Perfect Proportions Then & Now: Marilyn Monroe

Samantha Johnson

by Samantha Johnson | August 14, 2012 @ 02:00PM

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Marilyn MonroeIf you tell a story long enough and loud enough, people will believe it.  This is why for more than 60 years, many are still under the impression that Marilyn Monroe was a size 14.  Her size has served as encouragement to overweight women everywhere.  When Elizabeth Hurley visited Marilyn's clothing exhibit, she commented, "I've always thought Marilyn Monroe looked fabulous, but I'd kill myself if I was that fat... I wanted to take a tape measure and measure what her hips were."  

Marilyn's hips were actually 35 inches wide, which, compared to Hurley's 34 inch hips, is not much of a difference.

The misconception most likely stems from the change in standard clothing sizes made in the 80s. The U.S. Department of Commerce decided that sizes should run smaller in order to stroke the ego of the ever-enlarging American. This translates a size 16/18 of the 1950s to a size 8 of today, although this still varies greatly from brand to brand.

A lot more than standard clothing sizes has changed since the 1950s, but the much-desired hourglass shape still remains the most desirable body-type whether we realize it or not.  Marilyn's waist measured only 22 inches, which according to many popular brands of jeans is smaller than a size 0.  The average waist size for today's fashion models is 24 inches, which is actually slightly larger than Marilyn's 22.

The desire for liposuction and quick-fixes has also increased quickly over the years, right along with the average American waistline.  A healthy waist to hip ratio is .80 or below.  This can be found by dividing your waist measurement by your hips in inches.  Marilyn's comes out to .63, which is definitely in the clear for a healthy body, so it seems as though even science agrees that Marilyn was “perfect.”  Anything above .80 poses a risk for heart disease.  The average waist size for American women is now 34 inches.  Women would have to either work hard to lose those 12 extra inches through diet and exercise or get them removed through surgery in order to look like Marilyn.

Moving on from the hips and waist, we come to Marilyn's voluptuous 36Ds.  With the average bra size today at 36B, it's not surprising that breast augmentation remains the number one cosmetic procedure with 307,000 performed last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.  It would take a 325 cc implant on most women to achieve Marilyn's curves. 

Perhaps the main difference between the 1950s and now is not the way our perceptions of beauty have changed, but that our waistlines themselves have changed, and we may be looking for excuses to make ourselves feel better.  We can no longer say Marilyn is the exception to the beauty standard, she is still quite arguably the rule.  

Do you agree?  Let us know in the comments.




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