The Ideal Body Types Of Women Throughout The 20th Century

Published on 12/10/2020
ADVERTISEMENT

We all know that trends in fashion come and go. There are even times when something fades into obscurity after only a few months. The fashion industry’s ebb and flow is truly a challenge for Pinterest boards. However, it seems like clothes are not the only ones that fluctuate when it comes to popularity. The female body also seems like it goes through trends. Over the years, magazines have shown people what is deemed hot and not. A famous female celebrity is often considered the epitome of beauty in a particular era. Keep reading to see the different “ideal” body types of women throughout a century.

The Ideal Body Types Of Women Throughout The 20th Century

The Ideal Body Types Of Women Throughout The 20th Century

1910s – The Gibson Girl

Back then, publishing photos in magazines was too costly, so companies would hire illustrators in order to get their point across. One of the more famous women’s magazine illustrators at that time was Charles Gibson. This piece you are looking at was actually created by the artist! He depicted wealthy women who wore tight corsets which gave them a ramrod-straight posture and an hourglass figure. Corsets can cause difficulty in breathing, so it must have been tough for women to wear them.

1910s – The Gibson Girl

1910s – The Gibson Girl

A Gibson Girl – Camille Clifford

Speaking of the Gibson Girl, the Belgian-born stage actress Camille Clifford was considered to be a real-life version. She actually joined a contest which was aimed at finding a woman who resembled a Charles Gibson drawing and she won in the end! The judges thought that among the candidates, Clifford was the one who looked like the illustrations the most. She had an hourglass figure and towering coiffure, both of which were defining elements of the Gibson Girl style.

A Gibson Girl – Camille Clifford

A Gibson Girl – Camille Clifford

1920s – The Flapper

The Gibson Girl and the It-girl of the roaring ‘20s did not really have much in common. The flapper sported short hair and a corset was not part of her wardrobe. The hourglass figure and the dramatic updo were no longer hip. When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally granted the right to vote, after nearly a century of protesting and fighting for this right! After this political upheaval, fashion changed.

1920s – The Flapper

1920s – The Flapper

A Lean Beauty – Margaret Gorman

In 1921, Margaret Gorman was crowned Miss America at the age of 16. Her athletic ability, outgoing personality, and past accomplishments had earned her the Miss District of Columbia title before she became the first ever Miss America. Her fans believed that the beauty queen’s body type was the ideal of that decade. You can see that this was very different from the Gibson Girls’ curviness from the previous era. At that time, people admired women who had lean bodies!

A Lean Beauty – Margaret Gorman

A Lean Beauty – Margaret Gorman

1930s – The Soft Siren

While the Roaring Twenties was fun and iconic, the era wasn’t around forever. The stock market crashed and the boxy flapper dresses also fell off the radar. In the ‘30s, more fitted dresses were the clothing of choice of women. These dresses hugged the curves of women’s body better. If this had happened a few years earlier, it would have been quite a faux pas! As they say, “Times do change for a lady of fashion.”

The Soft Siren Of The ‘30s

The Soft Siren Of The ‘30s

A Hollywood Stunner – Dolores Del Rio

In those days, many people thought that Dolores del Rio had the ideal body. In the words of kids today, she was a true body inspo! Her body was described as “warmly curved” and “roundly turned” by the magazine Photoplay, which also said the Mexican star had the best figure among Hollywood actresses. Dolores del Rio went on to become one of the most important stars of Mexican cinema’s Golden Age.

A Hollywood Stunner – Dolores Del Rio

A Hollywood Stunner – Dolores Del Rio

1940s – The Star-Spangled Girl

A lot of changes came with the 1940s. Let us not forget the Second World War happened during this decade. The global conflict pretty much affected everything, including what people see as the ideal body type. Broad shoulders and long limbs became desirable. It was also during this era that the “bullet” or “torpedo” bra was introduced. In general, women’s fashion at that time was about hourglass silhouettes with masculine details: nipped-in high waist tops, padded shoulders, and A-line skirts which came down to the knees.

1940s – The Star-Spangled Girl

1940s – The Star-Spangled Girl

The Pin-Up Girl – Betty Grable

Rosie the Riveter is surely familiar to you! She is the female factory worker in the iconic poster that became popular in the ‘40s. Betty Grable may not have been as brawny as the cultural icon, but we daresay that the American actress was just as popular. Aside from acting, Grable was also a pin-up girl, and she was the most admired! All the men who were in the military probably had a picture of her in their lockers.

