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THE

EVOLUTION OF THE
IDEAL FEMALE BODY IMAGE
1900-2014
Danielle Muntyan
THE
EVOLUTION OF THE
IDEAL FEMALE BODY IMAGE
1900-2014
Danielle Muntyan
FOREWARD 01-02
1900-19 03-24
1920-29 25-36
1930-39 37-48
1940-49 49-60
1950-59 61-74
1960-69 75-86
1970-79 87-100
1980-89 101-114
1990-99 115-126
2000-14 127-144
INDEX 145-150
C
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IN THE PAST CENTURY ALONE, THE FEMALE
BODY HAS CHANGED FROM DECADE TO
DECADE DEPENDING ON THE SOCIOCULTURAL
AND FASHION ISSUES WHICH HAVE ARISEN
THROUGHOUT THE ERAS.
A COMBINATION OF KEY ELEMENTS SUCH AS
STATUS, CLASS, CELEBRITIES, MEDIA,
HOLLYWOOD, INCLOTHES, COURTING,
DIETING, EXERCISE FADS AND TRENDS,
HAVE ALL SHAPED AND CONTRIBUTED TO HOW
FEMALES PERCIEVE THEIR BODIES.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE IDEAL FEMALE BODY
IMAGE, LOOKS AT BODILY CHANGES FROM
AS EARLY AS 1900 TO 2014. THIS BOOK
HIGHLIGHTS THE IDEAL LOOK, FIGURE AND
ICON OF EACH YEAR, ALLOWING A TIMELINE
OF BEAUTIES TO FALL IN LINE.
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY OVER 100
VISUALS HAVE BEEN CAREFULLY CHOSEN,
DOCUMENTED AND COLLATED, SHOWCASING
EVIDENT AND APPARENT CHANGE OF THE
FEMALE BODY OVERTIME.
02
1
9
0
0
-
1
9
THE EARLY 1900S, AND THE PREVIOUS DECADES, HELD
AN ALMOST UNKNOWN IDEAL BODY IMAGE IN
COMPARISON TO PRESENT DAY.
THIS ERA WAS KNOWN FOR THE IDEAL REPRESENTING
THE NATURAL BEAUTY, ECHOING FREEDOM AND
CELEBRATION OF EXPRESSION.
CURVACEOUS, TALL FEMALES WITH SOFT LINES,
CONTOURS AND VOLUPTUOUS BREASTS WERE SEEN AS THE
IDEAL BEAUTY OF THE TIME. CURVES MEANT WEALTH,
SOCIAL STATUS, CLASS AND POWER. BEING WELL FED
AND WELL DRESSED WERE SIGNIFIERS OF DOING WELL
IN LIFE AND CELEBRATING GOOD TASTE.
IN THE 1910S THE CORSETRY TREND WHICH WAS
PROMINENT THROUGH EDWARDIAN AND VICTORIAN TIMES
CAME BACK INTO FASHION ALLOWING FEMALES TO TAKE
ON AN HOURGLASS FIGURE.
IT WAS COMMON FOR THESE TO BE MADE FROM WHALE
BONE, AND BE FITTED SO TIGHT, OVERTIME WEARING
THE CORSET ITSELF COULD CAUSE INTERNAL DAMAGE
AND BREATHING PROBLEMS.
IT WAS AT THIS POINT IN TIME WHERE WOMEN
BEGAN TO SUFFER TO BECOME THE PERFECT SHAPE,
SIZE AND WEIGHT. WOMEN WERE BEING EXPOSED TO
MORE CULTURES, FASHIONS, MEDIA AND ADVERTISING
THAN EVER BEFORE, SUBSEQUENTLY ALLOWING FOR A
PREDETERMINED PRECONCEPTION OF WHAT IS AND ISNT
THE IDEAL BODY IMAGE.
04
06 05
08 07
10 09
12 11
14 13
16 15
18 17
20 19
22 21
24 23
1
9
2
0
-
2
9
THE ROARING TWENTIES SAW A DRAMATIC
CHANGE IN THE IDEAL BODY IMAGE, WHICH
CELEBRATED LOOSE FITTING CLOTHES DRAPED
OVER A BOYISH FRAME.
