So I was pondering life as one does at 1am and can’t sleep, and it occurred to me…Beauty standards kind of suck. I started to think about how the beauty standards have changed throughout the years even from way back in the day of the early 1900’s and there’s a common theme. Let me also point out that beauty standards are not just for women, Men have them as well. It does however seem that for women ours is ever changing and they tend to repeat itself every 10 years or so. Curvy women are fashionable, then nope..now skinny women are fashionable…then no no curvy women for the win again, then..no, super skinny women are now all the rage. If you are like me then perhaps you don’t follow beauty trends per say but we can not help but to be made aware of them the images are everywhere. Today we are going to discuss the Beauty standards through time and why now it seems they are more toxic then ever before.
Unfortunately our perceptions of beauty are molded by the changes in our society and often reflects what has been going on in our social political culture. It is my belief that the beauty standards dictated to us are arbitrary, silly and fleeting. From the voluptuous figures in the early 1900’s to the very slim figure of the 90’s Heroin era, each were equally desired and admired by the public in their time. There is no body ideal that will stay on trend forever, so why are we chasing and trying to conform to the latest beauty trends that society spits out at us? We want to feel attractive of course and we have been been taught from a young age that media predicts the fashion trends,
Lets start with the Gibson Girl. We have often heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we have been conditioned to see it through the eyes of what society dictates to us. In January 1901 Prince Edward the 7th was crowned King of England and along with that came the Edwardian era of fashion and culture. With King Edwards reign came the more relaxed flowy Tea style dresses. These dresses were light weight, flowy and came in an assortment of pastel colors. Women wanted to be more modern and free and these ideals were embodied in the Gibson Girl style. She was the image that most Edwardian girls strived to look like. She was the cool girl, she had a voluptuous body with a cinched in waist to form an S shape. To achieve this silhouette women wore swan corsets with big fluffy blouses to achieve a more full bust line. Along with floor length skirts. They wore their hair piled on top of their head and tried to achieve the look of having more delicate features.
Now we enter the era of ” The Flapper” Much like the Gibson Girl the body ideals of the Flappers also came with societal changes and political climate. The Flappers came after WW1 and where women who wanted to break out of the social norms. Women were given the right to vote in the United States in the 1920’s and it seems with this came a change in the silhouette and body ideals that were seen as fashionable.
Completely opposite to the Gibson Girls. Flappers wanted the silhouette’s that were slim with little to no curves and their dresses were loose and flowy. Instead of wearing puffy shirts to make their chests appear larger they would bind their chests if necessary to achieve this look. They cut their hair into short Bob cuts and wore makeup with heart shaped lipstick, blush and eyeliner which was a direct contrast to the Gibson Girls era.
As women gained more rights they celebrated by no longer being so prim and proper to be considered a lady. In just 20 years women’s fashion and the ideal body style completely changed and I think this is just one clear indication of how beauty standards that come from the media are so trivial and completely subjective. Lets put Louise Brooks and Camille Clifford side by side. Was Camille Brooks any less Beautiful now that societies standards had changed in the 1920’s? Absolutely not.
The Pin Up era is one of the popular and well known body ideals as it became popular once Hollywood films became more accessible to general audiences. This look became ideal in the 1940’s and 1950’s. With the great depression finally over the average woman wanted to feel more glamorous and elegant again. The key to this image was to look soft with rounded curves and not have too much muscle definition.
Once again it was the exact opposite of the 1920’s Flapper style. This era was said to be sexually empowering to women but also caught the eye of the male gaze. These women were allowed to be sexy but only if it was not intentionally. For example, the iconic image of Marylin Monroe as her skirt blew up by the wind. Very sexy and it was meant to look very accidental even though they rehearsed and shot the scene many times.
Betty Grable was known as the woman with the million dollar legs, Marilyn Monroe is another perfect example of the pin up fashion as she fit this body ideal perfectly. Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, Eartha Kitt, and Doris Day.
The Twiggy era, just like the shift from the Flappers to the Pin up girl era the pendulum swung in the opposite direction in the 1960’s and 1970’s. When the media was no longer idolizing the Pin up girl body type. Are you starting to see the pattern here? lol There was a new body ideal in town and this was established by the growing popularity of models like Twiggy . These fashion icons had an androgynous look, sporting slim hips and a small bust line.
Women were opting for a more flat straight down look. There were two options for women if they wanted to be ” In Fashion”, there was the curvy look or they could opt for a more girlish super slim look. With the rise in the Twiggy fashion and hippy movement that served as a counter culture to societal norms and mainstream life. This was a time of many important social changes that were propelled by many movements such as the black social rights movements against racism and the anti Vietnam protests.
The afro became an important symbol of black pride, beauty and power. This was a time of meaningful social progress and simultaneously brought change to the beauty ideals of the time. African American artists such as Diana Ross, Jimmy Hendricks, Billy Preston, Sly Stone and many others rocked their natural hair and were trail blazers in shifting toxic societal conventions and western limitations of beauty.