The Pin-Up Girl – Betty Grable

The Pin-Up Girl – Betty Grable

1950s – The Hourglass Figure

In the ‘40s, women who were slightly curvaceous were considered attractive. In the ‘50s, things went a step further. The hourglass shape rose in popularity. Strong shoulders and thin physique were no longer thought to be desirable. In fact, magazines even began to put ads for various weight gainers which claimed to be able to widen the hips! Hip and butt padding was also sold to help “round out” women’s figures.

1950s – The Hourglass Figure

1950s – The Hourglass Figure

The Ideal Body – Marilyn Monroe

We are pretty sure the lady in this picture needs no introduction. Without a doubt, you know Marilyn Monroe! After all, she had the perfect hourglass figure. At roughly 118 pounds, her measurements of 34-24-35 were remarkably similar to the estimated curves of movie star Grace Kelly (35-22-35). It is easy to see why many women in the ‘50s were so envious of the star. Monroe once said, “The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up.”

The Ideal Body – Marilyn Monroe

The Ideal Body – Marilyn Monroe

1960s – The Twig

This just shows that it is possible for the ideal female body type to change so drastically within just a few years. After a decade, the twig overthrew the hourglass figure. All of a sudden, it was no longer deemed fashionable to have curves. This time, people were all about narrow hips, small waists, and thin limbs! A boyish frame was preferred. Childbearing hips were either slimmed down or hidden beneath chic yet shapeless shift dresses.

1960s – The Twig

1960s – The Twig

A Skinny Legend – Twiggy

As always, there was a particular celebrity who became the poster child of the female ideal body type in the ‘60s. It was none other than the British cultural icon Lesley “Twiggy” Lawson, who can be described as doll-faced, petite, and super slender. She managed to keep her girlish figure ever since she started modeling at the young age of 16 in 1965. Her gangly frame somehow symbolized a carefree and independent life.

A Skinny Legend – Twiggy

A Skinny Legend – Twiggy

1970s – The Disco Diva

The pendulum swings again! In the ‘70s, curves were appreciated once more by the general public. However, the situation was not quite the same as it was in the ‘50s. During this era, people had to fit in particular trends which were a bit more out there. We want to remind you that the ‘70s was the disco era! However, the party girl was still pressured to keep a slim-hipped and flat-stomached body to rock the fashions popular at the discotheque.

1970s – The Disco Diva

1970s – The Disco Diva

Charlie’s Angels Stars

You cannot talk about women of the ‘70s and not mention Charlie’s Angels! Jake Jackson, Jaclyn Smith, and Farrah Fawcett were considered three of the most famous actresses in those days. On top of that, many people thought that the stars truly embodied sexiness! Farrah Fawcett may have been petite like Twiggy, but the former had a larger bust. The Charlie’s Angels star was also considered one of the most beautiful women of the decade.

Charlie’s Angels Stars

Charlie’s Angels Stars

1980s – The Supermodel

In the ‘80s, a new concept was introduced to the world – the “supermodel.” It was a title bestowed upon women who had long legs and are taller than average. You basically could not go through one episode of an MTV show without getting at least a glimpse of any of these gorgeous women. During that time, supermodels captured the attention of the world. Aside from the runway, they were also frequently featured in pop culture.

1980s – The Supermodel

1980s – The Supermodel

Taller Than Most – Rachel Hunter

Just under six feet tall, model Rachel Hunter is taller compared to most men. This is really evident when she stood next to Rod Stewart, her ex. He was just 5’10”, after all. We are pretty sure that you still remember her from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Aside from appearing in different music videos, she also graced the covers of various magazines, including Vogue, Rolling Stone, Playboy and Sports Illustrated.

Taller Than Most – Rachel Hunter

Taller Than Most – Rachel Hunter

Another Icon – Elle Macpherson

On the topic of supermodels of the ‘80s, there is a certain lady that we have to mention – Elle Macpherson! In case you didn’t know, she is still going strong. In fact, the Australian model was featured in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated in 2014. She holds the record for the most cover appearances for the magazine, at five times. In 1989, Time coined the nickname “The Body” for her.