COMPARED TO PREVIOUS YEARS OF TIGHT
FITTED CORSETRY AND VOLUPTUOUS BREASTS,
THE 20S BOASTED BARE ARMS, MINIMAL BREASTS
AND SHORT HAIR, REPRESENTED THE FREEDOM
OF EXPRESSION.
THERE WAS A GREAT SURGE OF ANDROGYNOUS
YOUTH AND GENDER BLENDING THROUGH
FASHION AND PERSONAL INTERPRETATION.
THE 20S WERE KNOWN FOR THE FLAPPERS AND
THEIR ENVIED STYLE, TASTE AND CLASS.
DRESSES WERE BEADED TO ADD WEIGHT AND
MOVEMENT TO THE FABRIC. SIDE SLITS, LOW
WAIST LINES AND DARING CUTS, ALLOWED FOR
FLASHING ANKLES, KNEES AND ACCENTUATED
LEGS, HINTING AT SEXUALITY.
THIS FREEWHEELING LIFESTYLE CAME TO AN
ABRUPT END WITH THE ONSET OF THE GREAT
DEPRESSION IN THE EARLY 1930S.
26
28 27
30 29
31
34
36 35
1
9
3
0
-
3
9
THE 1930S SAW BOTH THE GREAT DEPRESSION
AND THE ONSET OF WWII. WITHOUT MOST NOT
REALISING AT THE TIME, THE FASHIONS AND
BODILY CHANGES WERE INFLUENCED BY THESE
SOCIAL, CULTURAL AND POLITICAL CHANGES.
THE ERA ALLOWED CURVES TO NATURALLY COME
BACK INTO FASHION, AND STYE BECAME MORE
TRADITIONAL.
SWIMWEAR CAME TO A PEAK AS WOMEN BECAME
MUCH MORE CONFIDENT IN THEMSELVES.
HEMLINES DROPPED ADDING FEMININITY TO
OUTFITS, WHILST FLORALS AND COLOUR WERE
USED TO DEFINE MEN FROM WOMEN. SKIRTS
BECAME LONGER SHOWING AND HIGHLIGHTING
A NATURAL WAISTLINE.
THE CELEBRITY IDEAL IN THIS ERA WAS HARD
TO REACH DUE TO THE AVERAGE US BMI BEING
A HEALTHY, YET HIGH FIGURE OF 23.6.
CELEBRITIES WOMEN ENVIED AND ASPIRED TO
LOOK LIKE WERE BARBARA STANSWICK WITH A
BMI OF 18.5, AND LENA HORNE WITH A BMI
OF 20.3.
38
40 39
42 41
44 43
46 45
48 47
1
9
4
0
-
4
9
THE 40S ALLOWED WOMEN TO BECOME
SEXUALISED AND IN FULL GLORY. THE IDEAL
BODY IMAGE THROUGHOUT THE DECADE WAS
SEEN AS SEXY, CURVY AND LARGE BREASTED,
WITH A FULL FIGURED, HOURGLASS SHAPE.
PIN-UP GIRLS AND PLAYBOY MAGAZINE WERE
SEEN AND PROMOTED EVERYWHERE, ADDING A
SENSE OF PERFECTION TO THE IDEAL BODY
IMAGE WHICH MOST ASPIRED TO LOOK LIKE,
OR AS A MALE, BE WITH.
NEWLY INTRODUCED BEAUTY PRODUCTS SUCH
AS MAX FACTOR PANCAKE FOUNDATION,
LIQUID SILK STOCKINGS AND PILLAR-BOX RED
LIPSTICK WERE LAUNCHED, ADDING A
FLIRTACIOUS, AND SEXY VIBE TO THE ERA.
ALL OF THESE PRODUCTS ARE SEEN IN PRESENT
DAY TO DAY LIFE, INTERNATIONAL BEAUTY
TRENDS AND FASHION MAGAZINES.
