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1950s Models and their Measurements

1950s models

After the interest in Marilyn Monroe’s measurements (and the debate about whether she was really a size 16) I thought it would be interesting to look at the measurements of some of the supermodels of the 1950s and see how they compared.

I assumed models of the fifties would all be very much the same size and shape, but not at all! Just the difference in height is really surprising, Dorian Leigh was only 5 feet 5 inches, whereas Wilhelmina Cooper was 5 feet 11!

Dovima’s measurements

Dovima

Dovima was one of the most popular models of the 1950s and (along with Lisa Fonsagrives and Dorian Leigh) has been called the first supermodel.

Height: 5 feet 8 1/2 inches
Bust: 33″
Waist: 19″
Hips: 34″


Photo source and copyright: Some rights reserved by dovima_is_devine_II

Jean Patchett’s measurements

Jean Patchett

Famous for the beauty spot near her right eye, Jean Patchett had more fashion covers than any other model in history.

Height 5 feet 9 inches
Bust: 34″
Waist: 23″
Hips: 35″

Photo source and copyright: Some rights reserved by dovima_is_devine_II

Wilhelmina Cooper’s measurements

Wilhelmina Cooper

Cooper was a Dutch model who was popular in the 1950s and 60s and who later opened her own modelling agency. She holds the record for the most covers on American Vogue appearing 28 times.

Height: 5 feet 11 inches
Bust: 38″
Waist: 24″
Hips: 36″

Source and copyright: Some rights reserved by and used with kind permission from dovima_is_devine_II

Dorian Leigh’s measurements

Dorian Leigh

Another model who lays claim to the title of first supermodel, Dorian Leigh was the older sister of Suzy Parker. She was also supposedly the inspiration behind Audrey Hepburn’s character of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffanys.
Above: Dorian Leigh photographed wearing a Balenciaga gown by Irving Penn 1950.

Height: 5 feet 5 inches
Sadly I can’t find the measurements for Dorian Leigh, so if anybody has them could they let me know?
Photo source and copyright: Some rights reserved by and used with kind permission from dovima_is_devine_II

Suzy Parker’s measurements

Suzy Parker

Suzy Parker was the little sister of the already famous model Dorian Leigh. She was signed to the books of The Ford Modeling Agency when Dorian said she would sign for them if they also took her little sister unseen. They were astonished that petite, dark haired Dorian’s sister was much taller, big boned and red headed with freckles. Suzy Parker went on to be one of the top models of the 1950s eclipsing her sister.

Height: 5 feet 10 inches
Bust: 35″
Waist: 24″
Hips: 36″

Photo source and copyright: Some rights reserved by and used with kind permission from dovima_is_devine_II

Carmen Dell’Orefice’s measurements

Carmen Dell'Orefice

Carmen Dell’Orefice had her very first Vogue cover aged 15 and is still modelling now, earning her the title of World’s Oldest Working Model. You can see what she looks like now on her website, she looks fabulous! I’m not sure whether the measurements below are her measurements now, or in the 1950s, or in fact whether she still has the same measurements…?

Height: 5 ft 10 inches
Bust: 36″
Waist: 26″
Hips: 39″

Photo source and copyright: Some rights reserved by dovima_is_devine_II

Lisa Fonssagrives’s measurements

Lisa Fonssagrives

Another 1950s model who is claimed to be the world’s first supermodel, Lisa Fonssagrives married photographer Irving Penn and described herself as a “good clothes hanger”. She retired from modelling in the 1960s and became a sculptor.

Height: 5 feet 7 inches
Bust: 34″
Waist: 23″
Hips: 34″

Photo source and copyright: Some rights reserved by and used with kind permission from dovima_is_devine_II. Top photo source and copyright: Some rights reserved by and used with kind permission from dovima_is_devine_II

There were obviously lots of other models who were popular in the 1950s including Dorothea Church, Evelyn Tripp and Mary Jane Russell, but I haven’t been able to find the measurements of those models. If you can fill in the missing information please let me know!

