You’re probably quite familiar with the current ideal body shape of a woman - an hourglass body, a flat stomach, a thigh gap, you name it. Have you ever wondered what body trends were like far back in time? Women’s idealized physique has altered numerous times throughout the decades. Is it becoming increasingly unachievable and leaving countless women distressed, to say the least?
Unlike our current society that basically glorifies a skinny body with curves, our ancestors believed the ideal body is robust. An example of this is Venus — the goddess of beauty, portrayed with a chubby face and a pear-shaped body.
In the 19th century, the paragon of American femininity was the “steel engraving lady”, this ideal was associated not only with weakness and obedience, but also with prestige, high social status and moral values. In the 19th century, the paragon of American femininity was the “steel engraving lady”, this ideal was associated not only with weakness and obedience, but also with prestige, high social status and moral values. The ‘steel engraving lady’ has a small and corseted waist, sloped shoulders, tapered fingers and delicate feet, which was preferred in North America and Western Europe.
With the 19th century coming to an end, the “Gibson Girl” ideal began to emerge, combining features from the steel engraving lady and the aforementioned voluptuous form, resulting in an ideal that had skinny waist and legs and curvy hips, with the help of corsets.
Ladies in the 1920s strived to be slender in light of the emergence of adverts and products for weight loss. The media also played a huge role in the standardization of beauty ideals in America and Europe.
The spotlight was on legs in the 1940s— slender legs, to be exact. It was emphasized with hemmed stockings and high-heeled shoes.
Starting from the 1960s and onwards, increasingly slender bodies had taken hold. Miss America pageant winners showed a decrease in body weight and hip size, while an increase in waist size, bust size and height between 1960s and 1980s.
Although it is true that a more muscular ideal of female beauty emerged, be it exemplified by broad shoulders, ‘power dressing’ with shoulder pads becoming the defining fashion statement of the era, or workout routines targeting a more muscular ideal for women, the typical ideal still remains thin.
1990s: Marginalisation of chubby women
Chubby women stereotypically were portrayed as absent-minded, greedy, and incompetent when it comes to romantic settings. They were also seen as deemed to fail when it comes to other aspects.
Body trends in recent years
Instagram has long been a trend-setter for ideal body standards. With almost every form of media promoting unattainable beauty ideals for women, it leaves the majority of women believing that there’s much to be desired in their own bodies.
2013: The thigh gap trend
2014: The Bikini Bridge: Urban Dictionary described it as ‘when bikini bottoms are suspended between the two hip bones, causing a space between the bikini and the lower abdomen
2015: A backlash against the ‘skinny’ fad gained momentum
Celebrities jumped on the bandwagon of ‘abandoning’ the skinny beauty standards, instead, replacing them with eating healthily and exercising.
2016:Ribcage bragging and liking of curves, with thighs highly favored amongst many.
2019: The ‘slim thick’ body
Instagram influencers like Kim Kardashian took the lead and possessed the figure of thick or toned thighs, a small waist, and a bigger bum.
What about now? The current body ideals changed from slim to ‘fit thick’ to ‘slim thick’, while body positivity movement took place at the same time, striving to be more inclusive, no matter the age, race and body shape.
I’m sure you’ve experienced staring at your body and hoping to change something about it. Women have been chasing and chasing after the increasingly harder beauty standards like chasing the light in the end of a never ending tunnel.
It goes without saying that doing this is detrimental to one’s mental and physical well-being, possibly causing severe body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, and an obsession of cosmetic surgery. However, it’s important for us to acknowledge that these beauty trends and ideals come and go, just like other fashion trends. What’s considered perfect today might not be seen that way tomorrow.
At DesignerFriday, we believe that the only thing that matters is how you perceive yourself and if you like what you see in the mirror. No beauty or fashion trend should define you.
So, push boundaries. Get out of your comfort zone, boss up, straighten your crown. And most importantly, OWN IT.