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.

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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 pcNielsen.com.

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!
    xoxo
    Morgan

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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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_body Everything else seems to be fads that come and go.

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