You are here

Waist-to-hip ratio and attractiveness in women: addressing confounds

A number of women would be interested in what waist-hip proportions are “ideal” or the most attractive as far as heterosexual men are concerned.  The purpose of this entry is to show that it is meaningful to talk about an attractive range, albeit narrow, of waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) – as far as the preferences of most people [in Western societies] are concerned – rather than a strict value.  In some comparisons, a woman with a slightly thicker waist/higher WHR would be more appealing.  This entry should once again help make the case that beauty does not lie in some simple rules of thumb.

We will need to address some of the major papers published on the topic.

The first major paper was published by Devendra Singh(1; pdf).  Singh showed, using the following drawings, that men rated a WHR of 0.7 to be the most appealing.

Drawings used by Devendra Singh; attractiveness ratings as a function of variation in WHR and body weight.

The drawings above have some problems such as a confound between weight and WHR, and also limited WHR range.  One could also mention that it would have been preferable to use actual pictures of women.

Subsequently, Louis Tassinary and Kristi Hansen(2; pdf) decided to use drawings where there was greater variation in WHR, variation in body weight, and WHR was varied as a function of both waist size and hip size independently.  They used the following image series, and reported that WHR is hardly relevant to attractiveness since attractiveness could be made to either increase or decrease with increasing WHR depending on the body weight, hip size or waist size chosen.

Drawings used by Louis Tassinary and Kristi Hansen; attractiveness ratings as a function of variation in WHR, body weight, waist and hip sizes.

The study by Tassinary and Hansen was subsequently critiqued by Ronald Henss(3; pdf), and also Sybil Streeter and Donald McBurney(4; pdf); both critiques also addressed some of the naïve theoretical assumptions of Tassinary and Hansen.

Henss pointed out the crudeness of the line drawings used by Tassinary and Hansen.  He decided to use pictures of actual women, and varied their WHR by digitally manipulating the waist.  The pictures that he used are shown below.  The middle figure in each series represents the actual picture; the one to its left has a reduced waist and the one on the right has an expanded waist.  Based on the photos, the WHR of the women in front view ranged from 0.7 to 0.79.  The manipulated WHRs ranged from 0.68 to 0.85.  For each of the six women, the lowest WHR was rated the most attractive by the judges.

Photos used by Ronald Henss; variation in WHR and attractiveness.

Streeter and McBurney used the picture of an actual woman, varied the WHR in the picture from 0.5 to 1.2, and varied bust-plus-hip- and waist-sizes independently.  Their picture was taken from Ronald Henss, i.e., it was either one of the above images or something similar.  They asked their participants to estimate the weight of the woman shown, and then adjusted her attractiveness rating with respect to the weight estimate, thereby controlling for a WHR-weight confound.  Tassinary and Hansen’s study had a WHR-weight confound notwithstanding their much more extensive range of drawings.  Streeter and McBurney were able to show that both men and women rated a WHR of 0.7 as the most attractive, after controlling for the weight confound, regardless of whether WHR was varied by changing hip size only or waist size only, though the attractiveness ratings between a WHR range of 0.6 to 0.9 did not vary greatly.  In short, Streeter and McBurney showed that WHR does indeed contribute to female attractiveness; read their paper to understand more of the shortcomings in the study by Tassinary and Hansen.

Tassinary and Hansen, as well as Streeter and McBurney, reported that variation in hip size made a stronger contribution to attractiveness rating than variation is waist size.

On the other hand, Malgorzata Rozmus-Wrzesinska and Boguslaw Pawlowski(5; pdf) showed that Western men are more strongly influenced by waist size than hip size when it comes to rating the attractiveness of women.  These authors used a woman with a WHR of 0.65 and manipulated her WHR from 0.60 to 0.85 by either varying the waist only or the hips only.  Men were asked to rate attractiveness in both front and back views.  When only the waist was manipulated, as shown below, men most strongly preferred a WHR of 0.6.

Varying WHR by manipulating waist size.

When only the hips were manipulated, as shown below, men most strongly preferred a WHR of 0.7.

Varying WHR by manipulating hip size.

