THE EVER-CHANGING FEMALE BEAUTY STANDARDS AND THEIR INFLUENCE
How Have Our Opinions About Female Body Aesthetics Changed
The desire for beauty is one of the driving forces of today’s society.
Aspects of relationships, jobs, income, and influence often all depend on this concept as it is an inherent part of our surroundings.
Although it has been so for centuries, the standards to which beauty conforms have been quite different through time.
The ideal for the perfect body seems to be an ever-changing thing, which shifts with seemingly no explanation.
In this blog, we briefly explain how female body standards have changed and their impact on society.
There is resounding evidence that for a very long period of time, a more full figure was valued.
Sculptures, paintings, and stories all point to the fact that up until the 1700s, the perfect woman had curves and could be described as having a pear-shaped silhouette.
This was likely because of the subconscious connections our minds made between this body type and fertility.
The famous Venus figurines made 25 000 years ago show women with round bodies and large breasts, illustrating this point.
To add to this, many depictions of the Greek goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, show her as a curvy woman with an elongated figure.
However, although we have many sources on what the beauty standards back then were, what impact they had on society is difficult to determine.
The first recorded changes in what was desired from the looks of the female body started happening after 1700.
For the next 2 centuries curves were even more adored.
Painters and writers had their female characters with small waists and wide hips, portraying the beauty standards at the time.
The corset started being used by almost all women to achieve this voluptuous silhouette.
Although it varied in length (some preferred an elongated figure, while others opted for a smaller pinch exactly where the waist is), the corset was worn by nobles and commoners alike and was an unmissable piece of undergarment for a long time.
Some women wore hoops or pads under their skirts as well to maintain the shape they wanted.
Surprisingly, however, even with these accessories, there is no evidence that women were under enormous pressure concerning their bodies, especially without their corsets.
In fact, a lot of songs were written praising the natural female beauty over the one achieved with these supporting items.
This, however, began to change slowly.
The 20th Century
As the 1800s ended and the 1900s started, the “Gibson girl” beauty standard was born from the pen of the illustrator Charles Gibson.
She was slender but still had curves around the hips and upper body.
Artists like Picasso and Matisse also drew women with similar proportions, albeit in their specific styles.
The change in society here was more towards women’s intelligence and interests.
The Gibson girl, while having a curvy and desirable figure, was also depicted as an intelligent, well-educated, and talented woman, not simply an object of desire but an active part of society.
This was both the first and one of the last times in which the focus on female attractiveness was mainly on their wits over their physical beauty.
The 1920s flapper girl was objectively much slimmer than the previous models of female beauty.
The bust to waist ratio in magazines like Vogue decreased by 60% between the beginning of the century and 1925 - a shift in a scale never seen before.
This was also one of the highest instances in eating disorders in the western world.
Between 1940 and 1960, the above-mentioned ratio started going back to what it used to be before, creating even more polarizing opinions.
The shift itself was because of the rising popularity of pinup girls, Marilyn Monroe, and the release of Playboy magazine.
Curves were once again all the rage, albeit in a bit smaller proportions.
The Late 1900s
The next 20 years changed beauty standards again.
This time throwing out corsets and voluptuous figures altogether, very slim and young-looking body types were deemed the most fashionable.
Models like Lesley Lawson, known as Twiggy (the nickname should tip you off), was representative of this time period.
Unsurprisingly this had its influence on people, and hospital admissions for anorexia rose to an all-time high in the western world.
As time grew closer to the current century, a more definite divide between the masses and the fashion industry could be seen.
Supermodels continued to be very slim, tall, and without as many curves as before.
However, at the same time, in the bigger part of society, obesity started being a problem.
Anorexia was associated with the highest mortality rate out of all mental disorders in 1990, but this was also the year in which hospitals declared the beginning of a world obesity pandemic.
This severe judgment regarding both antipodes led to a huge loss of self-confidence in people in the next decades.
The Present Day
After all of these changes, these sudden shifts, twists, and turns, we come to the present day.
Currently, most people are fighting to improve body self-image and accept differences.
Body-positive models and agencies have started to gain popularity in many famous fashion companies.
Today we can see models of different races, body types, impairments, and strengths.
Consequently, there isn't a body type or structure that is deemed "the one and only."
Instead, people are trying to make individuality the most beautiful trait.
This is precisely why today, although there are still women suffering from the pressure of society, more and more of them are starting to accept their bodies as they are.
Food For Thought
Beauty standards have had their fair share of changes throughout history.
With different periods celebrating different aspects of female beauty, we have now come to realize that each one has its charm.
No one knows what the future will bring, but with the positive direction we are following now, we are sure it will be spectacular.