Science: The Shape We're In

  • Share
  • Read Later

How the average U.S. girl looks with her clothes off' was shown last week by Manhattan's American Museum of Natural History. The name of the girl is "Norma." She is a sculptured composite of 15,000 present-day U.S. women, aged about 18 (see cut). The museum's anthropologists exhibited her in Natural History to show the evolution of the U.S. female figure toward a taller, lustier type.

Norma and her male counterpart, "Normman," were modeled by Gynecologist Robert Latou Dickinson and Sculptor Abram Belskie. "That American look," observes Dr. Harry L. Shapiro, the Museum's curator of physical anthropology, has changed considerably since the 1890s. The modern girl is taller (5 ft. 3½ in.), longer in the leg, thicker in the waist (26.4 in.), and has slightly heavier hips (37.4 in.) and legs than the 1890 girl. But, thanks to a bigger bust (33.9 in.) and torso, her figure looks better proportioned, at least to the anthropologists.

Compared to the Greek ideal (e.g.., Aphrodite of Cyrene), Norma is relatively slim-hipped and less voluptuously curved; the trend in development of her figure seems to be toward the "high fashion" or dress-model type—a tall (5 ft. 7 in.) triangular shape with broad shoulders, very slender hips and long legs.

The male shape shows a similar trend: U.S. men are growing taller and heavier, have broader shoulders and narrower hips than their grandfathers of the 1890s. Anthropologist Shapiro believes there must be something in the American environment that produces tall men & women; the average U.S. height is now greater than that of any European country from which the U.S. people originally came.