How the “Ideal” Body Figure Has Changed Over the Years
Society’s perception of what the “perfect” body figure looks like has changed drastically over time. Discover how trends have impacted women all over the world.
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” is a mantra that, sadly, too many women have repeated at some point in their lives. The supermodel credited for the infamous phrase – Kate Moss – was once the epitome of the “perfect” body figure back in the ’90s. But thin wasn’t always in, as history attests.
The perception of the “ideal” body type has undergone many transformations. What has changed and what has remained constant? Let’s look at how society’s have evolved throughout the decades.
The Renaissance Period: The Bigger, The Better
Plump bosoms, rounded torsos, and wide hips were celebrated during this epoch – the same attributes that modern women have felt the need to slim down or hide. At the time, only the wealthy could afford meat, bread, and wine. Having a symbolized prosperity and fertility. Women were also wearing fuller gowns to accentuate their curves and corsets to lift their breasts.
The Victorian Era: The S-Shaped Silhouette
The pursuit of a tiny waist quickly took over in the 19th century, thanks to the heightened popularity of laced corsets. Socialites would wear and padding to create an exaggerated hourglass figure. This trend continued to appeal to the masses until the 1910s when it was famously nicknamed the “Gibson Girl” look.
The Roaring Twenties: No Curves in Sight
The flappers of the 1920s were known for their and almost boyish body figures. Unlike the Victorian ladies, women in this decade traded their corsets for brassieres to compress their fronts and backsides.
Although the 1920s marked newfound independence for women, the societal pressure to maintain a curveless shape led to an uptick in eating disorders. According to the , girls as young as eleven years old were following calorie restriction programs in an attempt to achieve a more slender figure. The Golden Twenties were not so glamorous after all.
The Post-War Period: The Rise of the Bust
The aftermath of World War II brought the spotlight back on the hourglass body, featuring a slim waist and ample hips. But there was one characteristic that defined the era’s beauty ideals: pointy breasts. Pin-up stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were fans of the look, and their secret to achieving it was bullet bras.
Unsurprisingly, this period also witnessed the growing desire to have a bigger bust. Advertisements for weight gain pills touted slogans like “Men wouldn’t look at me when I was skinny,” as if women’s sole purpose in life was to find a husband and mate.
The Swinging Sixties: Thin With Legs for Days
The 1960s fashion was all about mini skirts, shift dresses, and psychedelic designs. In those days, Twiggy's waifish figure and long, willowy limbs were the ideal du jour – a stark departure from the voluptuous shapes idolized in the ’50s.
Underneath the modernist aesthetic and free-spiritedness, body image issues were a major concern. A 2012 study revealed that rose significantly during the 1960s and 1970s. was also at its peak. Those who were deemed too big to fit into the “ideal” body figure were discriminated against, which led to the birth of the fat acceptance movement.
The Eighties: The Glamazons Ruled
Lean, athletic, and tall are the three words that encapsulate the body standards of the so-called excess era. Supermodels of the time embodied these attributes and dominated pop culture. Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, and many others even released workout videos on VHS (how eighties!).
Female action stars like Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton also challenged the through their roles. They have shown that women can be fearless leaders who are more than capable of saving the day. No argument here.
The Nineties: The Return of the Waif
While the Glamazons continued their reign over the runways, Kate Moss had the fashion industry in a chokehold. Her petite, ultra-thin frame was dubbed “heroin chic,” a problematic term that inadvertently glamorizes drug abuse. But the most frustrating part of the waifish comeback was how it reinforced the idea that one’s worth was intrinsically tied to their physical appearance. This, in turn, fostered a culture of body shaming, which persisted well into the 2000s.
The 2010s: Curvy and Skinny
The waif-like body figure was out and “curvy in all the right places” swooped in. Think big boobs and bubble butt, but with an itty-bitty waist and a thigh gap. The look might have deviated from unnatural thinness but it was no more attainable without the help of plastic surgery. In fact, the reported that there were 21 million cosmetic procedures, including breast augmentation and Brazilian butt lift, performed worldwide in 2015 alone.
The 2020s: The Dawn of Body Neutrality
Fast forward to the present, pushback against unrealistic body ideals is increasingly more mainstream. Rather than being consumed by the quest for a perfect figure, you’re encouraged to accept your body just as it is. Not always beautiful, but never ugly. Not a flaw to fix. Not even something to worry about.
A simple self-care routine can have a meaningful impact on how you perceive your body. You don’t need a weekly spa treatment to find solace. A relaxing moment in the shower with Dove Go Fresh Cucumber & Green Tea Body Wash can do wonders. Its microbiome-gentle formula helps maintain your skin’s natural protective layers and replenish lost moisture. Plus, the added cucumber and green tea extracts keep your skin hydrated and fresh all day.
For your tresses, use Sunsilk Strong & Long Shampoo. The powerful blend of biotin and aloe vera helps protect your hair from breakage, making it look stronger and thicker.
Your underarms need the same level of attention, too! Dove 0% Aluminum Deodorant Roll-On has ¼ moisturizing cream and zero aluminum salts for naturally fresh and smooth kili-kili. What’s more, it’s suitable for those who are sensitive to antiperspirants, alcohol, and fragrance.
History has proven that trends never last. The “ideal” body figure tends to oscillate between skinny and curvy every decade or so. If inner peace is what you’re after, forcing your body to change is not the solution. The work has to come from within, and it begins by treating yourself with kindness.