To call sexiness an exact science is a stretch, but there is certainly a formula, says fashion designer Bradley Bayou.
Measurements have nothing to do with it. It’s about symmetry.
“What we are attracted to, what we find sexy, are things that are symmetrical. Research backs that up,” says Bayou, who has written a new book called “The Science of Sexy” (Gotham Books).
“Women try to force their figures into fads and trends, even if they’re not flattering to them, because they think they’re ‘sexy.’ ... But it’s really all about balancing the body.”
Short hourglass shapes might consider jackets that fit snugly at the waist, perhaps adorned with a peplum, and skirts with either semicircles or A-lines. Tall boyish shapes would be better served by open necklines, such as a V or a scoop, and a pleated skirt or straight-leg pants with angled pockets, Bayou suggests.
“Everywhere you look in nature, it’s always balanced. A tree is balanced, even looking, even though it’s not exactly the same on both sides. Yes, you’ll have imperfections, but if you pull it all together, they’ll be balanced.”
That makes sense to Randy Thornhill, a biology professor at the University of New Mexico who has studied the link between symmetry and physical attraction.
Health equals beauty
“The bottom line is developmental health. The general finding for animals — not just humans — is that as the individual begins development, optimal development is bilateral symmetry. Most don’t achieve it,” he says.
Symmetry, whether most of us realize it, may signal that an individual can be a strong, healthy mate capable of producing healthy offspring, Thornhill says. It indicates an ability to deal with any environmental problems encountered in the person’s life.
Thornhill’s original research focused on facial symmetry, but, he says, further research has found the same thing with breasts, buttocks and thighs.
“With women, bodily symmetry is conveyed in the face but also how she mobilizes — how she walks, a more attractive gait. When dancing, symmetrical people are more attractive when they dance. It comes out in the grace and movement,” he says.
Bayou, formerly the creative director at Halston, is known as a source of red-carpet gowns for Oprah Winfrey, Queen Latifah, Salma Hayek and Eva Longoria — women of varying body types. “All these women are sexy, and they’re all different. The one thing in common, though, is that they’re not emaciated. If that’s what magazines say is sexy, they’re wrong.”
He adds: “Every body is unique, and there are different pieces that will work on them.”
Bayou’s book aims to help women find the styles that work for them. He offers suggestions based on 12 basic body types, accounting for shape, height and weight. He tells you what to wear and what not to wear: Overt plunging necklines and micro minis usually fall into that second category.
The one thing that does look good on just about everyone is a wrap dress. “Thank God for Diane von Furstenberg,” says Bayou. (Von Furstenberg first introduced that silhouette to the fashion world in early 1970s, got it on the cover of Time magazine in 1976, and has included it in every variation imaginable in her collections ever since.)
Accessorize with confidence
How to accessorize it? With confidence.
“I find that most women — 99 percent, I’d say — are insecure about their bodies, and I’m talking about drop-dead gorgeous women. What I find sexy is self-confidence. I’m trying to give those women confidence about their body. You can’t change your body overnight, but you can change the way you dress.”
Other things to wear with pride are kindness and a sense of humor.
“I think everybody agrees that sexy comes from within,” Bayou adds. “A runway model might not be sexy, but a size 10 or 12 shapely woman can be so sexy. She’ll get more attention in the end if she’s confident and funny.”
Women spend too much time stressing about the little stuff, he says, not realizing that men can usually find something sexy about almost anyone. “Women think you need it all, but you really only need one part and make the most of it. ... People aren’t born perfect.”