Beauty is extremely hard to define; it can mean very different things depending on who you ask. It is hard to pinpoint an exact ideal of beauty today. However, this wasn’t always the case. Beauty for centuries has been very strict in its ideals. Let’s take a look at a few of the beauty standards throughout history.
Beauty in Ancient Times – The Original Trendsetters
Ancient Greek beauty standards
They were considered to be timeless and very strict. These beauty standards would set the trend for beauty ideals hundreds of years after it was created. Women were called korai, and they were portrayed as tall, slender, reserved, and serene-looking women.
The artist Praxiteles even stated that his Aphrodite sculpture should show her off as a “shining statue of gold… Her color should be white mingled with red, like beautiful roses.” The ideal Greek woman was said to have had a “slim body, small breasts, broad shoulders and hips, thin waist.” Obviously, this is extremely different from the standard views of beauty today.
Ancient Egyptian beauty standards
The ancient Egyptians were known to desire women with full hips and ample bosoms. This was because men thought that they would be less likely to get into conflicts while pregnant. They also preferred women who were “plump and fleshy” for the same reason. The Ancient Egyptians also greatly valued full lips, lashes that curled to resemble an ox’s eye, and dark black irises. Historians can trace our use of cosmetics back to the ancient Egyptians, who used kohl to create dramatic smokey eyes. In fact, so many beauty practices can be traced back to this era.
Rosewater was extremely popular in skincare, which is still used today in most cleansers and toners. This is because rose water has actually been proven to reduce wrinkles and tighten pores, plus it smells incredible! The Egyptians used a red ocher paste to tint their lips and cheeks, burnt almonds to color their brows, and saffron as an eye shadow. Typically, every woman had her own makeup box with these ingredients inside and would use them on a daily basis. Ever been waxed? Or tried sugaring? Well, guess who we have to thank for that. Unwanted hair was considered unsightly in Egypt and methods of removing it were invented.
Middle age beauty standards
Middle-age beauty idealized the juxtaposition between virility and frailty. Men preferred women who were full-figured rather than stick-thin. Middle-aged women also prided themselves on their modesty; they wore veils to cover their hair, necklines that covered well past the collarbone, and dresses with long sleeves. They would wear light colors to show their piety.
The Middles Ages weren’t exactly known for their beauty standard. In fact; beauty and self-care, in general, were often neglected due to the harsh living conditions and strict religious morals. The early Middle Age was dominated by the Christian faith. The use of makeup and hygiene was almost unthinkable, relating beauty with danger and sin. This was largely due to the story of Adam and Eve, where Eve was considered a promiscuous woman for expressing her feminine energy.
By the 12th century, the use of cosmetics became popular in medieval Europe. Apocatharies and doctors were responsible for distributing beauty products. Herbal remedies were used to make potions and ointments for achieving fair skin. Also, heat water over a fire and hold the stone until it sweats. Use the sweat mixed with water and wash the face. Gemstone remedies also grew in popularity, by heating or cooling the gems and applying them directly to the skin to remove blemishes.
Victorian era beauty standards
The Victorian era was all about having the perfect appearance. Women were expected to be petite, fragile, and most importantly; pure. Anything that could be considered sensual or sexual was considered taboo. For example, women were encouraged to hold their fainting spells so as not to ruin their delicate figures.
In order for a woman to be successful in Victorian society, she had to adhere to extremely strict beauty standards. Pale skin was considered beautiful, while sun exposure could lead to permanent damage and ruddiness. Furthermore, women were expected to avoid too much physical activity in order to prevent bloating. Curves were adored while an “hourglass figure” which resembled a wasp waist, were considered the epitome of beauty.
For Victorian women, corsets became an absolute must for achieving the ideal figure. Corsets created a tiny waist and large hips by severely constricting breathing and constricting organs in order to achieve maximum growth. Moreover, women had to regularly apply whitening lotions to remove freckles or any other sign of imperfection, otherwise, they would be insulted by their suitors.
1950s beauty standards
The 50s beauty standards were largely focused on larger-than-life glamour. Women would use large amounts of hairspray and bleached their hair to look like Marilyn Monroe. If you notice, her natural color actually looks quite dark, but since she always paled it for shoots, no one – not even herself – really knew what her “real” hair looked like. The iconic hourglass figure was also extremely popular, with most women using girdles to achieve that waist-to-hip ratio.
