Art history for centuries has explored the human idealistic form and from year to year it’s interpreted differently. However one similarity remains, very rarely has it been portrayed in a realistic manor. Many cultures desired to see what they believed to be perfect rather than reality. This concept is evident still today, as media, fashion and society strive to portray a certain image that determines the “ideal” body shape.
Looking back, as far as the 1900s women desired to reach the perfect, impossible social standards of beauty.
The ideal shape was described as a ‘wasp waist’ where a barely-there waist would create the ‘perfect’ hourglass figure. Women attempted to achieve this by altering their natural body shapes with tight corsets that left them breathless and potentially damaged internal organs.
Women emancipation helped women change the way they saw themselves and their bodies. Off came the corsets, and boyish figures became desirable. Low waist lines to accentuate long legs and thin became a symbol of wealth.
Gradually women began falling back to their old ways by embracing femininity, wanting a curvaceous figure.
Curves, legs, breasts, full make up, glamorous hair and pin up styles were popular. Women embraced their sexuality and femininity. Perfection was a sexy, full figured hourglass shape.
Marilyn Monroe symbolised the perfect female figure. The 1940s figure was exaggerated, placing emphasis on the waist and creating impossible standards. Those who didn’t fit the ‘ideal’ felt excluded and insecure. The pressure to meet expectations became tough and demanding.
The slim boyish figure made a comeback, but this time to more extreme standards. Models like Twiggy embodied this look as fashion encouraged women to look like young girls. Dresses grew shorter and more pressure was placed on girls to have longer, slimmer legs. The difference between the 1950 to the 1960’s was huge and is considered one of the biggest changes to the ‘ideal’ of the female form.
Glossy fashion magazines and popular culture promoted the ‘perfect’ female body as slim and slender. Underweight became ideal resulting in women dangerously aiming for unattainable body shapes. Eating disorders becoming more prominent then ever before.
Although little change occurred, the aerobic exercise craze began causing women to begin favouring a slightly more healthier femininm figure. However the desire to show off long, slim legs and 23 inch waists remained and became further idolised as high-cut swimwear became popular.
Healthy, fit and toned was sexy. Women wanted to a ‘perfect’ healthy glow. However for most this involved obsessive working out in order to achieve an ideal slender yet toned, muscular body.
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – Kate Moss. Size 0 models took over the covers of top fashion magazines and dominated the catwalks. As a result ‘average’ women, teenagers and even celebrities felt pressured to take on the impossible task to become as skinny as possible. Restrictive diets and intense fitness regimes became popular as they all attempted achieve the wafer thin, long legged, no hips and perky bust frame.
There is no debate that the ‘skinny’ trend of the 2000s is still prominent in todays popular culture, however social media has had a significant impact on influencing people to become more accepting of different body shapes. With greater awareness about our well-being along with the health food industry booming celebrities and models have a greater understanding of how to promote their lifestyles and ‘body-love.’ Although skinny still dominates more and more celebrities and models today represent a range of shapes and sizes.