Click to enlarge this fascinating measurement chart from 1923. It is utterly devoid of leeway. At my height, my upper arm had better be precisely ten and nine tenths of an inch or I've got some work to do. Victoria Beckham's half inch seems downright lackadaisical.
When I first came across this chart a few years ago, my friend Molly and I spent a hilarious hour with the tape measure. We did it all: heads, necks, wrists, shins. I had quite a few charts to work with from the past century.
The past few decades have seen a big leap in laxity. By today's charts, a person of my height is free to weigh between 119 and 149 pounds, depending on frame size. But on the chart above, I should weigh 128 pounds, full stop.
At the time of our measuring bonanza, I was quite thin. I weighed substantially less than the dictated for my height but some of my measurements were larger. "I don't understand," I said to Molly. "How could I get smaller but be the same weight?"
We looked at each other blankly for a moment, then, "Oh. Right. Exercise."