Another Icon – Elle Macpherson

Another Icon – Elle Macpherson

1990s – The Waif

By now, you should have already seen the pattern in these body ideal trends. It seems like the following decade is always a reaction to the one before it. We saw the waif become popular in the ‘90s. This type of woman was short and thin with few curves, if she had any. Some people call this look “heroin chic.” As you can see, this is really different from what the ideal body in the ‘80s.

1990s – The Waif

1990s – The Waif

Talented And Gorgeous – Winona Ryder

If you are looking for a woman that would fit that description, look no further! Winona Ryder is the poster child of this look. The gamine had a round, doll-like face and delicate shoulders, pretty much a lollipop build. Her costar Ben Stiller once said, “She’s like a little figurine for the coffee table!“ This likely helped her career to some extent. Of course, she is a talented actress at the same time.

Talented And Gorgeous – Winona Ryder

Talented And Gorgeous – Winona Ryder

2000s – The Buff Beauty

At the turn of the millennium, the trend changed once again. We said goodbye to short, skinny girls and saw the rise of taller, more athletic women, who graced different front pages of magazines! The pale, gaunt, and glass-eyed look popular in the ‘90s was no longer popular. It is now the era of airbrushed tans and visible abs. Although there was more emphasis on curves in the 2000s than in the ‘90s, it was still different from the ‘50s or ‘80s.

2000s – The Buff Beauty

2000s – The Buff Beauty

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” – Gisele Bundchen

In the early 2000s, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen became a household name! Rolling Stone even called her “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” when she graced the cover of the magazine. She is not in her prime anymore, but she continues to slay it by modeling for different clothing companies. What’s more, she is still included in articles about the “Most Influential People in Fashion” and “Most Beautiful Women in the World.”

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” – Gisele Bundchen

“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” – Gisele Bundchen

2010s – The Booty Babe

We already said this. It seems like every trend goes back into fashion after some time. This is also the case for the hourglass figure. The “bootylicious” look grew in popularity once more thanks to stars like Queen Bey. The New York Times even ran an article about the look. Some sought the help of personal trainers while others went to plastic surgeons to achieve the look. In the 2010s, curves were back, but there is more emphasis on big bums and wide hips!

2010s – The Booty Babe

2010s – The Booty Babe

Showing Off Her Assets – Kim Kardashian

If you are not familiar with Kim Kardashian, you probably have been living under a rock. Aside from her hit reality TV shows and famous husband, she is also known for her “assets.” In fact, there is a particular photo featuring a bottle of champagne which drives the point home. In 2015, Time magazine included her on their list of 100 most influential people. Kim Kardashian has also ventured into the shapewear business with Skims.

Showing Off Her Assets – Kim Kardashian

Showing Off Her Assets – Kim Kardashian

Another Poster Child – Jennifer Lopez

She may not be as famous as Kim Kardashian now, but people still know Jennifer Lopez. There is no way we would not mention her here. After all, she even had a hit song called “Booty.” For us, the star was made to be included in lists like this one. Actually, different parts of the globe have different beauty ideals. Keep reading to see what they are. You might be surprised by some of them.

Another Poster Child – Jennifer Lopez

Another Poster Child – Jennifer Lopez

Beauty Standards In The U.S.A.

Depending on the country, the perceptions and desires of body type are different. People around the world admire different features. They want to look a certain way that is different from many others. You can tell from this list that the beauty ideal in the U.S. is tall and curvy, with blonde hair and blue eyes. However, Americans also adore light brown eyes. In many ways, the country does set the tone for western culture. There are celebrities in many shapes and sizes, so this typical ideal is quite interesting.

Beauty Standards In The U.S.A.

Beauty Standards In The U.S.A.

Beauty Standards In China

With regard to women, there has always been a specific look in China. They also have their own beauty ideal, which are somewhat different to the majority. Many women in China aspire to be really skinny. Having very pale skin and being very thin are a few of the main aspirations that women have. They also want big eyes, a specific nose shape, and a small waist. In terms of makeup, women try to make their skin look paler.

