Beauty: Female aesthetics through the years

While paging through old issues of Azusa Pacific’s student newspaper, The Clause, I found an article titled Beauty Uncovered: The price women pay to look good. The piece — which doesn’t appear to be available in the paper’s archives — talks about the changing idea of the feminine ideal through the years. It includes this timeline:

    1700s: The pear

    • Necessity of field work makes a large, muscular physique ideal.
    • Eyebrows are shaven and replaced with press-on mouse-skin brows.
    • The average woman is a mother of eight; large hips are sign of fertility.
    Early 1800s: The rectangle

    • “Corset Mecaniques” make corsets more user-friendly.
    • Indoor lifestyle makes women pale and frail.
    • Small feet and rosebud lips accompany prim and reserved personality.
    Mid 1800s: The bell

    • Ideal woman is curvy with big hips.
    • Corset becomes controversial because of restrictiveness.
    • Clothing sizes are developed.
    Late 1800s: The hourglass

    • Beauty culture develops in the U.S.; first notions of mass-produced beauty.
    • Through early 1900s women have small waists and large updos.
    Early 1900’s: The thin rectangle

    • The average woman is 5′ 2″ tall and weighs 129 pounds.
    • The brassiere is patented in 1913.
    • In the 1920s women bind their breasts to gain more boyish figure.
    • “Flappers” show skin and women become more self-conscious.
    • Comfort and freedom are priorities; bobbed hairstyle popular.
    Mid 1900s: The hourglass

    • Marilyn Monroe embodies the ideal figure.
    • Pin-up girls make large breasts popular.
    • Large hips come back in style with the baby boom of the 1950s.
    • Shaven legs become popular, sometimes by use of sandpaper.
    • First official weight-loss drug approved by FDA in 1959.
    • The ideal thins out again in the 1970s, repeating trend of the 1920s.
    1980s: Muscular and toned

    • Excercise tapes become the new trend.
    • Muscular woman is prominent but boyish figure is popular and voluptuous curves gain popularity.

The article was written by Jennifer Miller.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

18 Responses to Beauty: Female aesthetics through the years

  1. THANK YOU. THANK YOU! I was writing a paper on womens shapes and sizes throughout the years and you have NO IDEA how helpful this was. thank you again for taking the time to write such a thing!

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  4. Kathy says:

    Great! Writing an aritcle on beauty throughout the ages, wonderful info to include.

  5. Joyce says:

    woopee!!!! I have found an excellent source of information thanks to you guys! I am creating a game for me and my boyfriend to play involving facts about the popular shapes of women’s bodies!!! Now I can beat the stupid idiot!

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  9. Max says:

    thanks so much for this, helped a lot when i was doing some work on the topic

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  11. callie rose says:

    also can u do stuff about beauty in other cultures? like arab or asian or woteva coz thats really interesting.

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  17. t says:

    Beauty, is of course, mosty a matter of the viewer, of tastes, of opinion. IMHO, nothing modern has improved on the classical ideas of feminine beauty: Everything else seems to be fads that come and go.

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