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

Women in vintage swimsuits from the 1950s

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.


The ideal figure has never been especially realistic

Here is a collection of articles and photos from the 1950s, discussing idealized body types and measurements for women.

1950s beauty - Slim women (2)

It is not modern-day advice for a healthy body composition in any sense, so the measurements and other topics mentioned below should be consumed in the context in which they were given — for a 1950s audience, during a time in that century when a slender hourglass figure was most revered. (Spoiler alert: Pear shapes didn’t need to apply!)

We have come to learn so much more about diet, fitness and health over the past decades — but we can hardly be smug. The specific shape of the so-called ideal figure ebbs and flows with the decades (at least for women).

Dancer Sally Jane Neal (1959)

While inclusive sizing and fashion models with all kinds of body types are becoming more normalized — and that’s progress! — it seems we’re still prone to idealizing body shapes that are inaccessible to the masses.

The articles presented here represent a fascinating snapshot of the often unrealistic notions people had about the “ideal figure” back in the fifties.

Actress Shirley Jones modeling swimsuits in the 1950s
Actress Shirley Jones modeling swimsuits in 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!

From the Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) January 31, 1950

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!

Vintage swimsuits from 1956

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 [measurements below].

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.]

MORE: The perfect body, ’30s-style: Measurements women wanted in the thirties

Lingerie girdles bras from 1950 (1)

Your ideal figure: A 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.

1950s swimsuits for women - Catalina brand fashion

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!

ALSO SEE: 1950s gloves for women: Pictures of 50+ vintage styles, glove etiquette & more

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.

1950s beauty - Slim women (1)

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


PS: If you liked this article, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest. Thanks for visiting and for supporting a small business! 🤩 


You might also like...

The fun never ends:

Comments on this story

29 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.

      2. 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.

      3. 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!

    2. Same!! I saw the measurements and I was like oh! that’s me! yay! And then I saw the not ideal part…

    3. ,my height is 5ft 9 I am 53 I am the exact weight 10.10 with wrist size 6 so I am bang on the weight you give but at 35 I had 35 bust and hips with 26 waist at 9.4 stone so thinking was better weight at 35 as didn’t have much fat then

  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.

  5. I’m 5’10 and this says my ideal weight is 155. This seems kind of off because I feel I look decent at 127-135. Is it accurate to ONLY measure your wrist to get your bone structure?

    I’m wondering how it compares to your ribcage size. My ribcage is 26 inches. This is measuring where your bra band sits REALLY tight (there is a natural layer of fat over them. if I’m doing a regular measurement and not pulling super tight it’s 28- 29 inches. I wear a 30F bra). Whenever I look at women my height they are almost always broader in the waist than I am. Yes, even fit women. I’m wondering if I’m abnormally small in the torso.

    My measurements are 40-36-27-40.

  6. What about those women who measure 4’10” – 4’11”? Do they not count? Im not a midget or a dwarf. I am a proportioned short woman.

    1. My thinking too.

      I’m trying to do the math but I dont think that in the 50s they would have sais that 88 pounds is the ideal weight.

  7. This sure is spot on for me! And I’m not skinny by any means. I’m 5’5″ at 130lbs, 34-26-37 (I am pretty flat chested…I can wear training bras (or none) at 40 years of age! 😭) I have a bigger than average frame, so I’m smack on my ideal weight, and if it weren’t for my lack of boobs, my measurements would have spot on too!

  8. So according to their chart, my bust and hips which measure 36 in. each are 1 inch too big for my height (5’5″) but my waist which measures 25 in. is good? Darn, lol! It’s a good thing I don’t live in that era then. If I wanted to fit their “so-called” ideal size…I’ll have to diet down to less than my already slim 110lbs, putting me at risk for being underweight. No thanks!

  9. In my late 40’s
    34, 25, 34, 165cm
    On the OMAD eating plan. Which is working well. Have recently started training. Not to lose inches just to tone my legs and further improve my core strength. Looks like I’ve managed to keep in the ideal hourglass range most of my life, except during pregnancy.

  10. I am 50 years old.
    Bust 36”
    Waist 27
    Hip 36”
    Weight 119

    I wear a size 0-2

    4.5 years ago I weighed 200 lbs …. I thought those were imaginary sizes, and no such thing as an hourglass figure actually existed until I took my measurements this morning.

    1. Congratulations on losing the weight and gaining your health! The measurements are indeed spot on. I am on my own OMAD keto weight loss journey, 1 month in. I was a 34, 26, 36 at 5ft 4in until I had my 3rd child. Went up one inch all over. But, after my 4th I gained and gained. I have quite a ways to go , but am losing steadily. Thank you for your post. It’s encouraging to see someone succeed!

  11. Who writes this crap? Please tell me it’s not a woman! Please tell me it’s not a man (as if you would know), and please please tell me it’s not a human being! Woman are different types and measurements within that bracket. This is not science guys and gals. Get outta here with this propaganda.

  12. Uhm I guess I’m not ideal 😂😂I’m 5”4 and 110 pounds and they’re saying if I was 115 I’d be “ideal” I honestly would love to gain weight and if I could do more than five pounds and go to the gym , I would love that .

  13. Im 5″5 and weight range from 135 to 139
    Bust 37
    Wasit 30 or 32 ?? At smallest
    Hip 40
    With there ideals
    They say i should be 125lbs max
    35 bust 25 wasit 35 hip
    Id have to diet till dead
    And lose 5 inches from hips
    Lose 2 or 3 inchs from bust
    And lose 6 inchs from wasit
    1950s was crazy i love my currves

  14. Am 5’5″, about 113-114 lbs. Not sure why I am losing weight bc I eat tons of food and am kind of sedentary yikes. Oh well. I am 19 so it could just be my teenage metabolism.
    Bust 35, waist about 26, hips 35. Not exactly 10 inches separate, lol. On the larger end of the “ideal.” They said add an inch for bigger frame. I have the “oversized” 6-inch wrist, so my bust and waist would be small according to that logic.
    With 5’5″ height, my “ideal” weight would be 125 (5 inches over 5 feet, times 5) plus the extra 5 lbs for oversized wrist so 130 pounds?? I am not sure how I would retain my measurements with 17 pounds added to the weight I am now, unless I were incredibly toned. And lord knows ’50s media pushed diet over exercise.
    Overall pretty unrealistic. I am far below the “ideal” weight for my height and still barely have the “ideal” measurements.

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.