While we are stressing out about meeting the latest cultural standard of beauty we are missing the bigger picture of things: There is No Body Ideal that is timeless or universal. It is something that changes all the time – what is considered desirable today was not considered ideal in the past, and will be replaced with new requirements soon enough.
So if you have tendency towards frustration and body-loathing because your body type does not fit today’s ideal, please take a brief walk through a history.
You will find out that every single body type was considered the ideal of beauty at some point!
Ancient Greece (c. 500 – 300 B.C.)
considered the ideal woman form to be
- with elongated torso
- with clearly round hips, stomach, and breasts
Round shape has been associated with femininity, nurturing, abundance, and fertility since ancient times.
Italian Renaissance (c. 1400 – 1700)
described the desired body aspects as
- ample bosom
- rounded stomach
- full hips
An example of this is Titian’s “Venus and Music” where the organist gazes back upon his muse, looking for inspiration in his music.
Victorian England (c. 1837 – 1901)
featured beautiful women as
- lushly plump, full-figured with cinched-waist
The corset cinched the woman’s waist to give the perception of the desirable hourglass figure.
The makeup of the time was incredibly dangerous. Lead, ammonia, mercury, and nightshades were common ingredients. And the Victorian’s were aware of this yet still willing to poison themselves in order to look more beautiful. Of course, male-dominated desire for women looking in a particular way sparked the trend, so it was not like ladies all decided to kill themselves to look pale just for the heck of it.
Roaring Twenties (c. 1920s)
were the era of the ideal woman with
- boyish figure
- flat chest and downplayed waist
- short bob hairstyle
Since women were allowed to work outside household and gained certain power and independence for the first time, they also started to move away from the classical feminine fashion. In contrast with the previous era, the 1920s featured an androgynous look for women– they wore bras that flattened their chest and clothing that gave them a curve-less look.
Golden Age Of Hollywood (c. 1930s – 1950s)
desired woman that had
- hourglass figure with large breasts and slim waist
So the boyish figure trend did not last for long before the traditional curves were back in demand… but this was about to change again soon.
A lot of people think that the sex symbols of the ’50s would be considered plus sized now. Though they were certainly heavier than the models of today, the movie stars were still much thinner that the average american woman of that time.
Swinging Sixties (c. 1960s)
This time period adored this female look:
- Willowy thin
- Long, slim Legs
- Adolescent Physique
Peace, love, and thin seemed to be the motto of 1960 ideal beauty for women. More and more women are going girdle-free and embracing a less constricting wardrobe. The trade-off? Now the flat-stomached look must be achieved through a diet.
Supermodel Era (c. 1980s)
This era celebrated this body type:
- Svelte but Curvy
- Slightly athletic with toned arms
This is when the exercise-crazed phenomenon encouraging women to be thin but also fit was born. This era also saw an upswing in anorexia, thought by some experts to be caused by a compulsory obsession with exercise.
Heroin Chic (c. 1990s)
The ideal body type of this time:
- Extremely Thin
This era had seen the size of the supermodels shrunk to a dangerously thin and frail. With waif models in vogue, the ’90s presented the thinnest feminine ideal in history.
The Buff Beauty (c. 2000)
standards for women include:
- strong, toned body
- round breasts and butt
- exposed muscular midriff
While maintaining her feminine features woman was expected to be physically healthy, strong, and fit. This is an interesting contrast with the Heroin Chick era. Also, airbrushed – sprayed on abs were invented.
The Booty Babe (c. 2010)
was expected to be true to the name of this era:
- “Bootylicious” bodies
- thin waist contrasts with large buttocks and breasts
This body ideal seems to return back to the curvy look that is more attainable for women bodies than some of the other trends. Of course, like with any trend, it is not natural for all bodies, and so women resort to plastic surgery ‘fixes’ to achieve this look.
And what is next? (c. 2020)
Since the start of the 21st century, there has been a shift toward celebrating diverse body types in the media and fashion. That trend appears to correlate with the use of social media, where diverse types are represented by everyday users online.
- In 2015, Robyn Lawley was the first plus-size model featured in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.
- In 2016, the toy manufacturing company Mattel debuted a line of Barbie dolls depicting diverse body types, including curvy shapes.
- In 2017, reality show Project Runway, included models ranging from size 0 to 22 for the first time in its history.
So maybe we are ready to learn from history, acknowledge that there is a variety of beauty and bodies, and move past any standards.
Diverse Beauty is (hopefully) the Beauty of the Future.
Petty, A. (2018, May 02). How women’s ‘perfect’ body types changed throughout history. Retrieved from https://www.thelist.com/44261/womens-perfect-body-types-changed-throughout-history/
See How Much the “Perfect” Female Body Has Changed in 100 Years (It’s Crazy!). (2016, June 06). Retrieved from https://greatist.com/grow/100-years-womens-body-image
Howard, J. (2018, March 09). The ever-changing ‘ideal’ of female beauty. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/07/health/body-image-history-of-beauty-explainer-intl/index.html