The 1950s were a time of changing beauty standards. Although large breasts were still considered beautiful, the ideal image of “the girl next door” became more prominent. Women started to wear more practical clothing, including pantsuits and pants. Some women even refused to wear bras; considering them too restrictive or uncomfortable.
1960s beauty standards
The 60s were a time of breaking down boundaries and allowing women to take control of their lives. The idea “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” started to become popular among women. It became more common for women to wear pants, shorter skirts, and even see-through blouses.
Strawberry blonde hair was popular in the 1960s, particularly among Hollywood stars like Brigitte Bardot. Push-up bras were also extremely popular during this time period. This encouraged women to push up their breasts, so they would resemble the size of the breasts of movie stars. Like Marilyn Monroe, women would go to extreme lengths to achieve that perfect blonde hair. They bleached their hair several times until it was bright enough, and then they used pink shampoo for maintaining the color longer.
“Big is better” became a popular phrase during this time period as well. This idea was illustrated by the rise in popularity of larger breasts. Women would wear push-up bras and never leave the house without a girdle to show off their curvy figures.
1970s beauty standards
The 70s were a time when hippie culture was popular, and this impacted many women’s views on beauty. Many women started to wear their hair naturally – without having to bleach or dye their hair.
Body image was also less important during this time, and women felt free to wear clothing that wasn’t made for them. Men’s pants become more popular among the feminist movement, while some men started wearing makeup as well, including body glitter and lipstick.
1980s beauty standards
The 80s were the time of big business and excess. Keeping up with trends was extremely significant, and women got breast implants to achieve bigger breasts.
Over 1000 movies about plastic surgery have been produced ever since the 1980s, showing just how critical this issue was for women at the time. The 80s were a time when big shoulders, big hair, tight pants, and bright colors dominated the fashion scene. This image was accentuated by popular stars like Madonna.
Women could wear whatever they wanted in the 1980s; including crop tops and stilettos. Women would also dye their hair crazy colors like hot pink, blue, or green to keep up with the latest trends. In those years, women’s fashion was largely based on revealing as much as possible.
1990s beauty standards
The concept of beauty changed drastically during the 1990s. The focus was no longer on achieving an idealized state of perfection, but instead on individuality and self-confidence.
This was the first time when trends like tattoos, piercings, and multiple earrings became popular for women. For the first time, as well, bald women became trendy. The “waif” look – emphasized by extremely thin models such as Kate Moss – started to be considered beautiful. In the 90s, women started to wear more masculine clothing. They wore pantsuits, ties, and other items typically worn by men.
2000s beauty standards
The 2000s are very interesting because they present a combination of the two images presented in the 1990s. Women were no longer striving for thinness or flaunting their body parts; instead, they focused more on how they could use their bodies to express themselves.
Celebrities became extremely influential in the 2000s, which is why many people started getting plastic surgery to look like them. The era of “monsters refers” began, which to female celebrities who are successful both financially and sexually.
Nowadays, women’s beauty standards are constantly changing. Women can wear whatever they want, dye their hair in crazy colors, and get multiple tattoos if they’re inspired by celebrities like Rihanna or Angelina Jolie. There is no longer an “ideal” body shape; women feel free to embrace their bodies.
Nowadays, women are no longer pressured to change their appearance because of beauty standards. Many people believe that today’s media does not place enough emphasis on female appearance; however, this doesn’t mean that the industry itself has stopped pressuring women to look like certain celebrities. On one hand, it is wonderful that the female body is not constantly monitored by the media, but on the other hand, society still pressures women to look a certain way.
As soon as one beauty standard disappears, another appears in its place. No matter how much progress the world makes towards empowering women, there will always be new beauty standards that they are pressured to follow. Indeed, Western culture has established a way to deal with this: women are encouraged to remain within the “norm,” but they should not feel limited by it.
It is more than just clothes and makeup. Women’s beauty standards encompass their personality, behavior, and how they carry themselves. They usually want to be smart, curious, ambitious, and resilient; in other words, they are looking for women who are strong both physically and emotionally.
We hope you enjoyed this article about Beauty standards throughout history and that it has helped you understand the evolution of what is considered beautiful.