Paradigm Shift: Societal Preferred Beauty Standard for Women’s Body Shape

The beauty standards for women have gone from one extreme to the other throughout history, and the fluxuation continues to occur. In the 1500’s and classic victorian era, it was preferable to be pale in complexion and on the plumper side, because this flaunted the fact that you were a wealthier woman who did not have to work for a living, and thus from not working in the sun, you would desire a paler complexion. During the Victorian Era, the standards changed to women who were fair looking, but had tiny waistlines. Corsets became popular, and I bet the term “beauty is pain” was most likely derived during this time period, because some women would even end up breaking ribs while striving for a thinner waistline.


When the roaring 20’s came around, less clothes, less hair, boyish body figure, and more makeup became the fashion fad with the coming of the flappers. During the 1930’s and 40’s which have now been labeled Hollywood’s Golden Age, women began to watch what they ate in order to achieve a thin, streamline body type. It was during this Golden Age, that women began to opt for colored foundation rather than a foundation that would make them paler, the “Golden Age” really became a golden tan.


By the 1950’s the whole housewife craze was back in, and though women aimed to be luringly curvaceous like Marilyn Monroe and other actresses to attract a man, women were supposed to be up kept and never look sloppy, and not showing much skin. The 1960’s hit, and thus began the trend for stick thin skinny like famous model Twiggy. The 1970’s reinforced the stick thin trend of the 1960’s, and it was in the 70’s that this fashion trend hit the hardest. Women strove to be skinny. The 70’s also brought the tan beach body look, and bronzers became commonplace. The 1980’s stressed fitness with the whole aerobics craze that some of use look back at our mother’s pictures and wonder what they were thinking. And by fitness, this meant skinny, but toned, however without being considered muscular.



The 1990’s were summarized by even less clothes and tan thin bodies. The 2000’s until present day represent and even more drastic scale of the 90’s, with the coveted and overall impossible strive for a thin but fit body. Although we have more leeway currently concerning what an acceptable body for a woman is, there is still the preferable thin streamline body type that most women would prefer to obtain.


A new shift that might be seen in more prevalence as the years continue, is the transition back into a curvier standard. Pop artists like Nikki Minaj, Megan Trainor, and even Beyonce all are amply allotted women in the areas of breasts and booty. One of Trainor’s lyrics even ventures to say that “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” contradicting the necessity for a “beauty skinny yet busty photoshopped model” body like popular magazines like People or Seventeen would suggest. And so in that sense, media is fighting media on what should be the beauty standard, because ladies have begun to realize that the beauty expectations have become utterly ridiculous and impossible to achieve.


3 thoughts on “Paradigm Shift: Societal Preferred Beauty Standard for Women’s Body Shape

  1. The changes that have occurred in the ideal body shape for women are just astonishing. So much of the fashion trends in the last century are due to popular culture, and many women cannot achieve the standard of beauty at any specific time because their physiology does not allow them to fit a particular body shape. As much as we would like to believe that we are coming to accept a wider range of body types for women, the fact of the matter is that we will always compare ourselves to one another. Sadly, that’s human nature. I’m not trying to be cynical, I’m just trying to be realistic. Our perceptions of beauty are largely based off of the pop culture figures of the time, like Marilyn Monroe or Twiggy. I hope that one day we can become less rigid on beauty standards and more relaxed in letting women be who they want to be.

  2. I loved your post this week, especially the pictures. It’s an extremely succinct summary of beauty standards throughout the ages. I think it’s interesting to look at the ideals of the past in order to more fully understand the pressure the media puts on women today. I agree that there is beginning to be some ‘rebellion’ aimed at the media’s general portrayal of what women should look like. I hope that more women will embrace their bodies. There’s something incredibly sad about healthy women and men striving for an ideal of ‘beauty’ that simply does not fit their body type. Especially, when this leads to eating disorders.

  3. The change in the women’s “acceptable” body shape is so unconceivably drastic. I always wonder what causes the shift. I think most of the influence has to come from what the popular culture portrays as the norm. Most of these trends seem to originate from popular hit television series. As I guy, I wonder if popular culture also influence what men find attractive. I always thought that my tastes are my tastes and that popular culture will not have to much of an influence on my personal beliefs. As you go through the history of “acceptable” body types, I try to put myself in those eras and I think that men in those different time periods would feel the same way that I do now, but yet some tastes are drastically different than mine. It dawns on me that the influence of popular culture encompasses everybody and that without it my likes and dislikes could be drastically different from what they are now. It just amazing to think about how many of my opinions are based on outside influences and not on innate feelings.

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