Victoria’s Secret fashion models have become thinner with smaller busts – Unattainable standards of beauty for today’s woman


While the average American woman’s waist circumference and dress size has increased over the past 20 years, Victoria’s Secret fashion models have become more slender, with a decrease in bust, waist, hips and dress size, though their waist to hip ratio (WHR) has remained constant.

These findings represent an ideal of beauty that continuously moves further away from the characteristics of the average American woman.

Quantifying female body attractiveness is complex. Perceived attractiveness is influenced by physical and nonphysical traits and is further guided by media exposure and sociocultural standards of the time.

One of the more established parameters to evaluate female body attractiveness is the WHR, which measures body fat distribution. Interestingly, WHR has continued to be an ideal beauty trait that has stayed constant over time and cross-culterally.

In order to evaluate trends of physical body attributes, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) measured and compared Victoria’s Secret models from 1995 to 2018.

The first Victoria’s Secret runway show debuted 23 years ago and since then has been viewed by millions annually, making it the most watched fashion show worldwide.

The data showed that over time, Victoria’s Secret fashion models have become thinner, with smaller busts, waist, hips and dress size, whereas their WHR remained constant.

The data showed that over time, Victoria’s Secret fashion models have become thinner, with smaller busts, waist, hips and dress size, whereas their WHR remained constant.

“Conversely, the average American woman’s waist circumference and dress size has increased and varies between a misses size 16 and 18,” explained corresponding author Neelam Vashi, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at BUSM.

According to the researchers, in parallel with this trend, the percentage of women seeking cosmetic surgical procedures has dramatically increased and may be due to the desire to achieve the ideal WHR, which is a narrow waist set against fuller hips.

Buttock and lower body lift has increased by 4,295 percent and 256 percent, respectively since 2000.

“Our results represent a potentially changing weight ideal of beauty that is moving farther away from the characteristics of the average American woman; however, a constant idealized WHR remains intact,” added Vashi, who also is director of the Boston University Cosmetic and Laser Center at Boston Medical Center.

Perceived Body Appearance

Body image is defined as an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with his or her appearance and physical ability [1]. The interest in body appearance has been both theoretical and practical, in various fields of the social sciences [2] including examining the relationships between perceived body image and different psychological and health issues such as depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem [3,4].

Only a few studies have examined body image while focusing on social environments among the adult population, therefore the present study focused on the relationship between body perception, gender, and age, through an in-depth exploration of how adults disclose their appearance and how much the surroundings (i.e., family, peers, media) influence on their body perception. In addition, this study intends to examine variables inherently related to body image, such as eating and exercise habits, media exposure, and so on.

Gender, Age, and Perceived Body Appearance

Gender differences related to body appearance are a well-known and well-documented phenomenon [4,5,6]. Gender differences emerge in childhood and seem to persist across most of one’s lifespan, and are usually attributed to Western culture, where the media and socialization agents tend to illustrate female beauty ideals [7].

These beauty representations usually set extremely high practically unachievable standards. Literature reviews indicated that body appearance issues and eating disorders are more prevalent in women, especially adolescents and young adults [8,9].

Especially notable is the emphasis on thinness in women across all age groups, and the overall presentation of the female body as attractive rather than functional. The cultural construction of the ideal body for men versus women has various emotional, cognitive, and behavioral consequences.

International comparative studies conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1994 (including 28 Western countries) and during 1998 (including 44 Western countries) concluded that the frequency of dieting behaviors among Jewish-Israeli adolescents was the highest of all participating countries [10].

Findings of an Israeli youth sample (ages 13–18) revealed that 47.1% of participants defined their own body shape as full, fat, or very fat; 45.3% expressed a wish to lose weight.

Moreover, 75.8% of participants who described themselves as having a full body shape and 36.4% of those who described themselves as fat were within the normal range, based on their Body Mass Index (BMI) scores [11].

Compared with other countries, Israeli adolescents emerge as being exceptionally dissatisfied with their bodies. The study revealed that the frequency of maladaptive eating habits among both male and female Jewish adolescents is high compared to most other Westernized countries.

For example, 60–80% of female Israeli adolescents are dissatisfied with their weight and shape, although a majority of these adolescents are of normal weight.

In Israel, as well as in other Western countries, women in particular appear to be less satisfied with their body’s appearance and become more vulnerable to low body image [12,13].

