The hourglass figure is the term given to the shape of woman who has full breasts and hips and a narrow waist. For much of the 20th century the hourglass figure was considered the ideal womanly form and the sexiest as well. Many of the most desirable women entertainers at various points in history have had nearly perfect hourglass shapes. Today, however, the woman with an hourglass shape might be considered heavier than the ideal.
The hourglass figure gets its shape from the resemblance of an hourglass figurine, which is wider at the top and bottom than in the middle. To achieve the perfect hourglass figure requires that the measurements of the bust and hips be equal and the measurement of the hip is less than 75% of those measurements. The perfect hourglass measurement has traditionally been 36-24-36.
The hourglass figure as the ideal feminine body shape is a relatively recent thing, essentially coming into existence only within the past 200 years or so. Before that the plump Rubenesque figure was idolised because it signalled health, wealth and the ability to produce children. At the same time, however, the plumper look led to the adoption of the hourglass figure.
Many women are born with a natural hourglass figure, but during the periods of history when the shapely figure has been the ideal, those not naturally endowed turn to the magic of the corset. A corset was a regular part of fashion of most women during the 1800s and many women squeezed their body into a quite unnatural positioning in order to lift their breasts and narrow their waist.
Out of Fashion
The hourglass figure has come and gone several times. The first major period was the 1920s when the flat-chested, boyish look came into style and women would actually seek to downplay their curves. The hourglass figure quickly came back into style in the 1940s but once again came under pressure during the 1960s, primarily because of the popularity of the waif look typified by Twiggy and Mia Farrow. The athletic look and the pressure to conform to a thin ideal has kept the hourglass figure under some suspicion since the 1980s.
Achieving an Hourglass Figure
For women who don't naturally have an hourglass figure but would like to get one without having to wear a corset for the rest of their lives, there is such a thing as corset training. Corset training involves wearing a very tight and restrictive corset for most of the day and some women even learn to sleep in them. Combined with a severe diet, the aim of corset training is to actually physically reshape to eventually create an hourglass shape without the need of a corset. Since this process does involve the shifting of internal organs, anyone considering corset training should consult a physician beforehand.
The list of examples of women with hourglass figures amounts to a list of some of the biggest sex symbols in the entertainment industry. Perhaps the iconic sex symbol with an hourglass figure is Marilyn Monroe, followed closely by Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren, Bettie Page, and Raquel Welch. The hourglass figure is seen in contemporary times in actresses such as Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kate Winslet.
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