The ratings above did not vary between front and back views.  When WHR was varied by altering waist size, the figure with a WHR of 0.6 was rated as the lightest by 90% of the men, but when WHR was varied by altering hip size, 92% of the men rated the figure with a WHR of 0.6 as the heaviest.  Hip size increase beyond a certain point would suggest that the woman is overweight, which would diminish her attractiveness rating, which in turn would explain why a higher WHR was preferred when WHR was varied using the hips only. 

When WHR was varied by manipulating the hips only, the most strongly preferred WHR was 0.9 in Tassinary and Hansen’s study and 0.7 in the study by Streeter and McBurney.  Tassinary and Hansen’s study obviously had multiple shortcomings, as addressed above, but there are two other issues:

  • In the line drawings used by Tassinary and Hansen, they altered the waist and hip dimensions to try to adjust for the fact that the protrusion of the buttocks makes a significant contribution to the hip circumference.  However, this resulted in the front-view WHRs to be lower than what they reported.  In other words, a WHR reported as 0.9 by Tassinary and Hansen does not exceed a value of 0.8 in other studies such as Streeter and McBurney’s.   
  • The male participants in Tassinary and Hansen’s study, and also the study by Streeter and McBurney, had an average age of 18 years, whereas the average age of the participants was in the early- to mid-thirties in the study by Rozmus-Wrzesinska and Pawlowski.  In Rozmus-Wrzesinska and Pawlowski’s study, men in the 20-21 age range, totaling 30, most strongly preferred a WHR of 0.8 when WHR was manipulated by changing hip size only, whereas, as noted above, this value was 0.7 for the entire sample.  In other words, these results suggest that preference varies by age, with younger men preferring higher WHRs than older men when WHR is manipulated by changing hip size only, apparently because younger women are less curvaceous and have smaller hips.  A preference for a low female WHR takes time to develop; from childhood to late adolescence, there is a gradual shift toward a greater proportion of children (both boys and girls) preferring low WHRs in women, first noticeable around puberty(6).


Body weight, waist size, hip size and WHR all make contributions to the attractiveness ratings of women.  If one were to select stimuli where body weight varied greatly but WHR varied to a smaller extent, then it should not be surprising if body weight explains more of the variance in attractiveness ratings than WHR.  Similarly, depending on the stimuli selected, waist size or hip size can make a greater contribution to attractiveness ratings.  These studies generally show that men and women judge female attractiveness similarly. 

Note that in the photos used by Henss, the women do not have physiques as feminine as that of many women in the attractive women section of this site; specifically note their broad rib cages and also their not-too-feminine frames; two of these images were taken from fashion catalogs and the remaining were downloaded from the internet (source not specified).  When one uses the kind of images used by Henss, diminishing WHR to 0.6 by decreasing the waist size can make the woman approach cartoonish looks if the rib cage and other features are not simultaneously altered to reflect the global effects of estrogens, which would prevent WHRs in the 0.60-0.65 range from being rated as more appealing than a WHR of 0.7.  Of course, the lowest manipulated WHR in Henss’ study was 0.68.  Similarly, diminishing WHR toward a value of 0.6 by increasing the hip size of a woman that does not have a feminine frame would make her look overweight quickly, which would once again lead to WHRs closer to 0.7 rather than 0.6 being rated most appealing.

Table 1 shows some lingerie models from the fashion world, with feminine-looking -- some even impressive -- front-view WHRs.  However, how feminine do these women look?  Table 2 shows some glamour models with unimpressive front-view WHRs; compare their overall femininity with that of the lingerie models in Table 1. 

Table 1. Lingerie models (from the fashion world)
Lingerie model Lingerie model Lingerie model
Lingerie model Lingerie model Lingerie model
Lingerie model Lingerie model Lingerie model
Lingerie model Lingerie model Lingerie model

Table 2. Glamour models
Charlotte from model palace Charlotte from model palace Charlotte from model palace
Vanessa from teenrotica Vanessa from teenrotica Vanessa from teenrotica
Julia Cerkonova Julia Cerkonova Julia Cerkonova
Models featured, from top to bottom: Charlotte from model palace, Vanessa from teenrotica and Julia Cerkonova from karupspc.

