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Hey honey, does my butt look big in this?

UK researchers study how clothing affects the look of the female derrière. NBC News correspondent Dawna Friesen reports.
/ Source: TODAY

It is among the most potentially hazardous questions husbands and boyfriends have to face: "Does my butt look big in this?" Now, a Scottish academic has begun the first ever study of how women's clothing affects the look of their behinds. NBC News correspondent Dawna Friesen reports.

Call it the dilemma of the derriere. When it comes to the female behind, apart from a lucky few, most women are unhappy with what they've got.

Now, at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, the world's oldest textile school, a team of researchers led by professor Lisa Macintyre has begun the first ever academic study of what flatters the fanny. "The whole study will be looking at garment cut, fabric pattern, fabric color, fabric weight and the way different garments move together to affect perception of body shape and size," says Macintyre.

Macintyre is fascinated by textiles. She did her PhD thesis in pressure garments for burn victims.  She's being just as rigorous in this study; measuring and photographing volunteers wearing hundreds of different fabrics, styles, colors and patterns.

The photos will be shown to a panel of ordinary people to gauge their perceptions of size. "And the question each time will be the same. So every time the person will be asked which bottom looks bigger," says Macintyre.Fashion, of course, can be fickle. Big, curvy backsides were once admired and still are, in some cultures. And bustle dresses used to accentuate the obvious. But these days, slim is in.

Raimondo Ponce is a personal shopper at Harrods Department Store. The biggest complaint his clients have is with their butts. So if an academic can help, he's all for it.

"It is the quality of the fabric, it's the drape of the fabric, it's the way the fabric sits against the body," says Ponce.

Preliminary results of the study will be out in May, which could help women make the most of their natural assets.