WOMEN OFTEN ASPIRED AND WORKED TOWARDS
LOOKING LIKE MARILYN MONROE AND GRACE
KELLY. BOTH OF THESE WERE SEEN AS THE
BEAUTY IDEALS OF THE DECADE DUE TO THE
INCREASED POPULARITY OF HOLLYWOOD AND
ITS SUBSEQUENT ENTICING VISAGE.
50
52 51
54
56 55
58 57
59
1
9
5
0
-
5
9
THE 50S EXAGGERATED THE 1940S IDEAL
FEMALE IDEAL WITH AN OVER EMPHASISED
WAIST, PERFECT HAIR AND FLAWLESS
MAKE-UP.
THE GLAMOUROUS IDEAL YET AGAIN STEMMED
FROM FAMOUS HOLLYWOOD ICONS AND FILM
STARS SUCH AS AUDREY HEPBURN, SOPHIA
LOREN AND MARILYN MONROE, WHOSE BMI
THROUGHOUT THE DECADE AVERAGED AT A
LOW 20, WITH THE AVERAGE BEING 23.6.
THE 50S SAW THE BEGINNING OF MAJOR
BODY INSECURITIES, IN REGARDS TO
COMPARING ONESELF TO THE IDEAL AT THE
TIME.
THE PRESSURE TO LIVE UP TO THIS IDEAL
WERE TOUGH AND DEMANDING, COMPARING
THE 50S TO THE PRESENT DAY IDEAL BODY
IMAGE. ICONS AT THE TIME WERE THAT
SUCH AS SHIRLEY MACLAINE WHO HAD A
LOW BMI OF 18.8, AND ELIZABETH TAYLOR
WHOSE BMI WAS 20.5.
62
TO ALL THE GIRLS THAT THINK
YOURE FAT BECAUSE YOURE
NOT A SIZE ZERO, YOURE THE
BEAUTIFUL ONE; ITS SOCIETY
WHOS UGLY.
MARILYN MONROE
64 63
65
68 67
70
71
74 73
1
9
6
0
-
6
9
THE 1960S WAS NICKNAMED THE SWINGING SIXTIES AND
THE HEIGHT OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION, REFLECTING
THE POLAR OPPOSITE OF FASHIONS AND THE IDEALISED
50S BODY IMAGE.
THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE 50S AND 60S IN TERMS OF
BODY SIZE AND IMAGE IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE
BIGGEST CHANGES IN HISTORY, WHEN REGARDING THE
CONSTANT EVER-CHANGING IDEAL.
FASHION, MUSIC, ART AND SURROUNDING SOCIOCULTURAL
ISSUES OF THE ERA, CHANGED THE SHAPE OF THE DECADE.
RATHER THAN HIGH-END GLAMOUR AND CURVES, A SKINNY,
PREPUBESCENT LOOK TOOK OVER THE HYPE SURROUNDING
BODY IMAGE. THE IDEAL WAS VERY SLIGHT, SLIM FRAMED,
PETITE AND BOYISH, OFTEN WITH SHORT PIXIE-CROP HAIR
AND LAVISH EYE MAKE-UP EXPRESSING PERSONALITY AND
STYLE.
FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 20S WOMEN AND MODELS
WANTED TO BECOME SLIM.
TWIGGY HAS BEEN NOTED AS THE STEROTYPICAL IDEAL OF
THE 60S IN TERMS OF BOTH FASHION AND BODY IMAGE.
THE MODEL WHOSE WEIGHT AVERAGED AT 112LBS, HAD A
DANGEROUSLY LOW BMI OF 15, ALMOST INVISIBLE BREASTS,
SLIGHT FRAME, SHORT HAIR AND A FRESH, BOYISH CHARM.
THE AVERAGE US BMI HAD RISEN FROM 23.6 TO 25.2,
WHILST IDEALS SUCH AS SOLEDAD MIRANDA AND JESSICA
LANGE, HAD BMIS OF 17.6 AND 20.4, BEING ALMOST
IMPOSSIBLE TO BOTH OBTAIN AND MAINTAIN NATURALLY.
76
78
80 79
82 81
84
86
1
9
7
0
-
7
9
THE SLENDER IDEAL OF THE 60S CONTINUED ON
THROUGH THE 70S. TOWARDS THE END OF THE
DECADE, WOMEN WERE ENCOURAGED TO DRESS WITH
MORE FREEDOM ALLOWING EXPERIMENTAL DRESS.