The overall appearance of the lingerie models in Table 1 is less feminine than that of the glamour models in Table 2, even though the front-view WHRs of the lingerie models are lower.  The lingerie models have more masculine faces, a manlier skeletal frame, greater muscularity, relatively larger hands, etc.  Clearly, very low front-view WHRs are neither necessary nor sufficient when it comes to overall femininity/attractiveness.  On the other hand, if one were to take a feminine glamour model and digitally give her a very feminine WHR, as shown below for Charlotte from Table 2, one would almost certainly observe Western heterosexual male preference for female WHRs closer to 0.65 than 0.7 in studies.  Indeed, in Rozmus-Wrzesinska and Pawlowski’s study, a woman with a WHR of 0.65 was used, and men rated a WHR of 0.6 as most appealing when WHR was manipulated by altering waist size only.  In other words, there is surely nothing magical about a 0.7 WHR preference in Western societies as some would like us to believe. 

Charlotte modified

Table 1 on the eating disorders page cites a study where the WHR of Playboy centerfolds averaged 0.68 and that of fashion models averaged 0.71, and the authors interpreted this to mean that fashion models generally have an hourglass figure!  The same page cites evidence of increasing masculinization in Playboy centerfolds from the 1960s to 2000, i.e., they are not the best choice to contrast fashion models with, and this page also addresses why the 0.71 WHR, if truthfully reported, does not imply a feminine appearance.

The lingerie models shown in Table 1 above once again show just how tolerant gay fashion designers are of femininity in their models.  They know that boyish looks are not appropriate among lingerie models, and they do get non-skinny ones who may also have some curves, but these models generally still don’t look feminine enough [for the job].


  1. Singh, D., Adaptive significance of female physical attractiveness: role of waist-to-hip ratio, J Pers Soc Psychol, 65, 293 (1993).
  2. Tassinary, L. G., and Hansen, K. A., A critical test of the waist-to-hip ratio hypothesis of female physical attractiveness, Psychol Sci, 9, 150 (1998).
  3. Henss, R., Waist-to-hip ratio and female attractiveness. Evidence from photographic stimuli and methodological considerations, Personal Individ Diff, 28, 501 (2000).
  4. Streeter, S. A., and McBurney, D. H., Waist-hip ratio and attractiveness: new evidence and a critique of a "critical test" Evol Hum Behav, 24, 88 (2003).
  5. Rozmus-Wrzesinska, M., and Pawlowski, B., Men's ratings of female attractiveness are influenced more by changes in female waist size compared with changes in hip size, Biol Psychol, 68, 299 (2005).
  6. Connolly, J. M., Slaughter, V., and Mealey, L., The development of preferences for specific body shapes, J Sex Res, 41, 5 (2004).


maybe men are responding often to th reality that the average women is not smal waisted.. i have seen numerous article s on the subject. From

Fashion Articles and News
The shape of things to wear: scientists identify how women's figures have changed in 50 years
By Helen McCormack
Nov 21, 2005, 09:55

(Independent News & Media) The fashion industry is ignoring the changing shapes of women's bodies, a study claims today. Designers and manufacturers still insist on making clothes that fit the traditional hourglass figure, when women's shapes are more likely to be top-heavy, rectangular or pear-shaped.

The research found that although only 8 per cent of women now had the sort of hourglass figure flaunted by curvaceous 1950s film stars such as Sophia Loren, designers and manufacturers continued to make clothes to fit a slim-line version of that figure.

Of the 6,000 women's body shapes analysed, 46 per cent were described as rectangular, with the waist less than nine inches smaller than the hips or bust. Just over 20 per cent of women were bottom-heavy "spoons", or pear shapes, with hips two inches larger than busts or more, while almost 14 per cent were "inverted triangles" - women whose busts were three or more inches bigger than their hips.

The study, by the North Carolina State University, was based on data from a two-year study of American body types, SizeUSA. It was commissioned by Alva Products, a manufacturer of designers' mannequins determined to force the industry to design clothes for the majority rather than the minority of women.

Janice Wang, the firm's chief executive, said: "The majority of retailers are designing clothes for people with an hourglass figure." She added that industry standards for size measurements were out of date. "That needs to change if the industry wants to serve the markets they currently aren't reaching."

The fashion house Liz Claiborne has taken note. David Baron, a vice-president, said it would introduce "gradual changes" to eventually provide "better-fitting" clothes.

