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Health & Fitness Inspiration: Marilyn Monroe

January 7, 2014

During a discussion last week regarding weight and perspective, the name “Marilyn Monroe” came up. I had heard, and you probably have, as well, that the sex symbol was a size 12. Yet during this discussion, I realized I was not entirely sure what that statement means. When simply shopping different stores and brands can mean I range within 2-3 different sizes, how do the sizes of the ’40s – ’60s compare?

What size was Marilyn Monroe?

What size was Marilyn Monroe?

As it turns out, those sizes do not compare very favorably for the modern woman. The US currently uses vanity sizing for clothing; a size 8 today approximates the sizes 16 – 18 in the 1950s (again, accounting for differences between brands). And the average waist size for a woman in the ’50s was 25 inches – 9 inches smaller than the average waist size today!

While I am certainly not advocating that everyone needs to try to attain a 25 inch waist, I did find this piece of information startling, and it did immediately make me think about my diet. Not about the amount of food I consume, but the type of food I consume. Though portion control can be a problem, it is not really an issue with my diet. My problem is that I like sweets. Cookies, candy, cake, cream – if it has sugar in it, I am probably craving it. Right now.

You can imagine how much my diet suffered during the holidays...

You can imagine how much my diet suffered during the holidays…

My first thought, on realizing the disparity of sizing between me and the average woman in the fifties, was “I need to better my diet.” So I am.

I feel it is important to note, however, that while I think the size incongruity that has emerged over the decades should be viewed in negative terms, I do not think it should be personally viewed in a negative light. If you are not a supermodel and are above the age of 15, you are probably larger than the average woman in the fifties. However, when you look at images of women from that time period, people still desired women to be voluptuous. So use this knowledge of size difference to inspire you to remain healthy and strong, becoming the best you that you can, rather than focusing on getting “skinny,” etc.


They may have been thinner, but they were still voluptuous & sexy.

This concept of individuality brings us back to Marilyn Monroe. What size was she?

Well, she wasn’t a size 12. Like most women, Marilyn Monroe’s weight fluctuated a bit – at some times, she was heavier, at some times, she was thinner. She always had an extreme hourglass figure, and would not technically “fit” into any clothing off the rack. Her waist was significantly smaller than her bust and hips, and she had her clothing custom made.

Marilyn_Monroe_and_Jane_Russell_at_Chinese_TheaterElizabeth Hurley called Monroe “fat.”  A blogger wrote that Monroe was “underweight” while filming “Some Like It Hot.” So even if Monroe cannot be used as evidence that a size 12 is not necessarily a bad thing, she is definitely an example of the struggle that women have over their weight. Whether you agree with Hurley, think Monroe’s weight fluctuated more than it should have, or think that Monroe always looked great, regardless of her weight, I’m sure you will agree that the varying perceptions of Monroe are strong indication that women should not care so much what other people think of them.

As a strong, but sugar-loving woman, I am striving to make the only perception that matters regarding my body my perception. This goal is also inspired by Monroe, who said: “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” You know what’s boring? Obsessing over weight. But feeling healthy? That is beautiful.

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