Vital statistics by amanda bown

Celebrate British curves, as there's more to them than meets the eye! It seems sizes have gone up and down since our mother's day… Today's average bust size is 36D, it has jumped up (or should I say pumped up?) from an average size of 34B. And, your ideal Body Mass Index is 20.85, when the UK average is actually around 25!

It’s estimated during the ‘50s, women burnt-off an average of 1,000 calories per day while doing the housework, today however, it's more like an average of 556 and we've swapped floor scrubbing for Powerplate or Pilates classes. Looking back 60 years, the average British woman’s figure was fairly petite; 5ft 2in, rarely tipping the scales at 9st 10lb and an average shoe size of three and a half, fitting rather neatly in to a size 12 dress.

Handbag investigates British women's vital statistics and the various body shapes and sizes women have today and how they’ve changed over the years.

Desperate housewives: The average housewife during the ‘40s and ‘50s could easily handle today’s intense cardio work outs and weights in our modern gyms. A woman doing a full day of housework today including two or three loads of laundry, dusting, and bathroom cleaning, will burn roughly 600-700 calories, compared to women of the ‘40s and ‘50s who would burn twice that amount! “The average housewife during these times would dead lift roughly 20kg of laundry (it would be heavier when wet), carry it outside to be hung-out, and then do a minimum of thirty squats as she bent down to pick up the clothing and then stretched-up to hang-out on the line,” says Hilary Rifkin, personal trainer at Lomax Bespoke health club, lomaxpt.com.

And house wives would also tone-up their triceps and biceps by polishing the wooden furniture. “Housewives lucky enough to have a Hoover, (they were heavy) meant the back ‘n’ forth motion would work both triceps and biceps, and the lats (the largest muscles in the back) and burn roughly 300 calories per 30 minutes of work, today’s machines weigh nothing more than 3-4 kg, and would burn half of that,” says Rifkin.

Grocery shopping wasn’t delivered back then, so housewives in the ‘40s and ‘50s would have the strength to lift, load and carry several bags weighing an average of 8kg each! These women were very fit, which toned and shaped their bodies nicely, without them realising it. They reached all the small muscles groups we strive to hit during our gym sessions via washing, ironing, rinsing and running the household. They gained strong legs, lean muscle and great cardio fitness from all the constant walking, pushing and pulling.

Great heights: Around 60 years ago the average British woman’s height was 5ft 2in, today the average is 5ft 4in, so how come we’re getting taller? This is down to a few things, from better nutrition, a more plentiful diet, the lessening demands of our environment (think warmer homes, better medications, and improved sanitation), so that the energy can be devoted to growth alone during childhood, and not expending energy on keeping warm and well.

Your BMI: Sadly, evidence shows that a BMI outside of today’s ideal range (19-25) increases your risk of suffering from preventable diseases; the ideal range has been shown in numerous clinical studies to be the most beneficial to good health. Low BMI can also cause medical problems as well as a BMI that’s too high, so it’s a tough one to balance. “In 2009, almost a quarter of women aged 16 or over in the UK was classified as obese, with a BMI of 30kg/m2 or over.