Waist to Hip Ratio Survey Results Part 2

In the comments on yesterday’s post, several people asked to see the hips and waist measurements plotted as a scatter graph.  The Y-axis (vertical) shows hips, and the x-axis (horizontal) the waist.  I really, really, really wanted to see some interesting little clumps develop that might indicate body types- but no.  You can see a general trend that as waist sizes increase, hip size also increases.  Which is common sense.

This is my favorite graph.  I think it’s pretty.  The blue line is every individual waist measurement from the smallest I received to the largest.  A red square above each point marks the corresponding hip measurement.  You can see that on the lower end of the scale, there’s more space between the waist and the hip measurements.  This illustrates how the difference between the waist and hip measurements decreases as waist size increases.

This chart demonstrates the relationship between waist and ratio more clearly.  The ratio is plotted on the y-axis, and the waist measurements along the x-axis.  It shows clearly that the widest range of ratios fall between .7 and .8.  I had expected to see somewhat more defined groups.  As it is, there’s two exclusive groups: less than .7 ratios at one end of the scale, and greater than .9 at the other.

But really, there’s no groupings of body types easily distinguished by the numbers alone.  One can dream, right?

I also looked through the numbers to see if I could find a pattern of relationships between hip circumference and waist to hip ratio.  I’m not saying such a pattern doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t seem like it to me.  I had expected to find a grouping at the smallest end of the scale around .8-.9 for those who have a petite frame and low body fat, but it seems from the numbers that isn’t the case.  Or I don’t have a wide enough sample.  I would love to work with more numbers.

Once I played around for a while, I made a sizing chart based on the proportions and numbers from the survey.  That’s the first five columns, in both metric and imperial measurement.  I left the ratios for the 100cm+ waist circumferences at .86 because while I’m very interested in exploring plus sizing, my data for those sizes is incomplete.

Then I played around and pulled out the ratios for some major (in terms of influence) pattern companies.  Those are the first three columns of ratios.  Sometimes the sizes didn’t correspond exactly, so I chose to leave those numbers out of the graph.  A commentator asked about vintage sizing and ratios, so I dug around for Simplicity sizing charts for the 30’s-60’s.  I used Simplicity for the sake of… consistency.

Finally, I asked myself “How much does a tenth of a decimal place in the ratio matter when calculating measurements?”  I took the numbers 60-100 (which correspond to the waist measurements) and I took the common ratio for each waist measurement and found the theoretical hip measurement.  .71 is the common ratio for a 60-69cm waist, .74 is the common ratio for a 70-79 waist, etc.

Apparently it matters quite a lot.  But then I ask myself- does it actually matter when no sizing chart will be able to represent the majority of sizes?  I don’t know.  Maybe not.

What do you think of those numbers, especially the vintage ones?  I haven’t had a lot of time to sit back and think about the implications of these numbers very deeply, so I don’t have much to say about them as yet.    Looking through the columns of numbers and deconstructing sizing charts was a great exercise for my brain.

Sometimes I dream about somehow “cracking” sizing and figuring out a system that works well for all kinds of bodies.  I think fit is by far the biggest hurdle to new sewists, I wish I could remove it!   In my more lucid moments, I can recognize that’s unlikely to happen- there’s too much variety in body shapes.

I have to wonder if it would be possible to create a sizing system using “shape” indicators as well as “size.”  I believe Lane Bryant and a few other retailers do this with jeans- how hard would it be to make patterns that way?  Something like H (for those with .77-.85+ ratios), S (for those with less than .77 who carry weight toward the back) and X (for those with a ratio of less than .77 who carry weight more toward the sides).  The H’s are apparent on the graph, but S and X shapes may have the same measurements but very different shapes…

Or… A sizing system kind of like men’s.  They choose pants by their waist and inseam.  What if women’s pants could be chosen by waist and hip. “What size are you?”  “I’m a 30-40.”  “Yes, quite.”  I wonder what those patterns would look like?

The more questions I answer, the more questions I find.  Don’t be surprised if I bring this up again in a few weeks.  But not for a while.  Now I want to focus on some hacking!

In the meantime, I would very much appreciate more numbers to work with on my survey.  Right now I’m at 502, which is more than I thought I’d get.  Could you help me reach a round 1000?  Then I can revise.


