Sep 072009

It’s hard to tell how big somebody is just by looking.

In this post with picture, I noted that when I wear these particular jeans a frequent comment is that I look small. To which Maria Palma said it was hard to tell from the picture that I look small. She’s right.

But even in person, looks can be deceiving. I have one friend who is about my size, but somehow she appears to be a larger-scale woman. Presumably her larger scale features and exotic appearance create a greater “presence”, making her seem larger-than-life, so to speak.

So what goes into apparent body size?

  • Height
  • Width
  • Supposedly that’s all. I wonder. That in no way explains why gifts to my two daughters are invariably smalls while mine is medium.

Selecting the everyday purse is the primary reason to identify apparent body size.

What about you, do people tend to guess your size wrong?

  20 Responses to “Apparent Body Size”

  1. I think height, width, but also body shape and cut of clothes affect perceived size.

    I have broad shoulders, and am reasonably well endowed. I think that makes my waist look smaller than it actually is.

    Heels make me look taller, but also “littler”. A v-neckline is very flattering to me, also somewhat visually enlongating.

    Fit of garments affects the perception of size, too. I think that for many of us, oversized garments make us look either bigger or completely lost in them.

  2. I’m not sure who is giving gifts to your daughters, but it is possible that the giver hasn’t fully realized that they are nearly grown ups! As for you being a medium… sorry, can’t explain that one!

    The appearance of my size is very much related to what I am wearing.
    Since my tummy is a problem area right now, if I wear clothes that smooth that area I look slimmer. Since my size has changed a lot over the years, people sometimes think I have lost or gained weight when I haven’t, just based on what I am wearing.

    I have noticed that among my slender friends who have square hips (wide side to side but not front to back), they tend to look larger than a similar sized woman with curvy hips.

  3. So, Wendy, do you think that clothes that are just a little big make the wearer look smaller?

    And, Beth, obviously it isn’t you that’s giving me mediums. I know what you mean about what a person wears making them look like they’ve gained or lost weight, sometimes I wish I could just tell people: you look like you’ve lost 20 pounds since yesterday.

    I think that overall height is the biggest factor. There’s probably nothing I could do, at almost 5’6″, to ever be considered anything but medium. I guess that’s okay.

  4. Rebecca, interesting question! I would say, “No.” My girls are not huge, but are, shall we say evident. My hips are smallish. So if a tee is oversized it falls straitish, and makes me look bigger. Slightly oversized pants just slide down …

  5. So it kinda goes back to what you said in your first comment: height, width, but also body shape and cut of clothes affect perceived size.

    We are mostly Xs and 8s, so jeans with a little extra space don’t fall off, they just drape a little. And sometimes a top that is a little bigger will fall in straightish lines along the arms, but still drape a little at the waist.

    I smell a “fashion lab” coming on.

    And I think this all goes to my hypothesis that staying within your natural silhouette usually results in the slimmest look.

  6. Rebecca, I think the hypothesis is being borne out!!!

    Thanks for the cupcake tribute to my brother’s birthday! (I hope you like the virtual card I put up for him … it’s my own brush lettering and paste paper.)

  7. I do like it! You are quite an artist. I would have no idea how to go about making something and then making it electronic … I have alot to learn.

  8. We all have so much to learn! (I’m glad you like it.)

    One of the goals of blogging for me was learning. I figured that I enjoyed blogs, I should learn how to make one!

  9. I think that frame size has a LOT to do with it. I have two sisters who are within an inch of each others’ height and within a few pounds of each others’ weight.

    Yet one of them is apparently-tiny, and one of them is apparently-strapping. Tiny has a small frame, delicate features, and carries most of her excess weight where it can be easily disguised. Strapping has a broad, strong-looking frame, large hands and bosoms, and some facial softness that makes her look like she’s carrying around a few extra pounds.

    It’s not just clothing size that people guess, either. People often perceive Strapping as several inches taller than Tiny. Heck, people perceive *me* as taller than Tiny, and I’m shorter — but like Strapping, I’ve got a broad, solid frame to Tiny’s narrow, delicate one.