Age seems to be another important factor when studying body image. As mentioned before, most of the research on body image has focused on younger populations as children, adolescents, and young adults, whereas studies focusing on older adults remain limited.

Available data suggest that older adults experience sociocultural pressures to conform to youthful appearance ideals pressures that affect one’s perceived body image [14].

On the other hand, it was found [15,16] that with age, some people become less interested in their appearance and are less prone to conform to society’s expectations, suggesting age might act as a predictor of positive body image.

Purpose of this study was to explore body appearance perception among adults, and to examine how it is related to four main social-environmental circles: family, friends, peers, and the media.

Family Circle

Studies on the effects of family characteristics and body image are mostly concerned with eating disorders [8]. Parents’ actions and beliefs, their implicit and explicit communication with the child, have a significant effect on the child [17,18,19].

Parents’ messages regarding the child’s body (shape, size, weight, etc.), or encouragement the child to lose/gain weight or to eat health food, had a strong predictor of the child body dissatisfaction [20,21].

Generally speaking, Israeli society (both Jewish and Arab) emphasizes family relationships and tends to keep close familial ties as compared to other nations.

Katz [11] showed that the value of “spending time with family” was one of the most important issues for Israelis and placed at the top of a list comprising 35 values.

In Harel-Fish et al.’s survey, approximately 91% of Israeli participants reported they could easily speak with their parents (76% spoke mostly with their father, and 88% spoke mostly with their mother); this finding placed Israel in eighth place out of 42 countries. Most of the Israeli participants reported that their parents knew what was going on in their children’s lives [10].

Friends and Peers Circle

In a rapidly changing society, peer groups have a great influence on an individual. Therefore, in addition to family and the media, one’s peer group and friends strongly influence the process of socialization and become ‘significant others’. Nowadays, social comparisons are related to the development of body dissatisfaction among children, adolescents, and adults.

Tatangelo and Ricciardelli [22], in examining the impact of peers and media on body-image perception among children, found that appearance comparisons are more common among women, whereas sports/ability comparisons are more common among men.

In addition, men viewed media comparisons as inspiring, whereas women reported negative emotions in response to such comparisons. Studies conducted on college students, examining the relationships between perceived body image, appearance, and the effects of peers [23] revealed that peer pressure is unavoidable and most often negative, especially for women.

Yet, intensified parental control can also negatively influence on how college women and men feel about their bodies. Another study [24] examining the relationship between peer influence, media exposure, and body-image satisfaction in young adults showed that media exposure was higher among females than males.

Media Circle

Several studies have found significant correlation between exposure to Western media and body dissatisfaction [4,25,26]. Other studies have found a decrease in body satisfaction following exposure to media images, typically in women presented with the “thin ideal” [27,28].

An examination of self-perception among women on Facebook revealed that women high in appearance comparison reported more body dissatisfaction after spending time on Facebook, compared to a control site group [29,30].

Studies on the effects of exposure to video games on body image in men and women yielded similar results [31,32].

International studies conducted by the WHO between 1994 and 2014 mapped Israeli adolescents’ media exposure and usage. As Harel-Fish et al. [10] reported, the survey shows that Israeli adolescents are more exposed to media than most of their peers in other countries.

A cross-culture study [33,34] including a sample of young and middle-aged adults examined body-weight satisfaction, among a Mediterranean adult population, show that female participants were more concerned about their body-weight status, more dissatisfied being overweight, and more worried about weight gain than men.

Moreover, middle-aged participants were more dissatisfied with their body shape and underestimated their body weight more than the younger adults.

The present study intended to deepen our understanding of the influence of the individual’s social environment, in particular its influence on the individual’s habits, behaviors, and body appearance perception.

It was expected that the main differences would emerge for gender and for age group. As such, women would be more concerned about their appearance and less satisfied with their body, and that their appearance self-perceptions would be lower than those of the men.

Boston University School of Medicine
Media Contacts:
Gina DiGravio – Boston University School of Medicine

Original Research: Open access
“Unattainable Standards of Beauty: Temporal Trends of Victoria’s Secret Models from 1995 to 2018”. Mayra Bc Maymone, MD, DSc, Melissa Laughter, PhD, Jaclyn B Anderson, BS, Eric A Secemsky, MD, MSc, Neelam A Vashi, MD.
Aesthetic Surgery Journal doi:10.1093/asj/sjz271.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Questo sito usa Akismet per ridurre lo spam. Scopri come i tuoi dati vengono elaborati.