28 thoughts on “1950s Models and their Measurements

    • Tia Mia

      I am a nearly sixty former model, myself. My career was inspired by the great models of the fifties, most notably Carmen. To this day I consider her the most exquisite woman of our time. From what I have read of her, she has common sense, intellect, the instincts of a survivor and by all accounts, has maintained her humanity in the face of great adversity and hardship. They don’t make them like they used to.

      Reply
  1. equinoxa

    Thank you for the post! I get very frustrated over the popular thought that all models prior to the 60s were very extremely curvy. Some were very much, but not in the way we use “curvy” almost in a euphemism way now. Thin waists in particular were very in for a long time. Goodness, I see Dovima had a 19″ waist, but I don’t know if I can believe! Models exaggerate, though. I do a little modeling myself and see exaggeration around me frequently (I think height is most popular to fib about). But wow, 19″. I am 25″ and can only get to 24″ if I work out and don’t eat like a horse as I usually do. But bodies are weird! Still, I think it’s a cincher. 😉

    Reply
  2. lara

    somehow I find it pretty hard to believe those models had those measurements, as well as those heights. Women in the 40s and 50s, into the early 60s were always laced up in corsets and girdles and their measurements along with their heights were exaggerated, as with now. Dovima was apparently 5″7 tops, Jean Patchett around 5″8, Dorian Leigh was listed at 5″5 but was rumoured to be more around 5″4. As for their measurements, I do know women back then were built differently then to now but like another commenter, I still struggle to believe their measurements were that small. I do know Brigitte Bardot apparently had a 19-20 inch waist when she was 19, and she at the time was around 5″6. It’s not that common for women who are 5″9+ to have very small measurements such as the ones listed for the models above, as even though they are skinny, their bones are often bigger to support their height. In 40s and 50s/early 60s the hourglass figure was the most desirable, so I have no doubt that agencies would have downgraded their measurements.

    Reply
    • Suzanne Castillo Devlin

      What’s interesting to me is how sizes have changed since my mini skirt days of the 60’s. I saved a few of them from back then plus a couple of dresses and one suit just for fun. I pulled out a mini skirt to show to a friend. I was 5’6″ and weighed 119 then and the mini skirts and in fact all the clothes that I saved were sizes 8’s & 10’s. I had just bought a suit at Nordstrom and laid the new skirt down on the bed and laid my old minis on top to compare the sizes because I wanted to compare how sizes have been manipulated today. Keep in mind that I had gained 20 pounds from my mini days but am also an inch shorter. My old skirts were easily one third smaller then my new skirt in the hips and waist. The thing is, my new skirt was also a size ten. How can I have gained 20 lbs. more (okay 25 lbs.) and be an inch shorter and still wear the same size? Well, clearly, I don’t wear the same size. I see women claiming to be a size 6 but are 5’6″ and weigh 154 lbs.

      Ahhh………..marketing.

      Reply
      • April

        The joys of vanity sizing. Hence why people say Marilyn was a 14-16. In today’s world she would wear about a size 6 dress with extreme tailoring around the waist.

        Reply
        • Suzanne Castillo Devlin

          Yup! You’re absolutely right. I’ve seen two segments on TV on two different shows where they were supposedly fitting women for a bra.
          Both gals were probably a B cup but were told that they were a D and a DD.
          Flatter some women and they will pay anything for the bragging rights. The bras were very expensive. I didn’t see any marked difference from their old bras except the price tag.
          Put a size 6 on a dress and some dummy will pay big bucks for that dress even is she’s really a size 14.
          Sizes used to be pretty uniform although even back when, more expensive brands used to be marked a size smaller. These days it’s even worse.
          I was 5′ 6″, weighed 119 and wore 8’s and 10’s or 7’s and 9’s. That was in the early 60’s.

