Vashi, assistant professor of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine, in the analysis. 

The team says corroborating their results, irrespective of height and weight, a low waist-to-hip ratio (0.7) has traditionally been considered the most attractive female body attribute by men. 

“From ancient Greek Venus de Milo to today’s fashion models, the task of quantifying female body attractiveness remains complex. Perceived attractiveness is influenced by physical and non-physical traits and is further guided by media exposure and socio-cultural standards of the time,” say the researchers in their findings.

They say, “One of the more established parameters to evaluate female body attractiveness is the waist-to-hip ratio, which is a sexually dimorphic trait that measures body fat distribution. This study further suggests an idealized WHR that may depict a universal, cross-cultural, time-constant trait of female attractiveness.”

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