GARMENTS TESTED WERE THOSE SUCH AS MAXI SKIRTS,
ALLOWING PARTS OF THE BODY TO BE COVERED.
AN UNKEPT, TOUSLED LOOK VISAGE WAS COMMON AND
IDEALISED AT TIMES BY MANY, WHILST FEMALE
SEXUALITY CONTINUED TO SOAR.
IN ORDER TO KEEP UP WITH THE CHANGES IN BODY
IMAGE, DIET PILL SALES ROSE DRASTICALLY
OVERTIME. AT THE SAME TIME, KAREN CARPENTER
WAS DIAGNOSED WITH ANOREXIA NERVOSA
HIGHLIGHTING TO THE PUBLIC FOR THE FIRST TIME
SINCE 1945 WITH THE CASE OF ELLEN WEST, HOW
EATING DISORDERS CAN BE INFLUENCED THROUGH
ASPIRATIONS AND ONES ENVIRONMENT.
THE AVERAGE US BMI DROPPED SLIGHTLY TO 24.9,
WITH IDEAL BEAUTIES MORGAN FAIRCHILD AND JONI
MITCHELL BOASTING BMIS OF 18 AND 20.5.
EVEN WITH THE BMI AT AT A LOWER FIGURE, THE
IDEAL ONE WOULD WANT TO REACH IS STILL ALMOST
IMPOSSIBLE WHEN COMPARING ONESELF TO THE
CELEBRITY STATS WITHOUT EXCESSIVE DIETING,
EXERCISE OR DISORDED EATING HABITS/TRAITS.
88
90
92
94 93
95
98
100 99
1
9
8
0
-
8
9
IN THE 80S THE IDEAL CELEBRATED
LEGS IN HIGH-CUT SWIMWEAR AS WELL
AS SHOULDER PADS TOWARDS THE END
OF THE DECADE, BEING USED AS
SYMBOL OF FEMALE POWER.
60% OF PLAYBOY MODELS THROUGHOUT
THE DECADE WEIGHED 15% LESS THAN
AVERAGE FOR THEIR HEIGHT.
NAOMI CAMPBELL, CINDY CRAWFORD
AND CLAUDIA SCHIFFER WERE
IDEALISED THROUGHOUT THE DECADE,
EVEN THOUGH CRAWFORD HAD A LOW
AND UNHEALTHY US BMI OF 19.
THE AVERAGE US BMI HAD RISEN
SLIGHTLY ONCE AGAIN TO 25, WITH
IDEAL BEAUTIES SUCH AS CHERYL
TIEGS AND BO DEREK HAVING A BMI OF
17.6 AND 20.4, MAKING THE IDEAL
YET AGAIN DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE.
102
104
106
108 107
109
112 111
114
1
9
9
0
-
9
9
WOMEN IN THE 90S TOOK A TURN FOR A
HEALTHIER PHYSIQUE. TONED MUSCLES AND
SLENDER BODIES WERE CLASSED AS THE IDEAL
SHAPE, WITH WOMEN BEGINNING TO TAKE
EXERCISE AND HEALTH VERY SERIOUSLY FOR THE
FIRST TIME. SHARING A GYM WITH MALES, ALSO
PROVOKED THE THOUGHT OF WANTING TO APPEAL
TO THE OPPOSITE SEX MORE, AND SPARKED THE
NEED AND DESIRE TO WORK FOR IT.
WOMEN WANTED TO BE THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
CHARACTER, SHOWCASING A FRESH AND
NATURAL APPEARANCE.
KATE MOSS BECAME AN ICON OF THE 90S,
CLAIMING THE COVERS OF FASHION MAGAZINES
SUCH AS VOGUE AND BAZAAR SHOWCASING THE
WAIF LOOK WHICH BECAME REMINISCENT OF
THE DECADE. MOSS HAD A BMI AT THE TIME OF
16, PROMOTING A VERY UNHEALTHY IMAGE TO
HER FANS AND FASHION CULTURE AS A WHOLE.