Although the study concentrated on American women, its implications were relevant for British women, Ms Wang said, because eating habits and lifestyle meant the shapes of women in the two societies "mirrored each other".

The British fashion designer Katherine Hamnett agreed that women who did not conform to a svelte size 10 continued to be neglected by fashion.
"The fashion industry ignores the true size of women at its peril," she said. "As to why they do, stupidity is the only reason I can think of. It is the result of adhering unthinkingly to a tradition."

And the idea that larger women are not the ideal to design for is a myth. "I have measured film stars who have 42 inch hips, and are still getting a lot of work. It is not how fat you are, it is whether you are fit that matters. People can be beautiful when they are any shape or size."

Breast enhancements and other types of cosmetic surgery could influence the findings, Ms Hamnett said. With breast enhancements likely to create the "inverted triangle" body type, the popularity of cosmetic surgery means there are new shapes that are less likely to be affected by diet or exercise.

The findings concur with a similar study of British women, SizeUK, published late last year, which found that the average woman's waistline had expanded by six inches since the 1950s.

Carried out by University College London and the London College of Fashion, the study found that women and men had shot up and out, with today's woman taller, with a bigger bust and hips than her 1950s counterpart.


Exemplified by the actress Sophia Loren, only 8 per cent of women tend to have equal hip and bust measurements with a narrow waist

The spoon

Just over 20 per cent of women, like Jennifer Lopez, have a pear-shaped figure, where the hip measurement is larger than the bust


Forty-six per cent of women fit this shape, where the waist is less than nine inches smaller than the hips or bust. Mel C is a good example

Inverted triangle

Another modern outline, where the bust is bigger than the hips. The swimmer Sharron Davies is one of the 14 per cent who fits this shape


My Bust is 36 (i have very prominent breasts) my waist is 27 and my hips are 36. My shoulder width is around 14 cm. What group does my body fall into and is this an ideal beauty? or is my build towards masculinity? Do i have an hourglass figure?

i don't think women who don't have hourglass figures are masculine. i think alot of that stuff depends on ethnicity, diet, lifestyle, etc. if you have broad shoulders--then you may be top heavy. sooo. inverted triangle. but i don't think hourglass---but just think.. angelina jolie has that sort of body. she isn't too shabby.

Laurie: Your measurements do not sound like that of a masculine woman, but large breasts and a 36-inch bust imply a rib cage that should not be too broad assuming that you are somewhat above average height, i.e., a 27-inch waist may be because of excess abdominal fat. You could be a somewhat more feminine-looking version of Charlotte in Table 2, i.e., feminine but not with an hourglass figure. Kristin is right; absence of an hourglass look does not imply masculinity. Email me clear pictures of your physique and I will be able to properly answer your questions. If you are concerned about privacy, blur your face or cut it out of the pictures.

My height is 5"3ish inches tall. My Bust is 36in waist is 27in and my hips are 36 in. My bust and hips are the same in inches. Does this not imply an hourglass figure as i thought bust and hips had to be roughly the same with a smaller waist for an hourglass figure? My shoulder width from one end to the other is 14cm. I have thick thighs. Isnt having feminine an hourglass figure? are my shoulders too broad for my height? I do not want to post in any pictures but based on this informationa lone what can you tell me?

As kirstins hourglass defintion states: equal hip and bust measurments with a narrow wasit.

If i am not an hourglass figure then what is my figure?

i am a fashion fiend and was referencing standards for a hourglass figuure in clothing manufacturing. also using the waist-hip ratio. ideally that would mean 10inchs or more difference between your waist and hips. 9 inchs is sorta cutting it close. i would assume instead of abb fat--that ou are a slim girl who is slightly broader uptop. another person w/ you measurements is raquel welch---who is very foxy. you really shouldn't dwell on this.
as a side note, she is mexican, and many hispanic women are slighlty broader up top. the same i noticed in germanic/nordic women. again--- they are often very pretty regardless.
halle berry has an hourglas figure at 34-21-35. see the difference?

Dear Erik,

I am curious to know what exactly constitues an hourglass figure is it just the bust hip and wasit ratio or is there something more and if so what?


