Women: Do you have the ideal figure? Here’s what ‘they’ thought in 1950

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Women in vintage swimsuits from the 1950s

Vintage body types from 1950: “Rule of 10” will help gauge the ideal figure

Do you know the ideal measurement for your figure? John Robert Powers tells you how to calculate them!

Compared with the American standards of the perfect form today, Venus would be out of the running — way out! Modern athletics and nutrition have streamlined the American woman.

Today, she is taller and casts a more willowy shadow than the woman of other times.

Women: Do you have the ideal figure? (1950)

The ideal figure from the past: 1915, 1926, 1931 & 1947

1915 figure was really no figure at all. Straight up-and-down boned corset made women look bulgy. Clothes completed potato-sack effect.

1926 figure symbolized the “tubular twenties” with its straight, uncorseted figure. Boyish lines were unflattering to many women.

How the woman's ideal figure has changed over the decades

1931 saw a changing figure. Rigidly girdled, bias-skirted fashions were more feminine, but not exciting by today’s standards.

1947 featured the padded-hip, full-skirted fashions and the famous “New Look,” which is as dead today as last week’s corsage.

How the perfect woman's figure has changed

Figure of the 1950s

Do you have the ideal figure for the 1950s?

How ideal is your figure? It is something you should know. There is a right set of proportions for every height and frame.

the ’50s method explained

The rule of 10, frequently referred to in this column, is the basis of the ideal. Your bust and hips should measure the same, and your waist 10 inches less than either.

But even though your measurements are correct by this rule, your figure may be out of proportion to your height and frame.

Imagine a woman of 5 feet 2 inches measuring 38 inches around the bust and hips, and 28 inches around the waist! That’s hardly ideal for her!

MORE: 36 summery vintage ’50s swimsuits for women, when strapless one-piece suits with ruffles were hot

Ideal frame & bone structure: There’s a difference

Don’t confuse frame with bone structure. Your frame refers to the breadth or girth of your skeleton. If your shoulders and hips are broad, you have a large frame; if they are narrow, your frame is small.

To simplify your calculations, my Physical Education Department made a table for you to follow. The figures are based on the woman with an average frame. If you have a small frame, deduct one inch to determine your correct proportions. If your frame is large, add one inch.

Women Do you have the ideal figure - Models in 1950

How to calculate the ideal figure proportions

If you’re a short woman of 5 feet to 5 feet three inches, the following are your standard proportions: Bust, 32 inches to 33 inches; waist, 22 inches to 23 inches; hips, 32 inches to 33 inches.

If you’re a medium-tall woman of 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 6 inches. your ideal measurements should be: Bust, 34 inches to 35 inches: waist, 24 inches to 25 inches; hips, 34 inches to 35 inches.

If you’re a tall woman of over 5 feet 6 inches, you must stack up to these measurements for perfection: Bust, 35 inches to 37 inches; waist, 25 inches to 27 inches; hips, 35 inches to 37 inches.

Notice not one word has been said about weight. Your weight will be correct if your measurements are! [Editor’s note: See weight calculations from a separate article below.]

Lingerie girdles bras from 1950 (1)

ALSO SEE  The perfect body, '30s-style: Measurements women wanted in the thirties

Your ideal weight calculator, from John Robert Powers

Published in The El Paso Times (Texas) October 20, 1949

Your ideal weight is determined by your height and size of your bone structure. Follow today’s guide!

Many women have written me to ask how they can determine their ideal weight. Without this knowledge you cannot gauge the amount of dieting and exercising you must do to achieve and maintain a perfectly proportioned figure.

As an answer, I have worked out three charts that will help you calculate your normal weight within a few pounds.

First, measure your height, to the last fraction of an inch. Now, since your height must be related to your bone structure to determine your proper weight, measure your wrist around the most prominent part of the bones at that joint. Hold the tape firm, neither tight nor slack, and remember accuracy is the watchword!

