Studies in human morphology (body shape) are not new, and can be traced back many centuries. The ancient Greeks thought that certain body types indicated a potential to develop particular diseases! ‘Proportionality’ was another popular basis for describing the human figure, and was originally associated with sculptors and painters who wanted to portray a perfect figure in their works of art.
Traditionally, the term Typology was used over the centuries to classify body type, body shape, and physique. Medical researchers long believed that studies relating to body shape belonged in the field of medical science (and we’re not necessarily talking obesity here!). Countless individual writers and researchers have identified and classified female body shape. These range from the anatomical (mesomorph, ectomorph or endomorph) and the medical (gynaeoid, lymphatic, thyroid or android), to a range of fruit (apple and pear) or a group of geometrical figures such as triangle, rectangle, oval or square.
Whatever its name, each female body shape or female figure type is the overall result of the skeletal structure, muscle development, degree of body fat, and the way in which muscle and body fat is distributed. What’s more, a woman’s body shape can change a lot over time, as a result of child-bearing, fluctuations in fat deposits, and bone and muscle loss after menopause. As with most human characteristics, there is wide variation in the types of body shapes that occur normally in the female population.
Due to the increasing trend of changes in the size and shape of the female body (waistlines, busts and hips, and upper arms have increased, as well as the width and breadth of the shoulder girdle). Female figure types in the 21st Century bear little resemblance to what was traditionally represented as an average or ideal figure type (hourglass shape, medium bust, defined waist and hips slightly larger than the bust) less than 30 years ago.
There is no doubt that the current range of figure types presents a challenge for the design and production of female garments, and a study of female body shape now appears to be on the agenda for clothing to fit a widening variety of shapes and sizes. We’re hearing more and more often the comment If a garment is to fit well, body shape must be considered. The saying that you can’t put a square peg into a round hole can be applied equally to the fact that you can’t put a well rounded shape into an hourglass.
Fashion Design ~ Creativity & Science, has categorized five different body types for pattern making purposes, based on extensive research which compared a representative sample of adult Australian females. Each figure type is defined with its characteristics. If you’re wondering what your body shape is by today’s criteria, check out FD~CS using both the descriptors and measuring charts for each of the five averaged figure types.