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Fixing Your 'Bottom' Line

There is a major investigation under way into how clothes fit the female form. The backside, to be specific, and it is a serious project for a team of researchers in Scotland.

CBS News correspondent Richard Roth visited Heriot Watt University, where a study group wants to get to the bottom of a nagging question in the design world: how to make clothes flatter the female derriere.

on The Early Show, Roth said students, led by Professor Lisa MacIntyre, are stitching together a scientific model.

MacIntyre told Roth it is the first serious attempt to go beyond the standard advice for minimizing butt size, which is to wear black and watch out for stripes. Her interest is the specific design factors clothing companies need to consider.

Where should the pockets be? What type of pockets should I be choosing? Where should the seams be on the trouser? What leg shape is better than another? MacIntyre says they are trying to answer all these questions and more.

As part of the research, female volunteers wearing hundreds of different types of clothing will have their rears photographed.

Participants will then be asked to look at the pictures to assess how big or small each model's backside appears.

The study will examine how various designs, colors, patterns and fabric types affect perceptions of bottom size.

With four figure types identified, the survey aims to get to the bottom line of ideal design, building a specialized vocabulary in the process.

"We are going to look at what makes the bottom look the biggest, what makes it look the smallest what makes it look the flattest, what makes it look the most pert," MacIntyre told Roth.

At the university, which is in Galashiels, Scotland, they're calling this the great trousers study and they're taking it seriously.

"I don't know why anybody would turn their nose up at (the study) because every woman on the planet is probably interested in how they look in their trousers," said Stephanie Hutton, a design student involved in the study.

Ultimately, the study could have major implications for clothing retailers.

"This study will provide, for the first time, detailed and usable information that would enable designers to make the clothes that help women make the most of their natural assets,'' said MacIntyre.

And she has not forgotten that men look in the mirror, too.

MacIntyre "has applied for funding for further study and we're going to be looking at men's bums as well, which should be great," said Jessica Graham, another student in the study group.

The results from the first phase of the study will be published in May.

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