FROM Botticelli’s beauties to Bootylicious Beyoncé, a controversial new book has set out to uncover why women are so shapely.
Released earlier this month, Curvology: The Origins & Power of Female Body Shape explores how the fairer sex go from ‘flat’ to ‘all that’ during their lifetime, and the effects on women and men.
Author David Bainbridge told Feelgood how he found that: “One of the main reasons why women are so curvy is actually those curves are a store of fat.
“It’s sort of a reserve that basically just sits there until a woman starts breastfeeding and then, suddenly, that fat gets mobilised and put into breast milk for making baby’s brain.”
And because curvy women produced healthy babies, men began to appreciate curves all the more.
“That meant that women with curves had more babies too; it was sort of a runaway effect of women getting curvier and men liking curves more,” he says.
Despite being accused of “blokish reductionism” by some critics, the Cambridge University reproductive biologist and veterinary anatomist this week stood by his theory of sexual selection.
“Ask men of any era around the world — the basic thing that they like about female body shape is wider hips and a narrower waist.
“What men actually look for is the ratio between those two because that shows a woman is well-fed and has these reserves.
“The basic desire by men for women of that shape doesn’t really change that much.”
What does change, however, is the size of women we appreciate. In the ’20s,’60s and ’90s, skinny was desirable with more curvaceous women in the decades in between. Certainly the decade dubbed the ‘teenies’ will be remembered for curve power.
Just three months after ‘kurvy’ Kim Kardashian ‘broke the internet’ by stripping off for the cover of Paper Magazine, pneumatic pop star Nicki Minaj has just gone gold with her third album, The Pinkprint, as she prepares to embark on a world tour including a date at Dublin’s 3Arena.
Earlier this month, Queen Bey — who boasts a perfect 35-26-38 hourglass figure — continued her reign at the Grammys, taking home three awards, while size 12 supermodel Kate Upton has been snapped up by brands including Express and Bobbi Brown, and is currently starring in a $40 million ad campaign for video game Game of War: Fire Age.
Marketing student Hannah Cunningham from Dublin is hoping to capitalise on her curves too.
“Curves are definitely in,” says Hannah (20), who’s also a part-time model, “and there are some really great role models for curvy girls out there.
“Even though I’m only size 12, I’m considered ‘plus size’ by the fashion industry, but I don’t care — I love being curvy.
“There have definitely been times when I looked at outfits on a mannequin and thought, ‘I wish I could pull that off’,” she admits. “In saying that, there are also times I am delighted I can fill a dress properly.
“Anyway, I’m naturally curvy — I could go on an extreme diet, and still have big hips and thighs.”
Six years after Kate Moss infamously claimed that ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, even the unforgiving world of fashion is starting to come round.
“Most women are looking for the classic hourglass shape now,” says Deirdre Digan, lingerie buyer at Arnotts department store. “They’re going for shapewear to enhance their curves — not hide them.
“Push-up bras are still the most popular style with women up to a C cup, but we also do a padded Wonderbra in size D-G.
“Years ago you wouldn’t have got that, so it just shows how much the silhouette has changed.”
After a decade spent squeezing into skinny jeans and bodycon dresses however, now fashionistas here could finds themselves behind the curve as one study by Ipsos MORI shows that the average woman spends 31 years of her life on a diet.
“Curvology is an interesting yet complex area and the dichotomy lies in the extremes that some women want to go to,” says Dr Susan Byrne of Connolly Counselling Centre in Dublin.
“Curvy — to most women — means large breasts, round bottom and a full figure, but to others it can be a term they use to hide their obesity.
“On the other end of the scale you have women who spend a lifetime trying to attain a certain weight — the ultimate goal being a size zero.
“In my experience it is always women who put pressure on women to look a certain size — not men.”
With even Rubenesque Mad Men star Christina Hendricks confessing she struggled with body image in the past though, it’s perhaps unsurprising that 200,000 men and women here are currently battling an eating disorder such as anorexia, according to the HSE. Around nine out of ten of those are thought to be women aged 15-40.
“When a girl’s growing up, the tissue she has to acquire to make her look more womanly and mature is fat,” tells Curvology author Bainbridge.
