Who is Sexier – size 6 or 16?


Australian Marie Claire magazine did a survey of men and women, polling which Australian clothing size from 6 to 16 was sexiest.  (For those in North America/Canada, an Australian 12 is a US size 8, and for those in the UK and Australian 12 is a UK size 14).

Interestingly, the results said that an Aussie size 12 was most appealing.

  • 87.5cm is the average waist size of Australian women aged over 25 – an increase of 2cm in five years*
  • 67.7kg is the average weight of Australian women†
  • In our study, men were more evenly divided between all the sizes than women – suggesting they’re less focused on one body shape than we might think
  • Less than 10% of the people canvassed voted for a size 6 or 8
  • 13% of men voted for size 14 – nearly twice the number who voted for size 6
  • One in four people thought a size 14 or 16 were the sexiest body shapes
  • 16 is the average Australian dress size‡
  • 18 is the average US dress size#

    (statistics from Marie Claire)

    So why are so many women convinced they should be skinny?  What makes skinny so appealing?  Is it that it’s harder to buy modern, flattering clothes the larger you get?  Is it purely about health?  Is it the media’s fault?

    I am that Australian size 12 to 14, yet I too compare myself to the digitally manipulated images in magazines and feel that maybe I should diet and exercise myself down to a size 10, but would it make me any happier?  I doubt it, as I’d be depriving myself of that bit of yummy dark chocolate and glass of wine I so enjoy.

    A couple of years ago I was about 8kg heavier than I am today, and more of a size 14 to 16.  I decided to lose a few kilos for health reasons.  At the age of 40 my brother became a type 1 diabetic, and watching him have to constantly watch what he ate and when,  monitor his blood sugars and inject himself 3 times a day with insulin really made me aware of what a terrible disease diabetes is.  I am also aware of the risks of weight and the impact diabetes has on your lifestyle and health.  My brother is not overweight, and the doctors are not sure why he became a type 1 diabetic at such a late stage in life (usually onset is in childhood), but now I and my children are more at risk of the disease, and folks, it’s not a pleasant one.

    I have control over whether or not I succumb to type 2 diabetes, by keeping my weight in the healthy range, I won’t go down that path.  So that is my reason for keeping to this size and weight.

    Which size do you find most attractive and why?


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  • Interesting topic, Imogen, and very timely for the new year and all the diet and detox ads!

    Sadly we put far more emphasis on weight than we do on health and fitness although having said that, obesity is a serious problem. I have met seriously unfit size 10s with appalling dietary habits and super fit size 16s who, incidentally, look a lot better than their skinny cousins as their skin glows and they exude well-being.

    Lots more to say on the subject, it's very close to my heart, but it's all been said for more eloquently by others!

  • I'm curious how tall the women in the image are. A size 12 looks a lot different on a 5' woman versus a 6' woman, and most women do not have that model stature.

  • I see the point that they are making about media distortions about what is "attractive". However I get really uncomfortable with the concept of women's seminaked bodies arranged for examination and ranking like sides of bacon or something. Then again, it's a fairly common concept anyway (eg. beauty pageants), so I suppose the net value is positive.

    This also touches on another issue that bugs me. Years ago I was very thin (due to an eating disorder and depression), and would hear comments like "Eat something! Men like women with some meat on their bones!" This used to enrage me. Oh yes, I'll just change my entire body because of what men prefer to look at. Great advice.

    Anyway. All those women in the picture are beautiful, no question, and they all seem happy and healthy and more power too them.

    Perhaps it would be nice to see other surveys done with non-Europeans. I know they are controlling for other variables and just focusing on dress size, but it would be a shame to inadvertently send the message that this picture is the entire spectrum of human female beauty.

  • Oh, very interesting topic. I think ranksubjugation does make an interesting comment about height, but to answer your question… I find that particular size 12 the most attractive of that lot because she is the most nicely proportioned IMO. I think that's what so many people in the survey are responding to. It is further evidence that proportion and tone, not weight, are more a determinant of "body attractiveness" than anything else. Of course, all of these women are fit, fairly symmetrical and healthy, that makes them all attractive. I think, in general, the 10 in this photo will look best clothed. Her proportions will suit modern clothing best.