Women now were beginning to shift from being strictly house wives to entering the work place. Dresses that featured the drop waist and the empire waist became very popular as women wanted to be more comfortable. Two hairstyles were very popular during this time, long loose flowy hair or the pixie cut. Eyeliner was dramatic and black with pale shades of eye shadow.
Entering the Fitness Mania era in the 1980’s. The body ideal image switched from the Twiggy era to the toned more muscular image of Jane Fonda. This was the decade of tall, broad shoulders and less pronounced hips and a small bust line. It was the era of aerobics classes body building, trendy leotards and track suits. Jane Fonda was a huge fitness icon and she created work out tapes that helped women get fit from home.
In stead of the pixy cut or long flowy hair. The rage in fashion was now big teased fluffy voluptuous hair. Perms also became very popular to achieve the look. Women were also opting for dramatic neon purple and pink eye shadows with lips that were often muted tones of muted pinks and nudes. Icons in that era were Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell. Madonna, Grace Jones, Princess Diana, and Molly Ringwald.
This was also the decade of shoulder pads, which helped women to achieve a more defined and broad silhouette. No one did this shoulder pad look better then Grace Jones. This as the decade of second wave feminism and women wanted to look professional in a environment traditionally dominated by men.
We are now entering the era of Heroin Chic in the 1990’s. Grunge was wildly popular and entered the forefront of mainstream media. Bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sound Garden and Alice in Chains were on the front stage of fashion. The Heroin Chic look was characterized by having pale skin, dark circles around the eyes using smudged makeup to achieve the look that you have not slept in a week. Thin eyebrows, a very slim and waif like body and straight hair. One of the famous faces of this Heroin chic look was Kate Moss.
This trend caused major issues causing eating disorders and a higher number of heroin addicts and drug abuse. Bill Clinton even made a statement about this fashion trend stated that this fashion trend made drug addiction seem glamorous when in fact it was killing more and more people in the 1990’s then in the years prior. This comment was made because of the death of the Italian Photographer , David Sorrenti due to Heroin addiction when he was just 20 in 1997.
We are now finally in the here and now with the era of the Influencer. Were the beauty ideals are being set by social media influencers and reality stars. The slim thick beauty standard began in around the 2010’s and it consists of having a large chest , wide hips, skinny legs with a thigh gap, and larger than life fake lips that were knick named Duck Lips. These ideal body standards are impossible to obtain as even the influencers themselves do not naturally have these bodies.
Lets go ” Old school” remember Beyonce and Destiny’s Child song Bootylicious? Beyonce herself did not have the booty that she has now. Kim Kardashian a few years ago had a completely different face and body, actually so did her entire family. No shade just facts. They do not even naturally resemble this ideal standard of beauty themselves. We entered into an era of a massive uptick of plastic surgery that was once only for the rich, now anyone can go to Mexico, Brazil, and many other places to receive plastic surgery for cheaper prices.
Even though there have been thousands of recorded deaths due to the dangers of these surgeries it is still very popular for even teenagers to have done, With the increase of plastic surgeries we also have photo shop and filters that are all the rage. It is the era of copy and paste body parts. But implants, Brazilian but lifts, boob implants, and faces full of injectables. Not to mention men can get a six pack surgically implanted, calves, and even biceps. Anyone can basically change almost whatever they want these days.
If there is one positive thing that 2020 has brought us it is a more diverse spectrum of the ideal body image. Women have been choosing to wear less makeup or at least a more natural makeup, choosing to wear less hair extentions and opting to embrace their more natural looks. More and more companies are using models of all shapes and sizes in their ads and there has been a major push for unedited photos in advertisements. Rihanna’s Fenty line of lingerie has been a trail blazer because they are using beautiful women of different shapes and sizes without editing the photos.
We would not take advise from a someone who didn’t know what they wanted and constantly changing their minds, why are we listening to media’s ideals with their cultural shifts? Society itself is unstable and doesn’t know what it wants, so why are we trying to copy and paste ourselves to fit into the ever changing societal beauty standards?
Your eyebrows, lip shape or body shape may not be in ” Fashion ” now but just wait a few years honey and things will come back around. These beauty standards should not hold so much power over us especially in a time where beauty has become so artifucial. We live one life right? Why not dress in whatever style you ACTUALLY like, not just the one the media tells you to like. Let’s be honest the trends are already changing, Perhaps it is time ladies and gentlemen to make ourselves happy and rebel a little bit. Let’s dress in that yellow polka dotted dress or suit even if society says it is not on trend, let’s be proud of our bodies no matter what the size. Instead of getting injections or implants let’s try to have a more healthier lifestyle for more glowing skin and shinier hair. In essence let’s love the bodies that carry us through every day and start to learn to listen to what are bodies need and want to feel our true best selves.