“Nowadays, when you hear about the word ‘fat’, you’re normally thinking of it in negative terms [of] obesity and disease and laziness, whereas actually for most of human history, it’s been fat that’s saved people’s lives.
“But it does mean that young girls are very conflicted about how they feel about changes that go on when they’re growing up.”
Dr Byrne agrees: “What is hugely concerning to me recently, as both a mother and an addiction counsellor, is the increasing amount of body image distortion that is presenting itself at an earlier age.
“I see six- and seven-year-old girls talking about their ‘curves’ — ‘What curves?’, I want to scream! — and 10-year-old boys talking about dieting.”
Today one of Ireland’s most in-demand plus size models, Dubliner Tia Duffy reveals how she wasn’t always so comfortable with her curves: “I love having curves, but I did battle with it throughout my teens.
“Growing up, I hated my body, and used to always look at these perfect images in magazines wondering why I wasn’t as pretty or skinny.”
“It was only years later that I realised it was the industry that needed to change — not me.”
“When I started out modelling seven years ago, plus size models hardly existed in Ireland,” she says. “After moving to New York for a year, I found stylists were far more willing to book curvy models.
“Since moving home, I can see a slow progression over the past year or so, but still not enough. The media doesn’t realise the standards they put on girls from a young age, when their bodies are only developing.”
“Confidence is the key,” says Tia (27), who is also a secondary school teacher. “At this stage, I have accepted my curves and wouldn’t change for anyone or any job.”
Curves may be making a comeback, but for women across the country, strong is the new skinny reckons personal trainer Jen Feighery: “In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe had the most sought after physique; in the 1970s, being thin was in; and now the focus has shifted to looking like an athlete.
“At the moment, ‘strong is the new skinny’ is trending across the fitness industry — every woman I work with wants to look in the mirror and see someone who looks like they work out.
“One of the main reasons is the increased media attention on elite female athletes like Katie Taylor and Stephanie Roche.
“Personally, I think it’s fantastic that women are now focusing on the athletic look because, to me, an athlete is a far better role model than a super-skinny supermodel.”
As ‘belfies’ take over from selfies in 2015, Dr Susan Byrne urges women here to twerk on their self-image instead: “Social media has a lot to answer for. Women like Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj work on their image — but these kind of curvy role models are no more ‘real’ than size zero ones.
“For most of us, this image is totally unattainable. What women need to do is feel comfortable with who they are first and foremost and learn to love the body they have — curvy or not.”
2015 looks set to be the Year of the Rear.
And there’s good news for girls who weren’t blessed with Beyoncé’s bootylicious curves.
High street department store Debenhams has just launched its new ‘bum lift’ jeans here.
Spokesperson Lizzie Singleton told how there’s already been a bum rush for the €67.50 denims designed by Jasper Conran: “Curvy stars such as Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj have helped women realise having a prominent rear is actually an asset.
“Now, instead of wanting to make their bum look smaller, they actually want to make it look bigger.”
Featuring strategically-placed darts and heavier denim, the ‘J by Jasper Conran Shape Enhancing Jeans’ — available in sizes 8 to 18 — claim to boost the wearer’s butt by up to two inches, as well as increasing curvature by 20 degrees.
Now when it comes to curves, I didn’t exactly get a bum deal in life.
But I’ve still got some way to go to catch up with Anaconda singer Minaj — famous for her eye-popping 45-inch posterior.
Mind you, my collection of baggy bootlegs, budget jeggings and unforgiving skinny jeans aren’t exactly helping things either.
So I was only to happy to get ahead of the curve by giving the ‘miracle’ denims a go first.
Admittedly, squeezing into a size 10 pair of the sprayed-on pants in the fitting room was a bit of a struggle.
After finally fastening the button on the high-waisted wonders however, it was time to ask that age-old question: ‘Does my bum look big in this?’
Checking out my rear-view in the mirror, there’s no doubt that jeans made my 36-inch rump look rounder and more northerly than before.
A straw poll of pals on Facebook confirmed the findings.
“Nice bum!” joked one male friend; “I need a pair,” proclaimed another female colleague.
Needless to say, the effects wear off instantly when you peel them off at night.
At less than 70 quid though, it certainly beats non-stop squats.