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.