Body du jour

The “ideal woman” of the 1930s had “a round, high bosom”

Marilyn Monroe seen through a lens of normal shooting (L) and through a cinemascopE lens (R), an anamorphic lens series. ARCHIVE/AFP/Getty Images

Marilyn Monroe made men crave voluptuous curves, but the ideal female figure was different just two decades before the actress famously posed above a blowing subway grate. TIME has revealed that in 1938, LIFE Magazine published a piece packed with minutiae about “the ideal figure” for American women. Their muse? A 20-year-old model named June Cox, who became their reference guide. The mold that women were being pushed to fit into in that decade included a height of 5 feet, 6 ¾ inches, a weight of 124 lbs., 12 inches around the neck, 6 inches around the wrist, and 19.5 inches around the thigh. Cox came to represent the ideal American woman at a time when women were increasingly becoming active in sports, which LIFE said contributed to their “taller and flatter” figures. Although “the boyish form became the vogue,” the most attractive kind of figure in the late ‘30s was subtly curvy. Earlier, in the 1890s, full bosoms and round hips on women with constricted waists reigned supreme, but the elongated, athletic body of 1938 transformed the ideal figure into one with “a round, high bosom, a slim but not wasp-like waist, and gently rounded hips.” No word yet on a tediously detailed description on the ideal shape for 1930s men, but that’s probably because there wasn’t such a concept.

Read the full story at TIME.

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