IMPOSSIBLE IDEAL STATISTICS CONTINUE
TO DROP, WHILST THE AVERAGE US BMI IN THE
90S ROSE TO 26.3. IDEALISED AND PROMOTED
FIGURES SUCH AS TARA REID AND PENELOPE
CRUZ RANGED FROM 17.5 AND 19.6.
116
117
120 119
122 121
124 123
126
2
0
0
0
-
1
4
THE NAUGHTY NOUGHTIES SHOWCASED AN ARRAY OF
ISSUES AND DEBATES REGARDING BODY IMAGE AND THE
IDEAL.
THE SIZE 0 TREND CONTINUED TO GROW EPIDEMICALLY,
WHILST OTHERS ARGUED PLUS SIZE MODELS SHOULD BE
USED MORE FOR MAGAZINE SHOOTS TO BALANCE THE
PRESS AND THE IMPRESSION ON THE READER.
SUPER SKINNY MODELS WERE SEEN ON THE CATWALKS
AND MANY ASPIRED TO BE AS THIN AS POSSIBLE IN
RESPONSE TO THE CHANGE.
IN 2014, SEXUALITY IS AT ITS HIGHEST IN REGARDS
TO FEMALES, EVEN THOUGH BODY SHAPE HAS CHANGED
DRASTICALLY FROM SEXY TO STICK THIN.
MEDIA, MAGAZINES AND PRESS BOMBARD READERS WITH
DIETS, FITNESS REGIMES, CELEBRITIES AND THE
SKINNY IDEAL.
ISSUES REGARDING WEIGHT AND SIZE CONTINUE TO
RISE, WITH ORGANISATIONS SUCH AS B-EAT STEPPING
IN TO PREVENT, TREAT AND RAISE AWARENESS OF
EATING DISORDERS AND NATURAL BODY IMAGE.
THE AVERAGE US BMI IS 27.5 IN 2014, IS THE
HIGHEST IN HISTORY SHOWING A CONTINUED BATTLE
IN REGARDS OF WEIGHT AND IMAGE. IN COMPARISON
TO THOSE IDEALISED, KIERA KNIGHTLY BOASTS A LOW
BMI OF 17.2, WHILST NATALIE PORTMAN COMES IN
JUST HEALTHY AT 19.2.
128
130 129
131
133
136 135
138 137
140 139
142 141
NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD AS
SKINNY FEELS.
KATE MOSS
144
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X
146
YEAR P. MODEL/PHOTGRAPHER SOURCE
1900 05 A Gibson Girl Web Archive
01 06 Ethel Barrymore Web Archive
02 07 Unknown Theatre Co.
03 08 Unknown Web Archive
04 09 Redfern Web Archive
05 10 Unknown Web Archive
06 11 Germain DeLage Web Archive
07 12 Lily Elsie Web Archive
08 13 Le Corset Thylsa Fashion Ad.
09 14 Unknown Fashion Ad.
10 15 An Edwardian Lady Mori Mento
11 16 Unknown Fashion Ad.
12 17 Sofia Papazoc Web Archive
13 18 Unknown Web Archive
14 19 Unknown Web Archive
15 20 Unknown Web Archive
16 21 Unknown Vogue Fashion
17 22 Irene Castle Vogue Fashion
18 23 Padre Art Web Archive
19 24 Unknown Web Archive
20 27 Unknown Vogue US
21 28 Unknown Vogue US
22 29 Unknown Web Archive
23 30 Bebe Daniels Vogue US
24 31 Madame Chanel Web Archive
25 32 Edward Steichen Vogue UK
26 33 Edward Steichen Vogue US
27 34 Unknown Web Archive
28 35 Unknown Vogue Paris
29 36 Unknown Vogue Paris
30 39 Unknown Vogue UK
31 40 Unknown Vogue US
32 41 Unknown Vogue US
148
YEAR P. MODEL/PHOTGRAPHER SOURCE
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
YEAR P. MODEL/PHOTGRAPHER SOURCE
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
147
YEAR P. MODEL/PHOTGRAPHER SOURCE
97
98
99
2000
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
10
11
12
13
14
150 149