Voluptuous or Curvy?

Word meanings evolve — often for the sake of fulfilling marketing goals.

The word “curve” when I was a kid, when it was applied to women, was attached to shapes like that of Jayne Mansfield, Rita Hayworth, Brigitte Bardot,  Marilyn Monroe, Gina Lollabrigida (sp), Jane Russell, basically proportions like those described in the immortal disco song, “Brick House.” Curves were definite things, like the French Curve one might use in drafting. Voluptuous was a close synonym to “curvy” in those dark times. Even Kim (shudder) Kardassian is “curvy” by those standards, though a little freakish in her proportions.


Brigitte Bardot

Now the word “curves,” when it is applied to women, is a euphemism for “fat girl.” I know in this day and age that’s an awful thing to say, but since (today) I fit into today’s definition of “curvy” I think it’s OK for me to say it straight. Chubby, big-boned, larger, “avoirdupois,” there were always lots of ways to say it without using that (gasp!) terrible word, “fat,” without impinging on the right of truly “curvy” women to claim the adjective.

Curvy girls today like to point out that Marilyn Monroe wore a misses size 14, but back in the day the measurements for that were 34-26-34. I know this because I sewed my own clothes in high school and anyone who sews reads the back of pattern packages to know 1) if the pattern will fit and 2) what notions are necessary to finish the outfit.  I know for sure those are not the figures of a size 14 today. More like a size 2. Yep. Our sizes are inflated. It’s a marketing thing…


Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell

Tastes in female curvature vary among cultures and historical periods and between individual people. The whole “body acceptance” phenomenon is bizarre to me. I, personally, don’t understand why women are so affected by the media’s portrayal of women, but apparently they are. I think it’s sad, a symptom of superficiality and self-absorption. At the same time I recognize it as the female animal’s anxiety over missing out on her chance to propagate the species. What if no male comes courting and, as a result, she is denied her chance to fulfill the biological imperative? Yeah, I think that’s part of it. BUT, tall and slender women are used to model clothes simply because you don’t see the women; you’re not distracted by their voluptuous body-parts; you see the clothes.

Years ago (the 70s) I hung out with a tall, slender woman who was a fashion model. I was short and, uh, curvy, in the old style way, but still not a tall and slender model. I said something to her about wishing I were tall and slender, and she said, “Hey, people don’t get sick when they look at you. Forget it.”

And I did. That was the perfect perspective. I’d know I was in trouble if, by walking down the street, I caused those who cast their eyes upon me to barf. I understood from that that, in reality, people are worried about themselves, not what I look like. Unless I make them sick.


17 thoughts on “Voluptuous or Curvy?

  1. Speaking of marketing, have you noticed that the more expensive the clothing, the smaller size you wear? I once commented to Garry that if you have enough money, you can be the size of a sperm whale, but your clothing will always be a size 2.

    • I have noticed that. There’s so much about this world that just disturbs me and, though minor, this whole “body acceptance movement” is one of them.

  2. I think men are programmed to like curves. I never bought in to skinny being sexy. Of course, I never figured out what women go for, and now I don’t care. 🙂

    • I think you’re right and I think it’s a biological microchip that says “This one will do a good job on the carrying, bearing, feeding, raising of your young.” As for what women go for? I always made horrific choices. 🙂

    • Well, to be blatantly honest, I think most women are looking for something that goes far beyond the physical. We’re looking for what’s in a man’s soul and how that translates into the treatment we will receive from him. It’s an old and word-out saying, but it’s still true: Beauty is as beauty does. It’s true for men and women both, but we gals are just smarter at making it the rule when choosing our mates.

      • You learn how to treat women from watching your father. I got lucky and had a dad who thought women were special. After he died and I smarted off to my mother, I found out she had a mean left hook. I suspect the old man knew about that. He treated her like she was made of glass.

      • Oh, you’re so right about learning from your father. And that’s true, not only for boys, but for girls as well. We learn from our fathers how we should expect men to treat us. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we seem to have so many bad fathers or totally absent fathers that we have almost a whole generation who don’t have a clue now.

      • Bottom line — mate, spawn and die. We tell ourselves a lot of stories but the fact is women want to spawn and men want to mate and any peacock or turkey can tell you appearance matters. I think Kim Kardassian is a prime example of that little asspect of reality. Once she got that booty where it needed to be, Kanye showed up and BAM! Two infants.

  3. A cool article, Martha. We have definitely lost all perspective — at least in the U.S. — when it comes to what constitutes a lovely woman. The media are crazy and have succeeded in driving thousands of men and women equally crazy.

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