Women's figures fall into types–Characteristic tendencies of hip heavy type–The average type–Of top heavy type–Age does not change type–Each type has its own beauty.

HAVING learned how all women's bodies internally are made on the same plan, the student corsetiere must next be told how considerably they differ externally in size, shape, and weight.

Thousands of pounds and years of research have been expended by corset manufacturers in establishing what are now known as the basic "figure types." The female figure does not vary infinitely, for all its little distinctions and differences and its variations have been boiled down, by different collectors of statistics, to a small number of "types" within which all women, except very seriously abnormal ones, can be satisfactorily included.

For the purpose of sizing the garments they manufacture, different firms have adopted some different classifications of figure types, though all are based on fundamentally the same selective principles. The saleswoman in the store will learn to understand the systems of the firms whose garments she stocks and has to fit. It is sufficient for this book to outline the general plan of figure classification.

Three Shapes, Three Lengths

Speaking broadly, figures are shaped in one of three ways. Either they are "average," which is to say not disproportionately wide in any one place; or they are full at the bust and small at the hips; or they are small in the bust and big at the hips. This gives the three main basic types.

The three basic figure types may be illustrated thus–

Normal or average figure with a difference in measurement between waist and hip of about 10 in.

Hip heavy types with a difference up to about iS in.

Top heavy types with a difference down to about 6 in.

As the above shows, very definite characteristics mark the differences between each of these three basic types. These characteristics carry in their train certain equally noticeable tendencies, for instance–

Where the figure is a hip heavy type and the difference between waist and hip measurement is anything between 12 in. and 15 in., the thighs as well as the buttocks will be heavy and fleshy, and to accommodate and control these, as well as the prominent back curve, the customer will need a long, strong garment. Such a figure type shows also marked thigh-spread when sitting, hence the garment chosen must provide for this in the design of the skirt.

The normal figure type where the difference between waist and hip is about 10 in. will often vary in one of the two directions–towards the hip heavy or towards the top heavy type. Accordingly the waist to hip difference, while truly being about 10 in., may in fact be as little as 9 in. or as much as 11 in. Where it is as little as 9 in., this normal figure will be the one that tends to acquire a spare tyre round the diaphragm, to have a full, rather sagging bust and a flat buttock line with the minimum of thigh spread when sitting. When the difference is 11 in. between waist and hip, the curve at the waist is more marked, the bust usually firmer and rounder and the thigh spread greater when sitting. The difference between waist and hip, and between bust and hip, is the fitter's guide to the type of average figure she has to fit.

It should also be realized that in each case there will be "small" or "full" versions of the average type, and reference to this is made in Chapter IX on "Elasticized Corsetry."

A good way to define the two average figures is as follows–

  Difference between bust and hip Difference between waist and hip
Curved average 2-3 in. 10-11 in.
Straight full average about 1 in, or identical less than 10 in.

As to the third, or top heavy, type–here the fitter finds always that the figure is short between waist and gluteal fold and waist and groin, and this is so whether the person is tall or short. The fat collections are always at the top of the figure, on bust and shoulders, at the diaphragm and, often, on the abdomen, but never on the buttocks and thighs.

These three basic figure types should be studied and their tendencies understood, for out of them arise all the variations of figure type with which the corset fitter has to deal.

Then each of these types may be divided into three trunk lengths–short, medium, and tall.

Nine different figure types
Three trunk lengths in each of three different shapes is a classification regarded as comprehensive. Years of research have established that women's bodies do not vary infinitely in basic shape.

So, with three shapes, and three trunk lengths for each shape, we have nine sets of figure proportions, which are in fact used as the basis for almost all corset manufacture. Some firms, however, drop out three or four of these classes–the rare ones–and work on the assumption that practically every woman can be fitted into one of the remaining five or seven basic classifications (Fig. 27).

Same Type at all Ages

The important thing to note is that the figure types are not a matter of age. A girl in her teens, once the bone and flesh of her body have developed to adult form, may fall into any one of the nine groups just as easily as the middle-aged mother of a family. Age does, of course, have its effect on the figure, but not on its fundamental proportions. The condition of the flesh and the muscle tone may have weakened, so that the style and strength of the suitable garment for an older woman may vary; and her actual measurements may be greater. But she will still belong to the same basic figure type and will need a garment made in the same proportions, so it is an essential part of the efficiency of a corsetiere to be able to recognize the types at a glance.

Each Type can have Beauty

It would be difficult indeed to say which are the "ideal" proportions. Beauty has many shapes and sizes, and the present fashion in corsetry is to make the best of each figure, perfecting the natural lines and correcting faults where they occur: The corsetiere can help each customer to reach perfection in her own type, and she should make a point of putting this point of view before any customer who is despondent or self-conscious about her appearance.