  • What is the average height of an Australian women? So difficult to say anything on this one. And why oh why does the size vary in every single country? This is particularly annoying, when buying online. And for that reason I am not going shop there any longer, even though they have the return policy. Just a waste of anxiety while waiting, feeling disappointed and returning stuff.

  • Sparklingmerlot – absolutely – health is the most important factor. And this is a very broad topic.

    Rank – mmm, interesting point – I'm guessing they're all around 5'7" or so!

    LB – how different do you think other cultures would be?

    K.Line – yes – they're all well proportioned women!

    SiSi – my sizing is based on my experiences of trying on clothing in both the US (where I was in May 2009) and the UK, (where I lived for 3 years). That website is inaccurate unfortunately as it used to be correct, but is not anymore (US sizing has changed in the past few years).

    Rachael – me too!

    Metscan – according to this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_height which compares averages for women and men around the world – in 1995 it was 5'4 1/2", though I think in the 15 years we have probably gotten taller and it's more likely to be around 5'6".

  • In that photo the size 12 gets my vote as she looks the healthiest. But I believe the whole thing is bad for everyone's self esteem. We shouldn't compare. I am small boned (but average height) – size 8 to 10, 58 kgs but have a body fat content far higher than it should be. I need to lose some for comfort and health reasons. A size 12 and I would be considered obese. And even my size 6 18yo daughter is "fatter" than my size 10 daughter and the size 12 lady in the photo. So how can you compare dress sizes when we have such a variance in frame sizes and muscle coverage!? So what is the article trying to say? My size 6 daughter is not sexy or attactive? Or it is ok for me to add more fat because I am not yet a 12? Sheesh, these articles make me mad (sorry Imogen – not you but the Magazine). Ok, I'll go and have a lie down now….must be my hormones

  • I think women compare themselves to other women, and it's just not that complicated for men…my husband has found me attractive across all my sizes the last 20 years (anywhere from a U.S. size 6 to a size 12). For me now, at age 45, it truly is about health. I've worked back down to a size 6 on my 5'4" frame and my blood pressure has dropped and I have much more energy–way more important to me than how I look.

  • I've been watching a lot of shows lately about brides and weddings, 'Say Yes to the Dress' etc., and I've seen lots of very heavy brides who have managed to find men who adore them.

    So I don't think that it's necessarily men who drive the whole "must be thin to be considered attractive" mentality, I believe it's mostly women and the fashion industry. Wealthy women who can afford cooks, personal trainers and expensive wardrobes put a high value on their (thin) appearance. This idea has spread to the rest of us by way of our mothers and girl friends, perhaps as part of the competition for men idea.

    I don't believe (and your survey confirms this) that perfection as a size 2 is a male based value.

  • These kinds of surveys always rub me the wrong way. The height question is a good one, and all of these women are perfectly proportioned hourglasses. A size 12 pear-shaped or apple-shaped woman might not have gotten so many votes. I feel like the intention is good, but it’s still pretty skewed.

  • Vicki, I am in this position also! It is one of the reasons I brought up height… I find that, because I'm technically an xs, many people don't feel that I have any "right" to be self-conscious about my body, watch my weight, or work out — but there are so many factors that contribute to attractiveness/self esteem besides dress size.

  • I'm drawn to the girl who won, BUT that is the size that *I* am. I wonder if I would feel differently if I saw a different size in the mirror, on either end of the scale.

    I also think K.Line has a good point about the proportions and Sal about body shape. That can make a big difference.

  • I say the size 12 in that picture is the best by far because of the proportion. Then the 10, then the 14. No matter your height, if you can maintain that same proportion you're probably in a healthy range.

    I'm also slimming down to prevent diabetes (type 2 runs high in my family). I had gestational diabetes with both of my pregnancies and really need to exercise regularly and make sure my weight is kept in check the rest of my life.

