NEW YORK — Mary Duffy weighs 165 pounds and, by her own description and according to a body classification system she devised, is "an O shape--an egg with legs."
The other shapes are H, A, X. Insert the O after the H, and you have Duffy's "HOAX Theory of Body Builds." HOAX applies only to big women, the type of model Duffy supplies for ads and shows.
Duffy, a size 16 who runs the Big Beauties model agency, says the average American female is not the size 8 of most modeling agencies. She says government statistics show the average woman is 5-feet-3.8-inches tall and 143 pounds.
Duffy explained that the H female is shaped "straight up and down." The A is, well, A-shaped, widening from the shoulders and becoming somewhat pear-shaped. The X, though large, too, has a defined waistline.
Donna, for example, one of the big models Duffy places, is something of an X. Her measurements are 39-29-40; size 14; 170 pounds.
"I'm perfectly happy being this size," she said. "It's what my body wants. I exercise three times a week and watch what I eat. This is just the size I was meant to be." The HOAX theory put forth by Duffy might amuse experts in anatomy who generally recognize three distinct body builds: endomorph--rounded build with tendency to become fat; ectomorph, light body with slight muscle mass; mesomorph, a husky, muscular build.
But Duffy said for her purpose--helping guide large women to better ways of dressing--the HOAX system works quite well.
Based on her eight years in the large model industry and as a fashion consultant to the full-figured, here are Duffy's dressing tips for women who are H, O, A or X.
--For the H, no waist, small or moderate bust.
Best: monotone outfits; elastic waists, moderate padded shoulders; batwing and dolman sleeves; soft floaty fabrics and styles, elegant looks, semi-fitted jackets, curved lines like full cropped pants; plain pumps, big jewelry. Worst: sharp contrast tops and bottoms; set-in waists, cummerbunds or self belts; raglan sleeves; sleeveless styles; stiff, structured fabrics and styles; preppy looks; boxy jackets; square lines such as blazers and straight skirts; ankle straps or socks; chokers and bracelets.
--For the O, full through the middle with a protuberant midriff and, frequently, slim legs.
Best: squared off shoulders; elastic waist blousons; pleated trousers with elastic in waist; boxy, short jackets; fanny wraps and floats; empire waists; dark tops and light bottoms; one piece undergarments; blouson tops. Worst: dolman and raglans, fitted sheaths, pegleg pants; blazers, fitted suits; set-in waists and dropped waists; light tops and dark bottoms; girdles, tight sweaters; belts; high necks.
--For the A shape who are significantly larger in the hip and thigh than in the bust.
Best: big sleeves; lighter colors above the waist; padded shoulders; belts; bow blouses; unmatched suits; big tops; slight drop waists; soft, crystal pleats; soft dirndls; pleated, eased trousers; scarves and jewelry to add emphasis above the waist. Worst: tight-fitting tops; dark tops and light bottoms; halter tops; hip belts; long sweaters; fitted suits; turtlenecks; fanny wraps; straight skirts; A-line skirts; pull on stretch pants; boy cut shorts or swim suits; panty girdles.
--For X shapes, evenly proportioned with a clearly defined waist.
Best: Padded or wide shoulders; soft, romantic looks; draped dresses; flowing fabrics; wrap dresses; set-in waists; V-necks; belted dresses and coats; belts; soft ruffles; solid colors; princess lines. Worst: Snug, clingy tops or bottoms; man-tailored clothes; snug fitting knits; stiff fabrics and structured clothes; float, tent, or chemise dresses; high necks and bow blouses; boxy jackets and coats; shetland sweaters and preppy looks; too many accessories.