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.
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…
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.