“Ideal Feminine Body” through the last century

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 If you believe that a particular kind of body is ideal then you are in for a surprise. The idea of the perfect body has always been in flux. The article aims at showing you the fluctuating idea of “sexy” through the last century.


The ideal feminine beauty meant tall and slender body with voluptuous bust, wide hips and a tiny waist. This exaggerated figure was achieved by the use of corsets which increased the hip-waist ratio, thus giving the wearer a perfect curvy hourglass figure. This ‘ideal’ figure was first introduced by Charles Gibson’s creation- The Gibson Girl, but soon the look was brought in real life by models and actresses. The Gibson Girl- with her tiny waist, large bust and wide hips- became the epitome of beauty in this decade.



The 1920s was a vast reversal from the previous decade. It seems like a completely different era. Women ditched their rib breaking corsets and wear lose clothes. This was the era of the ‘Flappers’, women who are far more casual and easy going with an androgynous style. They had hair cut short to express their freedom from the corset age. Women with boyish figures had a time to celebrate as the compass of ideal beauty turned towards them. This era saw women in short dresses, smoking and driving cars. Bare arms, knees, legs and ankles was normal and large breasts were frowned upon. Women wore bras to flatten their chest. Tanning came into fashion as it represented a sporty, boyish appearance. Flappers were many a times described as ‘independent’, ‘reckless’ and ‘undisciplined’. The style was also a rejection of Victorian beauty standards. The style died with the coming of great depression.


1930- 1940s

This is also the fashion during wartime. It brought many traditional styles back while keeping a few elements of the previous decade. Curvaceous figure regained it aura and became the ideal shape. Though women still wore skirts, they were longer. More florals and girly colours raided the market in contrast the previous androgynous decade. Women aspired for more curvy bodies rather than the boyish flapper style. Advertisements advised on how to appear less skinny. This was an era when celebrities were similar to an average woman.



The post war era was a continuance of the 30s with curves still in fashion. A bust, voluptuous hourglass look was an asset and Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly were among the ideal beauties. Women were more than ever aware of how they looked when they left the house and so took advantage of cosmetic products. Flawless skin and curvaceous figure were the look of this age.



Again we see a leap in a new world, a change in contrast from the last 3 decades. The 60s were all about slender-skinny body with very long legs. This decade is also called ‘Twiggy’ after a celebrated model of this decade- Twiggy Lawson. Thin and androgynous was after-all back, reminding us of the flappers. Twiggy was almost flat chested, a thin frame, short hair and a very boyish look. The decade did not consider a curves or mature look as beautiful rather women who appeared in her early teens was the ideal beauty. The later 60s saw the coming of long straight hair too and there were still women who considered full figured hourglass as beautiful



The 70s came with the theme of ‘thin is in’. The decade saw many cases of anorexia as tried to achieve the ideal thin twiggy-like figure. A singer- Karen Carpenter- died because of her diet of starvation level. There was a significant rise in diet pills. Long hair and less makeup were the images of the ideal beauty. Advertisements on how to lose weight in days were on the rise.


Slim was yet in but more emphasis was given on body fitness, maybe because of the number of anorexic cases the previous decade saw. Toned, not muscled, bodies were the new sexy. Video tapes of exercises and aerobics came into being, introducing an alternate method to lose weight rather than crash dieting to achieve the perfect body. The decade said, “Thin isn’t all, you must be strong too.” Tall, slim and strong body was the ideal body. While achieving the curves or skinny was difficult for an average woman, though achievable, the ideal body of 1980s was outside the grasp of common woman. There was a rise of super models like Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer.


This was a very confusing era. Women had to have an exaggeratedly skinny body yet large breasts like Pamela Anderson in ‘Baywatch’. Kate Moss became popular because of her boyish-skinny body on the campaign of Calvin Klein-1993 thus giving rise to the terms ‘heroin-chic’ and ‘waif look’. The idea of strength and fitness of the previous decade took a back seat as thin-bony appearance became the ideal body. Kate Moss’s famous words are, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” The average woman’s world came crashing down as the ideal beauty standards kept going out of hand.



The 21st century brought the Victoria Secret models who are tall and thin with long legs and big breasts. Long hair, shiny and toned bodies became the perfect figure to aspire for. Sunk-in cheeks with high cheek bones, flat stomach and skinny body is now the on going ideal body. Barbie dolls are a product of this slender form-style which feed young girls that the ‘ideal body’ is much different from the ‘normal body’. As young as 12 year old girls are a part of the modelling industry to showcase what a woman must look like- flawless skin, tanned complexion, big eyes, tall and slim. The actresses strive to achieve this body image to maintain their career while the average woman keeps losing her self confidence due to the vast gap between herself her and her ideal figure.


Women should realize that ‘ideal body’ has become similar to fashion which keeps changing with time and that every woman is different.

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