          Reply
          • April

            I know a woman who went into a Nordstrom department store. She has to wear an A-cup. She came out after the sales assistant had helped her and given her a D. The bra DID I fit perfectly but I’m guessing they put her from like a 38A to a 32D. She was bragging about how great it was to finally know her true bra size yadda yadda yadda.
            Goes into the exact same store, picks the exact same brand, buys the exact same size. Baggy cup and rolls on her backside.
            You’re exactly right Suzanne. Women will pay anything if it “boost” their confidence.
            Just like the “it” thing a few years ago (I’m sure it hasn’t changed) was to make plus size women’s clothing say 1-6, meaning 1-6x but wouldn’t it make you feel better if you’re 4x and tell someone, “Oh this is only a size 4!”
            I wear a ten, my goal is a 6, but being I’m pregnant and retaining a ton of water I’m up to a 14. My mom wore a 9 all through high school from 1975-1979. I tried on her jeans…. couldn’t get them pass my thighs.

          • Linda J. Peters Harvey

            with the bras, going up multiple cup sizes with a proper fitting is common, most women are wearing too large a band and too small a cup. The bridge in the center of the cups should lay against your chest, not form a ‘pocket’ in between your breasts. Overall vanity sizing in clothing…yes.

      • Marilyn

        That’s true…I have Jackets in a size 6 and 8 from the 1970’s that are a size 4 or 2 now. The sizes have been so manipulated…

        Reply
    • AlyssaMoh

      I don’t think women’s bodies today are any different genetically than women from 60 years ago; evolution does not happen that quickly, and DNA hasn’t really changed but several things have:

      Corseting and girdles: By the time you hit 13 or so, your mom would have had you in a girdle, earlier if you were an early bloomer. These garment’s weren’t spanx – many were incredibly stiff and uncomfortable. Today’s mother’s would feel that it would be cruel and uncomfortable to encourage their teens into wearing such garments, but they did have an effect on the way clothes fit

      Lifestyle and nutrition:in 1940s, the average (European) woman was 5’2″ (assuming they were born ~1910s onward) When nutrition is less than ideal, heights and weights are lower; when food supply, food quality are high, heights increase. Today, the average height,in the USA is 5’4″, even accounting for changing racial patterns.
      As well, the class differences today in the USA also affect weight: whereas before the mid 20th century, the rich were historically bigger than the poor (the term fat cats comes from this) because they had more access to food, today, the poor are overweight, as their food quality has decreased and the wealthy have better access to high quality food as well as recreation to counter the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Since more people in the USA are poor than rich, more people are bigger/fatter than skinny.

      Reply
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  5. Jim Beattie

    In the 1950’s, a woman over 5ft 4″ was thought tall. The average height was 5ft 2″.
    Dovima was a superb 34 – 19 – 37. Barbara Goalen also had a 19 ” waist. Gina Lollobrigida had an incredible 18″ waist.
    The beauty of those fashion models was the seductive hip to waist ratio, seen in the lovely Ivy Nicholson:http://www.pinterest.com/pin/445645325599918741/

    Nowadays they don’t give bust-waist-hip measurements for clothes since most fashion models are six foot giants without any curves, have scowling expressions and march down the catwalk as though they are carrying a sack of coal.
    Women in the ’50’s were much prettier and had sex appeal.

    Reply
    • Glenn

      Actually they still VERY MUCH pay attention to waist-to-hip ratio for Victoria Secret Models (or the Angels, they are preferred to be called).
      The required wait-to-hip ratio is between 0.69 to 0.71.
      In medical term, the healthiest women in terms of reproductive ability are in possession of waist-to-hip ratio 0.7. (example: Waist 24.5″/hips 35″ – size US4/UK8 or waist 25.5″/hips 36″ – size US6/UK10).
      All Super Models in the 90s were also in possession of the above said waist-to-hip ratio, be it the waif-like types (Kate Moss & Carla Bruni), the girl-next-door types (Cindy Crawford, Tatiana Patitz and Christy Turlington) or the bomb-shell types (Helena Christensen, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell).
      Today we have many: Adriana Lima, Natalia Vadianova, Isabeli Fontana and the impossibly beautiful Doutzen Kroes (sic.). All gorgeous, all have at least 2 children, and still active modeling.
      The key is, those Victoria Secret model met look good naked, so that NATURAL 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio plays a very important part.