I have very broad shoulders, but i dnt know if my hips are narrow. They seem narrow because of my shoulders. I'm 18 and I was wondering if my hips would still become wider. I think I have baby fat in my arms and my waist, and I don't have a very feminine body.

Kristin: It is highly unlikely that a young-adult Halle Berry had a 21-inch waist. Raquel Welch a Mexican? A young Raquel Welch had a reported waist measurement close to 23 inches and she was a few inches taller than Laurie. Please get your facts correct.

Laurie: Your physique is curvy and does not appear to be masculine based on your description. On the other hand, I am reluctant to describe it as an hourglass figure because of your 27-inch waist. Compare your physique to Maria McBane’s, whose pictures I posted here and here. At 5-foot-3, 19-year-old Maria McBane had reported measurements of 36D-22-36, i.e., an hourglass figure, which is evident from her pictures. You do not have to post your pictures here; just email them to me after cutting out/blurring your face; they will be only seen by me, not posted anywhere. Anyway, please note that an hourglass figure is not an absolute requirement for attractiveness/femininity. Once again, notwithstanding lower front-view WHRs, the women in Table 1 look overall less feminine than those in Table 2 above.

Samantha: An hourglass figure is literally approximating an hourglass in front view, i.e., having prominent breasts, sufficiently wide and rounded hips, and a tiny waist plus small rib cage; see Maria McBane’s pictures referenced above and also these rough examples. The top and bottom of an hourglass have the same circumference, but an upstanding hourglass would look the same in different views if you rotate it about its vertical axis, whereas this is not true of a human figure. Therefore, it is not necessary to have same bust and hip measurements in order to have an hourglass figure. A 5-foot-6 woman that is 34D-23-36 would have a more dramatic hourglass look than a 5-foot-6 woman with a 36C-24-36 physique.

Anon: Your hips will become wider. Broad shoulders by themselves are not a shortcoming with respect to attractiveness, which is assessed by overall looks.

umm--u need to get ur facts straight. ---where do u think she got her lovely tan from???
"Becoming Raquel
After a 40-year career as a sex symbol, Raquel Welch has found her true identity.
By Sandra Márquez

Raquel Welch, one of the world’s most recognizable faces, began her career in Hollywood in the ’60s, when Marilyn Monroe was the gold standard of beauty and studio executives tried to persuade the young “exotic” to change her name and lighten her olive complexion and brown hair.
At home, growing up as Raquel Tejada in the affluent San Diego suburb of La Jolla, she confronted another, silent form of white-washing. Her Bolivian-born father, Armando, an engineer who fell in love with America’s promise of modernity, did not speak of his heritage or allow Spanish to be spoken at home.

After a 40-year career as an international sex symbol, a movie star in films ranging from The Three Musketeers to Legally Blonde and as a Broadway performer, Welch, now 62, paused a few years ago to piece together her true identity. She needed answers to help explain her father’s behavior.

Sitting at home, surrounded by family photographs, she spoke candidly about this journey into memory—and her real life trip last August to her father’s birthplace that helped her recover her buried Latin roots."

these are here measurements when she is not in a girdle---
measurements 37D-26-36. the 23 waists from the days they girdled her in. its like how supposedly bridget bardot had a 19 inch waist---only with a girdle. secondly halle berry is def. more slim waisted. 36C-22-37 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine) is her measurements when she is more out of shape. for the role in catwoman is was 34c/d-21-35, again according to celebrity sleuth and a host of publications. they love to brag on her stats.


I appreciate your grouping together these various studies and this page does indeed address the WHR confound concisely.

All things being EQUAL, it seems like a low WHR is considered the most attractive among most people, but it is obviously just part of a total "beauty package" that includes waist size, hip size, weight, overall femininity, and other diverse factors. Therefore, a woman with a low WHR is not necessarily more attractive than one with a more average WHR (perhaps within certain confines) and there is no hard and fast rule about WHR as it pertains to attractiveness.

To that end, I asked a couple of my male "lifetime heterosexual" friends to look at three photos on this site...and they did seem more than willing to critique photos of naked women!

Two women stood out in my mind as having dramatic WHRs...almost shockingly so...Miss Sweden on your Skinny Fashion Models page..and Marika, one of your Attractive Women. I had them compare those two women with Angelina Valinurova, whom I found to be very average in the