How to find your ideal weight… if you lived in 1920

Old weight measurements and beauty standards from 1920

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This is an article from 1920 — and does not reflect current thinking on weight loss, dieting, or health. It’s here as a cultural reference, offering insight on how ideas of beauty change over time.

How to find your ideal weight (from 1920)

By Edna Kent Forbes – Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) October 15, 1920

If you suspect that you are too fat or too thin, there are several perfectly simple rules that you can follow to find out exactly what you should weigh. Here, for instance, is the method advocated by Dr Peters of California.

Martha Mansfield - actress from the 1920s - How to find your ideal weight

What is your ideal weight?

Measure yourself standing in your stocking feet. Take the number of inches over 5 feet, which you register. Multiply this number of inches by 5-1/2 and add 110.

For instance, say you are 5 feet 7 inches — 7 times 5-1/2 equals 38-1/2, plus 110; ideal weight = 148-1/2 pounds.

If you are under 5 feet, multiply the number of inches under 5 feet by 5-1/2 and subtract from 110.

If, for instance, you are 4 feet 10 inches, or 2 inches under 5 feet, you would multiply 2 by 5-1/2, which is 11, and subtract that from 110, which would give your ideal weight of 99.

ALSO SEE: Plastic surgery in the 1920s: How WWI and Hollywood fueled the frenzy for facelifts & nose jobs

Vintage actress Inez Nadeau - How to find your ideal weight (1920)

All weights should be taken without clothing — that is, when you have weighed yourself, manage to weigh afterwards the clothes you have had on and then you will be able to find your actual weight.

This is a general rule to follow. If you are 5 feet 4 inches in height, for instance, and are 18 years old, it is natural that you should weigh less than if you are 5 feet 4 inches and are 48 years old.

Tables of statistics allow an increase of a few pounds for every added 10 years in a woman’s life. This added weight is not necessary. If a woman is fat enough to be healthy, she need not necessarily continue to add flesh as she adds years. Indeed, if she stays slender she will not look so mature.

MORE: The 1920s lingerie revolution: How women ditched corsets for comfort and freedom

Vintage 1920s lingerie and underwear

Ideal weight different under and over age 35

The average or ideal weight for a girl of 25 who is 65 inches tall is 127 pounds, but up to 139 pounds if she still comes within the permissible 10 percent excess weight, and that amount of superfluous flesh in a young person only adds to her good looks, not to mention good health.

It is after 35 that superfluous weight is of ill omen, and it is after 35 that an excess of weight spoils good looks. 

Vintage beauty standards from 1920

More perspectives from the past on women’s weight and measurements:

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