Beauty Standards In China

Beauty Standards In China

Beauty Standards In Egypt

Diversity can be seen in the Middle East since there are many people and many different countries that have their own views of beauty. For example, in Egypt, women who are curvy with a larger upper body are seen as beautiful. It is believed that in Egyptian culture, these women are found more attractive in general. Cleopatra was envisioned to have such a body type. The overall culture is really conservative and concealed. This is quite different from western countries.

Beauty Standards In Egypt

Beauty Standards In Egypt

Beauty Standards In Switzerland

The Swiss perceive women who are slim and rather tall as the most desirable. There is also a preference for brown hair. As for eyes, the most attractive for the Swiss are fair eyes. This is fascinating because the stereotypical Swiss woman is actually blonde and has blue eyes. Something must have occurred in each place for the norms to be created. However, the next descriptions are definitely something else.

Beauty Standards In Switzerland

Beauty Standards In Switzerland

Beauty Standards In Bulgaria

According to Bulgarian beauty standards, a woman must have a large bust, a small, thin waist, and wide hips to be considered beautiful. Aside from that, the ideal is that women are small-boned and have long fingers. Bulgarian women are often thin and have dark-colored hair. Usually, they have fresh and moisture-filled skin that gives them a glowy look. The weather in Bulgaria is a big factor why the women have this feature.

Beauty Standards In Bulgaria

Beauty Standards In Bulgaria

Beauty Standards In The United Kingdom

A bit of curvature and shape are well-desired in the U.K. A petite to medium-sized upper body is also preferred. The ideal height for women is just under 6 feet. The more accurate estimate of the ideal is 5-feet-7. People have different opinions in different countries. The desired beauty and ideal body type are also different in every country. Women who have defined cheek and collarbones are seen as beautiful in the UK.

Beauty Standards In The United Kingdom

Beauty Standards In The United Kingdom

Beauty Standards In The Philippines

The ideal beauty in the Philippines is a woman with long, dark hair, an angular jaw and face, and a small forehead. In addition, women are petite but really busty as well. The beauty standard revolves a lot around pale skin color. It is believed that many women scrub a lot as well as use products which make their skin lighter. In many Asian countries, this is actually a major beauty standard.

Beauty Standards In The Philippines

Beauty Standards In The Philippines

Beauty Standards In France

The supermodel look is embodied by the French. The two are pretty much aligned, after all. The French like particularly tall and skinny women. These women can even embody the girl next door or have a tom-boy look, but they are tall and petite in every aspect. Usually, French women are natural. They work with what they have. They aim to accentuate their qualities, and they do not usually like plastic surgery and fake features.

Beauty Standards In France

Beauty Standards In France

Beauty Standards In Bangladesh

The beauty ideal in Bangladesh includes brown eyes and simply perfect, flawless skin that glows. The women are known for their radiant and glowing skin. Long and dark hair are commonly seen as well. Thick eyebrows, bigger eyes, and a sharp nose are also within the ideal. Bodywise, the preference leans to a curvier figure, but the emphasis is on hair and facial features – something that we have not seen a lot of in other countries.

Beauty Standards In Bangladesh

Beauty Standards In Bangladesh

Beauty Standards In Chile

Chile’s beauty ideal and fashion trends actually date back to a time that was more natural, when people dealt in farming and lived off of the land. Thus, the beauty ideal in women for Chilean people is someone who has thinner eyebrows and wear little makeup or none at all. However, there is also preference for blonde hair, which is quite uncommon in Chile. A lot of women color their hair blonde and many advertisements for blonde hair can be seen across the country.

Beauty Standards In Chile

Beauty Standards In Chile

Beauty Standards In Italy

The beauty ideal in Italy is somewhat similar to the beauty standards in France in a way that tall and skinny are the typical body structure. Italian women often have clear skin and thin eyebrows. They usually prefer to wear makeup with a bit of color on the eyelids and lips. Being skinny is desired but a look which is somewhat soft and seems pleasant for one to touch is also ideal.

Beauty Standards In Italy

Beauty Standards In Italy

Beauty Standards In Nigeria

Lighter skin is associated with higher class work and wealth in Nigeria. Because of this, skin lightening products are sought out by many people who want to get associated with the higher class. When it comes to shape, there is preference for thicker and curvy women. This is because being thin is an indication of sickness or bad health. Therefore, it is ideal to be curvy and thick in Nigeria. Being somewhat bigger is a sign of good health for them.