  1. Interesting data Stephanie! I could see the value in H, S and X sized and ‘shaped’ patterns. I know with a certain drafting system that even with measurements taken and individual blocks, when it came to making muslins up, individual shape still had to be adjusted at this phase of the process, rather then earlier on.

    Shape is so obvious even in garments which are much less fitted. Take for example church albs – I have seen alb after alb from the same basic pattern but very few of them fit the wearer well. I have a couple of friends trying to nudge me into making albs as a business, but I can’t comprehend doing it because of the massive fit issues. I wouldn’t be happy to sell someone a robe unless I knew it was as perfect as possible and the hours to perfect this would be crazy! Not only would I need to develop a pattern for women (all our albs are made from male patterns still) I would then need h, s and x as well! I’m sure men have fit issues to though. Tall men in robes seem to have a lot of excess fabric at the bottom of their robes or not enough to stop the leg of their trousers from showing when they walk. Sorry – now you’ve got the dribble that is running around my brain on your blog comments!

    • Yes… It’s an interesting puzzle. I know the system you’re talking about, and I have a few adjustments I make now as a matter of course. Refinements, if you will. They’re based on size ranges, and I’ve found I hit the mark with muslins more often than not now…. Which is cool… If you ever want to work on yours, just let me know.

      no no, very interesting to read about the albs even though I have no idea what you’re talking about. :) You mean like choir robes? A little warning- try not to overcomplicate the problem. I always do that, and it means I end up creating more work for myself…. Usually the cleverest answer is also quite simple…. ;)

      • You can find a picture of an alb if you follow this link: http://www.wattsandco.com/double-breasted-cassock-alb.html . They are a bit different to choir robes and the priests can have a number of variations to sleeves (eg. raglan or set in) , openings (double breasted, single breasted or zipper) and necklines. Lay assistants can only have the basic design pictured. One of my good friends who is becoming a priest wants a sleeveless fishtail design with a hood! Oh and she would like it to skim her figure! We usually then have a good laugh because the powers that be would never allow it!

  2. An old text book I found at the op shop shows another set of measurements to confuse this issue even more; it measures side to side across the front and across the back separately. I never really thought about that until I was making a sheath dress and I realised the side seams did a little S shape down my side. I managed to fix it by adding a bit at the back near my hips and taking it out at the front. At my waist I had to add a little at the front and take a little out at the back. I know this has nothing to do with the exercise you are undertaking, but my mind wandered in that direction when I started looking at your graphs and chart. Now I’m even more in awe of the incredible fit you got with those Clovers! You are amazing!

    • Neat. With the side-to-side measurements, I always wonder where I’m supposed to draw the side seam line… And then for measuring when looking up a size on a chart, it seems like it would be really easy to pick the wrong size…. I’m trying to look at sizing charts from both the production and the use standpoint…

      Aw thanks, Carol. Come on back up the coast so we can hang out! ;)

  3. Waist-hip-inseam seems like the best combination to X/S (?), short-legged me. :-) I’m lost in the numbers and math, but the practical implications are interesting.

  4. I like how you are so analytic about the sizing process. I’m impressed with your insights and your hip to ratio post is definitely fascinating. Not sure if you know about them, but there is a company called Alvanon that does large scale sizing studies through body scanning. A lot of major retailers use them to determine their customer size range since sizing varies greatly depending on the customer.

    Regarding a sizing revolution, it’s a great idea, but I think it will have to be limited to smaller companies specializing in one type of figure. It is hard and expensive to vary the customer profiles too significantly unless you are a large company like Lane Bryant. I feel that the sizing issue- especially with sewing patterns- is the grading from size to size. When a missy customer becomes larger she does not always grow evenly all around and as she gets larger the bottom torso tends to get larger. At this point a new pattern needs to be made and subsequent larger sizes are based on this new pattern. So many designers and pattern companies tend to overlook this and I think consumers would be much happier. I could write a whole treatise on this subject, but here it is in a nutshell.

  5. Hmm. This is really interesting. I have always been wondering why I was always getting such a horrible fit at the “plus” stores. My WHR stays fairly consistent (it seems) across weight gain. I seem to hover roughly around .73-.77 at all weights.

    But most of the time, I have plenty of room in the waist. Lots of gapping! Waist to bust ratio also hovers at roughly .8 to .84, and that causes problems as well!

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