A Grumble About “Curvy”

I’m not usually one to rant about language. Word meanings change, and we need to adapt. [“A gay affair” meant something very different 100 years ago!]

But every time I see the word “curvy” used as a euphemism for overweight, I have an internal grumble.

To me, curvy means exactly that — a person whose curved regions are more exaggerated than average. Not larger, but having a larger ratio difference.


If you don’t remember math class, ratio is the proportional difference between two things. “He has half as many apples as she does,” the ratio is half. The smaller the ratio number, the larger the difference in the two quantities.

For female bodies, the ratio most talked about is the one between the waistline and the hip, waist to hip ratio. Though bustline to waist ratio is another measure of curviness, it’s not mentioned as often.

Some sample waist to hip ratios:

Waist: 30″   Hip: 40″   Ratio: .75  (the waist is 3/4 the size of the hips)

Waist: 32″   Hip: 40″   Ratio: .80

Waist: 36″  Hip: 42″  Ratio: .86

Waist: 25″   Hip: 37″   Ratio: .68

By these numbers, the “curviest” woman is the one with the smallest ratio … not because she’s small, but because the difference between her waist and hips is so big. [by the way, these numbers were mine … in college. I’m not nearly that curvy now.] A woman with 48″ hips and a 32″ waist (.66 ratio) would be curvier than anyone above.

For a more technical discussion, see Kathleen Fasanella’s article. Warning: There’s nothing kind about her article, it’s bald-faced truth.

Why I take this personally

As I said above, when I was in college I was about a 37-25-37 — a small hourglass. My waist to hip ratio was .68, most definitely well-curved. With age and pregnancies, I’ve changed shape a bit (and put on a few pounds), but I’m still hourglass, approximately 39-28-39 (waist to hip ratio about .72). I have trouble buying off the rack clothing because I’m too curved. [Not that I’m complaining … men find women with a ratio between .70 and .75 most attractive. And I prefer being attractive to men than being fashionable.]

So I sew. And I read clothing blogs, and sewing blogs, looking for info to help women like me get a good fit. Because I’m curvy, I look for articles that help curvy women.

Only to find … the article is about how to alter sewing patterns for large abdomens. I’ve even seen “curvy” women described as having “tummies” larger than their hips (rations above 1.00). Sorry, that’s not curvy.

And don’t get me started about all the “helpful information” for fitting older women that assumes we all have low bustlines, thick waistlines, bulgy stomachs, and flat behinds. There’s an entire line of sewing pattern with beautiful styles that I can’t use because their “perfect fit” is worse for me than the standard fit!

I’ve been reading those sewing blogs again … and grumbling about curvy sewing patterns that aren’t.


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