    I also want to look better in clothes. I don't want to look like a stick with clothes hanging off my bones, but I love fashion and good style and want to enjoy clothes a little more.

  • Interesting survey but as Sal says not so much acurate.
    Personally I am a canadian size 6/8 depending on the item of clothes. However in the blogging comunity I see people that dress two more sizes than me and are much more porportionated than I am.
    I wouldn't say that size is as much important as shape.
    Also I think that the more confortable you are with your body the sexier you are, an then again that doesn't have to do with sizes.
    But this is just my opinion.

  • Like Sal, I'm suspicious of these sorts of surveys. On the surface they sound like they're promoting a positive body image, but they're still lining up half-naked white, probably tall, hourglass-shaped women and asking people to judge their bodies. (Though the woman readers "chose" appears to have the largest breasts compared to her hips, which is another thing altogether.)

    They're all beautiful, and I'll give MC the benefit of the doubt as to the intentions of the article. If I weren't being charitable I'd say this was just like all the others, designed to encourage readers to compare themselves to women in the magazine and find their own bodies wanting. Aw, now I'm sad.

  • They're all beautiful women though the smallest looks a bit too skinny for my taste. Sexy is in so many other things than weight: how she inhabits and moves her body. Whether she looks sensual or stiff and dried out. I have seen some very large women who are dead sexy and some trim women who look like they have no idea. It's attitude more than size or shape.

  • I seem to have read that it's fairly well established that (heterosexual) men respond to a certain hip-to-waist ratio in a woman, almost regardless of other factors. (Though of course looking healthy and young etc are all attractive to men.) This ratio is regarded as attractive more or less across the cultural spectrum and is supposed to be deeply biologically grounded. It signals the females chances of having healthy offspring.

    It's also well established that men like women with more flesh than the typical western fashion ideal. Take a look in any of those mainstream guy magazines.

    But we are not put on this earth solely to be attractive to men, now, are we? I would feel very sorry for any woman who thought so.

    Personally I find the largest woman most attractive – maybe because she looks more powerful or womanly somehow.

    Regards Vibeke in Oslo

  • Vicki-

    No need to lie down 🙂

    Your anger and dissatisfaction is due to your brains, not your hormones.

    If certain things about how women are depicted in magazines strike you as unfair or damaging then you are being perfectly rational (and also showing concern for your daughters).

    Don't blame your hormones.

  • The part of your body that is closest to toward the camera lens will appear bigger… the larger size women in the photos who face the camera with hips square to the front, will"appear" larger. If you turn your body to the side or angle your shoulders to the side (ditto the "beauty contestant" stance of one leg front, one leg back), you will appear not as wide, in photos. All this is to say, the images we are so used to seeing on the fronts of magazines have been so finessed to the nth degree (lighting, clothing lines, stance of model, choice of lens, height of lens), that it is unfair to compare ouselves to those images.

  • "But we are not put on this earth solely to be attractive to men, now, are we?"

    I am in agreement. At the same time, a biological imperative to reproduce the species operates, often at an unconscious level. I'm not saying women are, or *should* be here for solely that purpose, nor do we have to serve that purpose! But at the same time, it's a powerful force.

  • I read this article in Marie Claire. You know I think it is totally unhelpful showing pictures and saying 'This is what a size 6 women looks like' and "this is what a size 14" looks like etc. We are all different heights, weights shapes, etc.

    I am naturally thin and always have been, but I'm not tall. The size 6 women shown is very tall and thin. I'm a size 6 but my body shape is more like the size 10.

    Also have you noticed that these models are perfectly proportioned including the larger size women with an 'ideal shape' and small waists relative to their breasts & hips. This is unrealistic for many.

  • The size 12 woman happens to have the largest breasts of the group. But, that is a mere coincidence, isn't it ? Gave her plain old B's, and I don't think she would have ben picked.