Nancy Olson 1950 - Ideal vintage figure example

With these figures, you can compute your ideal weight from one of the three groups below. Select the group that fits your measurements and then go to it.


— Height: 5′ to 5’3″ … average wrist measure 5-1/2″.

— Step one: Allow 100 pounds for the first 5 feet.

— Step two: Add 5 pounds for each inch you measure over 5′ for your total.

— Caution: If your wrist is larger than 5-5/8″, add 5 pounds to the total. If your wrist measures smaller than 5-1/2″, subtract 5 pounds from the total.


Height: 5’3″ to 5’6″ … average wrist measure 5-3/4″.

— Step one: Allow 100 pounds for the first 5 feet.

— Step two: Allow 5 pounds for each inch over 5′ for your total.

— Caution: If your wrist measures larger than 5-7/8″, add 5 pounds. If your wrist measures less than 5-3/4″, subtract 5 pounds.


— Height: 5’6″ … average wrist measure 6″.

— Step one: Allow 105 pounds for the first 5 feet.

— Step two: Allow 5 pounds for each inch over 5′.

— Caution: If your wrist measures larger than 6-1/4″, add 10 to 15 pounds. If your wrist measures less than 6″, subtract 10 pounds.

Lingerie and beauty fashion from 1950


To show you exactly how these calculations work, let’s figure the ideal weight of an imaginary girl.

Mary Smith is 5’2-1/2″ tall and her wrist measures 5-3/4″. Because of her height, you’ll find the instructions for calculating her weight under Group I.

Following them step by step, you allow 100 pounds for Mary’s first 5 feet. To this, you add 12-1/2 pounds for her 2 inches that are over the 5′ (2-1/2 x 5). Now you add another 8 pounds to allow for her oversized wrist measurement. If your figuring is right, your total will be 117-1/2 pounds.

Now add up your own ideal weight, and then make everything you do add up to it!

MORE: 50+ sexist vintage ads so bad, you almost won’t believe they were real

Barbell exercises for keeping your figure slim (1953)

Barbell workouts for women - 1953

The famous Betty Grable in 1954

MORE: See vintage pin-up Betty Grable and her famous legs

Betty Grable in 1954


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12 Responses

    1. I laughed, because my measurements are exactly the same and I am 5’2. While not an ideal weight for me, I’m not sure a 22 – 23 inch waist is physically possible, even if I did weigh 20lbs less to be at their “ideal weight”.

      1. I’m 5’2″. When my measurements were 32-22-33 I was in an eating disorder unit under the MHA. Now I’m at the low end of the ideal weight for my height (BMI 20) my measurements are 36-26-37. This site is a load of bull.

        1. Just to clarify – and as mentioned in the article title and introduction – this information is from 1950. MANY things have changed in the past 70 years. :-) These measurements are just numbers, and will never apply to every person — but I have no doubt that you’re pretty much ideal just the way you are right now.

        2. I’m also 5,2 and my measurements are exactly as yours 36-26-37 and everyone always tells me I have a great figure. Nothing to change here!

  1. So, this is older, but my ideal weight, according to my height and calculations is 175. I weight exactly 175. So, I am 6 feet tall and my wrist measures 7 inches (so add 10 pounds). However, my measurements are 43, 35, 43. I guess perhaps I just needed to add a girdle to be considered “fully ideal:”. I feel like a massive giant compared to most people, however.

  2. The measurements are perfect for a beautiful body and absolutely ideal for a healthy
    Long life one according to metropolitan life insurance charts too, According to metropolitan life insurance charts

  3. The comment I made about metropolitan life , was referring to people who live the longest,
    People that had good longevity.

  4. This made me feel so confident about myself :,) lol. (That’s rare). I’m 5’3.5 and my bust is 34”, hips are 35”, and my waist is 24”. I weigh 126 lbs though, and my “ideal” weight is 120, but I was working on it already haha.

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