Female body ideals change year over year, so the physical qualities we embrace today are often at odds with those from previous generations. Whoever is on the cover of People magazines Most Beautiful issue is just a representation of pop culture of the era we are in. Just to show you what I mean…take a look at the changes in the “ideal woman” in the past 10 decades.
1910 – The Gibson Girl
In the early 1900’s the “it girl” look was a showstopping feminine body like a looping figure-8 with the help of a super cinched corset waist. The Gibson Girl was basically the Beyonce of her era – she was not dainty, she was dark, regal in bearing and quite tall.
1920 – The Flapper
In just 10 years, we said goodbye to monumental curves, statuesque height and hello to the Flapper look – a full 180 from the Gibson era. The curves of the Gibson were gone and replaced with a flat chest and small hips. Margaret Gorman, crowned as the first Miss America in 1921 was the era’s ideal. 5 foot 1, 108 pounds.
1930 – The Soft Siren
The return of the waist. Dresses went from being boxy in shape to a more fitted silhouette – the natural waist comes back and there’s a hint of shoulder too. The media began to embrace a slightly more curvaceous body, making this era a stepping stone from the petite look of the 1920s towards the curvier 1940s. Dolores del Rio was declared “best figure in Hollywood” by People magazine
1940 – The Star-Spangled Girl
In the 1940’s, fashion said goodbye to the soft look of the 30’s. Due to World War II, broad, boxy and aggressive shoulders became the look. Bras took on a pointed look with torpedo and bullet bras. The look was now long-limbed, tall with a squarer silhouette. The infamous photo of Rosie the Riveter doesn’t portray the ideal body type for women in the 40’s but it does show that women have become more commanding – showing their expanding role in the workforce while men are on the battlefield.
1950 – The Hourglass
It was all about the hips, booty and boobs in the 50’s, much like now. The ideal body type in the 1950’s reaches Jessica Rabbit proportions. Ads of the time even advised “skinny” women to take weight gain supplements to fill out their curves or purchases cup andbooty padding to “round out” figures. Playboy magazine and Barbie were both created in this decade – showing tiny-waisted, large-chested women ideals.
1960 – The Twig
Petite, delicate and doll-faced. The swinging 60’s brings the pendulum back in the other direction and thin is in. Goodbye Jessica Rabbit. The new look is now fresh-faces, girlish nd trim. Models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton represented a new ideal – doll-faced, super slender and petite. Sounds just like the switch from Gibson Girl to Flapper. Smaller busts and slim hips are back in style. “Black Pride” and “Black is Beautiful” movement of the 60’s begins and Beverly Johnson becomes the first black woman to grace the cover of Vogue while Darnella Thomas starts in a groundbreaking “Charlie” fragrance ad.
1970 – The Disco Diva
The poster girl for this era was Farrah Fawcett – jumpsuits, bell bottoms, feathered hair – this decade was a raging party. The overall look remains lean, especially in the torso but curves start to come back.
1980 – The Supermodel
The taller the better. Tall, leggy women come to represent the new feminine ideal. Women like Elle MacPherson, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista lead the runway right into the heart of pop culture, dominating the media and music videos of this decade.
The 1980’s also bring us into an era of fitness, thanks to Jane Fonda- aerobics and jogging take off and for the first time, muscles are acceptable and desirable on women.
1990 – The Waif
Kate Moss is the face of the 90’s with her 5’7 height, undeniably petite frame for a model and thin, even by industry standards. It’s a firmly unathletic look and a switch from the amazonian, super fit woman of the 80s. Slouchy jeans and oversized fraying sweaters all support the petite and androgynous waif look.
2000 – The Buff Beauty
Supermodel Giselle Bundchen is credited as ending the era of the waif – we now enter the era of visible abs and airbrushed tans. Bundchen was crowning the most beautiful girl in the world by Rolling Stone magazine and dominates the runway, print ads, VS fashion show and the red carpet on Leo Dicaprio’s arm.
2010 – The Booty Babe
This decade is all about the butt. Women like Beyonce, JLo, Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian and Nicki Minaj are the ideal body shapes for this era.
Body ideals, like everything else in pop culture, are a trend. As Tina Fey wrote in Bossypants, “Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.” Rather than chase that preposterous laundry list of attributes, embrace what your momma gave you! And remember: The media’s idea of beauty is subjective and changes, but confidence is always in style.”