  • the 12 probably got the most votes because it's photograhpically apparent she's got boobs and curves. These exams are so very unscientific. but thank god, as you just cannot compare women's bodies in a ranging system, it's physically impossible! 🙂 still a lot of men and women and our culture does that in weird ways. the truth is, we seriously all have different bodies, all in different forms, genetically. and actually, our ideals, if taken from the public as a whole and not the very narrow media ideal, is ar variated and constantly fluctuating, and even depending on other aspects like personality ( we see what we want to see) and the like. as a young girl I used to try to get how men err.."resonated" around this and what they wanted in a woman's body, in a very self-critizing way. the truth is, how many "top lists" immature boys and men may make, they all like different things and different bodies in a very broad range. 'cause let's face it, a body is not a stone, it's constantly in movement, you can control a body, analyze or totally objectify it. it's always more of a tool and shelter than an object. ok this is getting too deep, but my point is that these things, although I look at them with uncomfortable interest as any other death-defying girl, but men doesnt like a certain shape, they are inconsistent and likes a skinny girls stomach one day, and a curvy milf the other. they dont follow any rules, but in the end, it seem to even out and a mature man loves a girl's body after he's got love for her, not the other way around, and from a more objectical perspective really, weI are all beautiful in our persnonal variety. and us girls overanalyse it and throws trash at our "unperfect" shapes. when we dont need to. we look fine.

  • it's also ironic how girls always tend to follow the opinions of what the males like, when the males dont care about what they think and just constantly objectify anything they see without a second thought, and never follow a pattern. so if a girl decides to diet away 30 pounds, the guy's probably just gonna change his ideals back to the heavier one anyway, as they dont reflect around it, and just replace one ideal body with another, it's so mean….philosophically I mean. they dont get the anxiety and angst it creates for women to be reduced to a hit and run object who's always have to be changed and compared with another object. this is how the media is working.

  • I think they're equally beautiful. They all look happy and healthy to me. Somehow I feel as if this survey was carried out to make a point about what "real women" supposedly look like, and if that was the motive, I can't get behind it. But like I said before, they're equally lovely to me.

  • I know this is rather old post, but it's almost impossible for me not to write my opinion.
    Firstly, I think natural shapes are the most beautiful and no woman should try to change proportions, which were given to her by mother nature.
    Women of uncommon sizes should not be offended.
    I admit that I'm 5,8 tall and I have 32" bust, but I never thought of depriving myself of food. It's just my natural body shape. Many women would wonder how difficult is to find clothing in my size which isflattering and long enough.
    Back to topic, it's quite insulting to me that everyone considers slimness not healthy and beautiful. Some time ago, I tried to put on some weight because all the people kept telling me that "curves" are much more attractive, but all I got was a high level of cholesterol and less than 2 kilos. So please, also slim women can be happy and healthy – it do not depends just on the amount of subdermal fat.

  • This has much more to do with proportion. Take one girl with the same proportions, widen or thin her to be a certain size, and I have a feeling the results would be different. The girl that is size 12 is the closest to being in proportion, so of course she will be seen as most attractive. I don’t know what my Australian size is, but in the US I’m anywhere between 1 and 5, depending on the brand. Typically I go for a 3, and I’m 5’4″ and 117 lbs. I believe I’d be around a size 8 in Australia, but I could be mistaken. Nevertheless, my proportions look most like the size 12 or 10 girls in the photo. The proportion is what really matters, not the weight.

  • I would love to see the results if all woman had small breasts (like the miss in the size 6).

    I don’t think the lady in the middle would have come first. Not in a thousand years.

    Ask me how I know.

  • Size 12 hips, size 6 torso legs and arms. It seems they went out of their way to find thin and fit models with wide hips. The size “6” model easily has size 2 dimensions elsewhere, but for the hips.

  • This is exactly the reason why I have the issues I have. I have seen various forms of this article since being a teenager. Naturally a size 6 and not considered sexy or even a real woman. An article celebrating the attractive qualities we love about each body type would be more meaningful than more of this same old body shaming

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