Beauty Standards In Nigeria

Beauty Standards In Nigeria

Beauty Standards In Romania

There is heavy pressure on Romanian women to be skinny, so smoking and dieting are part of their culture. Aside from that, they are heavily influenced by western ways when it comes to plastic surgery, which is pretty common and very available. There is also expectation for women to dress up, whatever their profession may be. A teacher in heels is not an uncommon sight. Nevertheless, there is a fine line between being conservative and being revealing. In fact, women are condemned if they show too much. The beauty ideal values a trim body type which is well-built on the bust. Maintained nails and long hair are also preferred.

Beauty Standards In Romania

Beauty Standards In Romania

Beauty Standards In Serbia

The facial beauty ideal in Serbia promotes big lips and big, blue eyes. Body-wise, Serbian women who are thin with a big bust and long legs are seen as beautiful. Aside from that, being well-kept is the ideal, so women have their nails and hair done. Many models in the world are from Serbia. A list of the most attractive women in the world would not be complete without Serbs on it.

Beauty Standards In Serbia

Beauty Standards In Serbia

Beauty Standards In South Africa

When it comes to beauty ideals and body shape, South Africa embodies a variety of ideals. It is to be expected that there are many preferences since it has many cultures. However, having a small waist, a bigger bottom, and wide hips is one of the main beauty ideals. Rich in its culture, South Africa is somewhat divided. Lighter skin is preferred amongst black people while tanned skin is what white people like. When it comes to eye color, many desire fair eyes.

Beauty Standards In South Africa

Beauty Standards In South Africa

Beauty Standards In Ukraine

You might think that in Ukraine, blue eyes and blonde hair are preferred but actually, dark hair and really defined cheekbones are the beauty ideal. Slim and pale women are seen as beautiful, though chubby women were valued as the ideal up until the 1900s. A plastic or fake look is not valued in Ukraine. They prefer a more natural look. They also have no expectations of women looking like models.

Beauty Standards In Ukraine

Beauty Standards In Ukraine

Beauty Standards In Peru

Just like Chile, Peru values their indigenous people’s beauty but it is not their ideal. What is admired is the western vision of beauty. They also associate it with wealth. A western look of skinny and tall women with blue eyes and blonde hair is the beauty ideal in the South American country. Peru has different origins and a multitude of cultures. They dread the idea of their skin darkening. Many who work outdoors actually cover up in order to avoid melanin production and prevent their skin from darkening.

Beauty Standards In Peru

Beauty Standards In Peru

Beauty Standards In The Netherlands

Dutch women are tall and slender. They also have elongated features. These things might be the reason why the modeling industry often welcome Dutch women, who are, on average, some of the tallest women in the world. The average height of women in the European country is 5 feet and 7 inches (169.9 centimeters). They are also often very natural looking. While blonde is definitely much desired, it is not always a major preference. It is a commonality, though.

Beauty Standards In The Netherlands

Beauty Standards In The Netherlands

Beauty Standards In Argentina

A curvy figure with wide hips and a slim waist is admired in Argentina. Argentinian women also often wear accentuating makeup, making sure to add pops of color as well as drastic lashes. Facial preferences include natural and clear skin, though they also like very attention-drawing lips and big eyes. Other common finds are tight-fitting clothes. It was reported that Argentina was once the top importer of silicone implants (per capita) in the world.

Beauty Standards In Argentina

Beauty Standards In Argentina

Beauty Standards In Kenya

Some admirations in Kenya include dark skin, tall foreheads, elongated necks, and skinny bodies. In addition, there is a preference for bright colors both in clothing and in makeup. Short hair is also a common trait in Kenyan culture and amongst Kenyans. Heavy jewelry made of elephant tusks or stones are also commonly worn by the women of the Masai tribe to stretch their earlobes. Elongated earlobes show a woman’s status in the tribe.

Beauty Standards In Kenya

Beauty Standards In Kenya

What’s Next

Our takeaway from this is that perfection does not exist. This is especially true in terms of things like body ideals! It is just people who create unrealistic standards over something which most people cannot control. In the end, what we can do is to simply look in the mirror and be happy with what we see. If you are not happy, perhaps it is best if you work on it.

What’s Next

What’s Next

ADVERTISEMENT