We recently got a glimpse at how beauty has changed over 100 years. Now comes a look at how body image has evolved over the course of a century. The website, The Greatist, recently took a microscope to the ‘it’ figure of each decade, in the process, pointing out how arbitrary our beauty standards actually are. One generation’s “OMFG SO PRETTY” is another generation’s “She’s OKAY, I guess.”
It’s actually a healthy reminder of how the media informs our opinions of ourselves, and how inconsistent their standards actually are. As the folks at The Greatist put it: “That silhouette of the ‘ideal woman’ has been put through a series of fun house mirrors (fashion, movies, pop music, politics). It also changes year over year, so the physical qualities we embrace today are often at odds with those from previous generations.” Gif proof, right here:
The site goes on to breakdown the different types of ideal bodies in each decade. There’s the “Gibson Girl” of the 1910s, when the corset ruled the world, and the ideal body was “round, soft” and “gathered together in a small waist.”
In the 1920s, flat chests were in, but 10 years later, curves make a comeback (probably, thanks to Jean Harlow, below).
The ’40s were like, “No more curves! We want sharp edges, fierce shoulders and of course, torpedo bras.” Think Katharine Hepburn. And just when you think you’ve got this whole body thing down, in walks Marilyn Monroe and by the ’50s we’re back to sultry curves.
A decade later, we’re changing course again. The look isn’t curvy anymore but just the opposite: super-skinny, flat-chested girlishness is in and the beauty icon of the moment is Twiggy, a model who clocks in at 5′ 6″ and weighs 91 pounds.
Aside from the fact that women are allowed to have slightly larger chests in the ’70s and ’80s, they’re still heavily encouraged to be long and lean—as witnessed by ’70s icon Farrah Fawcett and ’80s supermodel Elle Macphereson. By the ’90s we’re basically back to the ’60s, with the iconic waif as our body image prototype. In the early ’00s, super-toned and tanned muscles make a comeback, thanks to Britney Spears. And today? It’s all about the behind. Curves have made a comeback, specifically on our lower half, but don’t expect it to stay that way.
With the standards of beauty shifting from decade to decade, they’re impossible to identify with all the time. They’re also always extreme, and designed to highlight one particular body part, just so you’re self-conscious and super-keyed in to how one of your extremities looks at all times. Joy.
So what did we learn here? Firstly, that we can’t ever take the idea of “the perfect body” THAT seriously because, you guys, “the perfect body” is a completely made-up thing that’s constantly changing. And that beauty standards are largely driven by the media, which decides what sexy is in order to sell you stuff you don’t need. Oh and that we are all so very pretty just the way we are, so no more being mean to yourself in front of the full-length!
For more on the evolution of our body expectations, check out the The Greatist’s fascinating decade-by-decade breakdown here.