      Reply
    • Jonquil

      The 50’s models were cinched and corseted to the fare-thee-well. It is the illusion of an exraordinarily small waist in a two dimensional image that you are seeing. While they no doubt had smaller waists than the average woman back then (27 inches) It is steel oned boned shape wear gave them a more exaggerated feminine shape. The WHR is far closer to 0.6 or below for most of the 50’s photo . I seriously doubt that their natural waists were much smaller than today’s top models who average 23-25 inches. Look closely at the photos. Not one of the models is wearing anything in a thin material that would reveal their corsetry underneath. If anything showed, it would simply be retouched out. Plus, clothing was much more structured back then.

      Even my icon Audrey Hepburn obviously wore cinchers and padded hips in some of her photo shoots. Of course bust waist and hip measurements are still provided for clothing.

      Reply
  6. Betty Cooper

    Well, yes, these ladies are models, chosen from thousands of candidates for the RIGHT size, figure, shoulder width etc. The measurements of the models tell us more about the IDEALS of the then current fashion than the ACTUAL shape and meaurements of real women in the home.

    These models were really motivated to diet (money is a great motivator!) and part of their job was to accept that they had wear uncomfortable or even painful clothes for the camera. When laced up in corset, squeezed breatheless by a tight long line gra, very upright from boned girdles, these models only had to look glamorous in the studio. For real life they wore more practical clothes.

    B

    Reply
  7. Susan Draper

    Whatever ever happened to 1950s Philadelphia model, Jennie Brooks? When I was a little girl she was one of Lillian Albus’ top models and absolutely gorgeous. My mother and I would go to Albus’ floor shows, and I loved watching her come down the runway. I was told she was also on the cover of “Harper’s Bazaar.” Someone told me she now lives in Salem County, NJ where she originally came from.

    Reply
  8. Twila Jeanenne Ramsey

    Back in that day, one didn’t put anybody o the runway under 5’7″. A tiny waist was imperative made even smaller with the waist cinchers, merry widows., etc. A big bust was okay for men’s clubs and magazines, but not on the runway. Top shows didn’t even have clothes on the runway that would go over a hip bigger than 34 inches. Trunk showings, store models may have not fit that mode, but a big show was for the tall, thin, long waisted and long legs from the knee to ankle.

    Reply
  9. Jon DiBenedetto

    Having met Dovima when I was a teen I can say to Lara: 5’8 1/2 is reasonable.She was in her early 40’s I believe and still gorgeous. I’m 5’9 and in stylish heels (2 or 3 inches tops) she was markedly taller than me. A aunt worked im 50’s/ early 60’s fashion world (layouts for magazines) and she said the heights listed in this post seem realistic. WIlhelmina Cooper was very tall: 5’11” is not a over statement.

    Reply
  10. Anise Leinen

    All of these women are larger than fashion models today. And that’s not even counting the fact that I think some of those waist measurements are incorrect (they should be measured WITHOUT a corset on, and some clearly were measured with one.) Wilhelmina Cooper, Suzy Parker, and Carmen would certainly be considered plus sized if they started out today.

    Reply
    • April VeVea

      It’s not like these pictures were the one used when they were measured. Plenty of women have naturally 24″ waists, especially in the 1950’s when women were a lot thinner on average.

      Reply
      • Anise Leinen

        I don’t know where you are seeing all these women with 24 inch waists… but these models were STILL not as thin as models are today… and that is really the point. They were thinner than average but they were not literally at a weight that means anorexia. Take a look at runway models now… 1950s models were practically plus sized compared to today.

        Reply
        • April VeVea

          The average waist size in the 1950’s was 24″. I didn’t say I’m seeing them everywhere but they were much more prevalent than now. The smallest size available was a US size 8 back then which correlates to a modern day US size 00-0. These models wouldn’t be plus size by today’s standards and were not in their own time either.

          Reply
    • Bunny Lefluf

      just a few are larger some are the same.. Dovima had a 19 in waist.. willie suzy & carmen were bigger boned women.. women on ave were slimmer in the 50s than now..

      Reply
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