  10. Interesting. I think it is important to keep in mind, that muscle weighs more than fat.

    I wear a size 12 dress. I have slimmer hips, and a wider waist, and bust. I fluctuate between an 8 and a straight line. But I am very muscular. I am 5’4″ and weigh between 165 and 170.

    Most people do not consider me to be a large woman. Most people cannot believe I weigh what I do.

    It is because of the muscles! I have always been very muscular. In fact when I was in college (some of my slimmer days), a friend of mine who was the same height and I decided to do a comparison. She wore a size 10, I wore a size 6 or 8. We both got on the same scale the same time of day wearing the same thing (a swimsuit). She weighed in at 120, and I weighed in at 135!! Amazing! She was a bigger girl, curvy, busty, I was a slimmer, leaner girl without curves. I weighed more! a real eye opener.

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  11. I had a similar experience in high school. My gymnast friend was quite a bit shorter than me, but she could always win the “guess my weight” at the fair because she was so muscular.

  12. […] left a fascinating comment on my post Apparent Body Size. I didn’t want anybody to miss it, so here it […]

  13. It probably also has to do with shape, like if you have a flat tummy or a round one, and the cut of the jeans: do they hug the thigh or are they “relaxed?” I think jeans that flatten the tummy, taper to the knee and then flare a bit are probably the most slimming. The ones that taper to the ankle just make the upper part look wider and I don’t … Read Morereally think they flatter anybody. Also, how tight you wear your t-shirts probably is a factor. If you wear them pretty long and tight the way the younger set is these days, you’re likely to appear slimmer than if you wear something looser and/or shorter. It could also have something to do with whether you’re an “apple” shape or a “pear” shape. If you have a slim waist because you gain your weight lower down, you may give the impression of being slimmer than if you carry your weight around your middle, even though you can technically wear a smaller jean size than the ones with the “pear” shape. Just a theory.

  14. I worked as a trainer for a couple of years. It had a LOT to do with body fat %. I used to show a pic of 2 women with the same height, weight. One was a size 8 & one a size 2/4. The difference was their body fat.

  15. Somehow, people seem to estimate I weigh much less than I do. Mostly, this happens with men, and doctors especially. I had to take a new medication that’s based on body weight, and the doctor gave me a dose for a person a good 40 pounds lighter.

    I think a bigger bust can make one seem larger, and thin legs will make a woman seem thinner all over.

    I have a very large stomach, in comparision to my body — well worth it because of the healthy baby I got in return — and my problem areas used to be my legs, but now it’s obviously my stomach.

    So, yes people think I look smaller than I am.

    One interesting thing I did read was that your body image is set at age 10 for girls. So, if you were a heavy ten year old you could be a very slim adult and still “see” yourself as heavy. In reverse, you could be slim as a ten year old (me) and always see yourself as slimmer than you are (I’m always looking for belts and fitted dresses that don’t work with my expanded waist.

    Does anyone else find that to be true?


  16. I had a friend who thought I wore a smaller dress size than she did because my hips were narrower, when in fact she wore an eight and I wore a twelve. If being busty makes a person appear larger, shouldn’t having a curvy lower half do the same thing?

  17. Christine, I think body image does click in during early puberty, but have more often seen women so traumatized by weight gain then that they become obsessed about it as women. The first words my SIL said to me were “How much do you weigh?”

    She is not the only plump pre-teen I know to become obsessed with her weight.

  18. I must carry myself well, cause people are always surprised to find out how much I actually weigh. I’m not saying I want to stay this size, I don’t. But, friends that weigh 15 pounds less than me, wear 2 sizes bigger….you just never know. What we wear has a lot to do with it. So, whenever anyone says “have you lost weight?” I wear that outfit a lot more! lol

  19. I have the “apple” shape which to me is awkward to get right. I too have friends who look larger but they are not. Neither one of us can wear each others clothes because they do not fit in the same areas; I’m bigger in the stomach and she is not. She is bigger in the hips and I am not. God made us unique so the fabric shops and tailors can keep their jobs!…BTW, I usually tailor my clothes if I can.

  20. […] brought up this provocative question, during our conversation on apparent body size: One interesting thing I did read was that your body image is set at age 10 for girls. So, if you […]

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>