The Evolution of the "Perfect" Body

By: Jenny Assaf, Regular Contributor

This past week I had to create a presentation for school about a social issue that affects our daily lives. I chose body image because it is not talked about enough at my school and I wanted to learn more about its history. I decided to look back on how the media has portrayed the “perfect body” in each decade starting from 1900 until now. I looked at past female idols such Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, and Twiggy, up through the women who currently have the “perfect body” such as Miranda Kerr and Kim Kardasian. To really compare each icon throughout the 110 years, I printed out photos and placed them in chronological order. There was a clear, evident cycle I noticed every few decades that shocked me.

The transformation of the “perfect body” each decade slowly became predictable. The ideal female body of the 1900s to the 1910s was a woman who was tall, with a small waist, big hips, and emphasized breasts as a way to channel feminine beauty. Then we arrive at the 1920s when women wanted to conceal their curves and breasts, a practice we now call the “boyish body type.” Jumping to the 1930s, women began to wear tighter dresses and decided to flaunt their curves even more than in the 1900s. Mae West, who was the 1930s body icon, once said, “Cultivate your curves- they may be dangerous but they won’t be avoided.”

In the 1940s woman began to slenderize their bodies, moving far from the desired curves. When Marilyn Monroe came into the media in the 1950s, her body was a huge aspiration for many women. She was famous for her long legs and busty figure. In order to achieve Marilyn’s body type, diet plans were created for the everyday woman to gain weight. Advertisements such as “New easy way to add 5-15LBS- Quick!” or “Amazing scientific plan adds new attractive pounds and inches as fast as you want… or you pay nothing!” were distributed all over the place. It was the curvy girl movement, which lasted for only a decade until Twiggy came into the picture in the 1960s.


Twiggy was slender and long-legged. She was known for her boyish body type, similar to the body types of the 1920s. Her body was what made most women crave a thin body. The 1970s was all about a slim, toned, and athletic body, which Farrah Fawcett portrayed. The athletic body type became even more popular in the 80s when aerobic exercise workouts and jazzercising became the new fab. This body type was called “hardbody.” When the 90s came along, Kate Moss introduced the extremely thin body with visible bone structure and minimal curves. Her body influenced a lot of what the fashion model body type is today. From the 2000s until today, the Victoria’s Secret models took hold of the “perfect body” title with their thin bodies, curves, and long legs. However, more recently, woman such as Kim Kardashian have been winning the ideal body type with their small waists and curvy hips.

After this research, it became evident how inconsistent the “perfect body” has been exampled in the media. The “perfect body” has been going through a constant cycle for decades from thin waist and big hips to the boyish body to athletic and so on. With this in mind, there is no point of comparing our bodies to what is socially acceptable because before we know it, the media will introduce a new body type. Women and the media have loved a variety different body types over the past 110 years, so WE should love our bodies even if they aren’t trending at the moment.

Let's Chat! How can we better embrace the bodies we have instead of chasing after the "ideal" bodies media or products WANT us to think we need? Share your thoughts here!

About Jenny

jenny_a.jpgJenny is a 17-year-old high school student based in San Francisco, CA. She has always had a passion for fashion design and illustration, and dreams of pursuing fashion in college and the future. Currently, Jenny is working sewing together an 8-piece collection for Spring 2016 and starting a fashion lifestyle blog! Other than fashion, Jenny loves being surrounded by many friends and family.



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