3,000 Years of Women's Ideal Beauty Standards

3,000 Years of Women's Ideal Beauty Standards

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that eye can change depending on the location and time period. Buzzfeed had explored this idea by creating a video with models to depict how the ideals of a women's body had shifted throughout history.

We all have probably imagined how the women of the time period had dressed, but we probably didn't think about what was expected of body types. The white bathing suits that the women are wearing highlight the differences in body structure, doing away with other historical elements like clothing or jewelry.

It goes to show that there is no right or wrong way to see it when it comes to women's body types and that all of them were beautiful at one point in history, not just the one's that frequently occur today.

1. Ancient Egypt (1292-1069 B.C.)

Women in this era were independent, and enjoyed things that would take centuries for women to enjoy again. Ancient Egyptian culture was positive towards sex, and sex before marriage was widely acceptable. Women were allowed to own property without their husbands and could initiate divorces, just like modern society. They would often inherit titles like Pharaoh when the previous holder would die.

Art from this era depicted women with long, braided hair, which highlighted symmetrical facial features. Their bodies were slender, with skinny waists and slim shoulders.

2. Ancient Greece (500-300 B.C)

Aristotle called the female body that of a "deformed male". Ancient Greece was a male-dominated society, and had to live up to high standards of perfection. Women were expected to look masculine, and were shamed for not looking like it. They Ancient Greeks were focused more on males and their beauty standards anyway at the time period.

Nudity was also widely accepted in Ancient Greece, but statues of females were usually covered up. It is believed that Aphrodite of Cnidus was the first nude female sculpture in classical Greece, which depicted plump, full-figured bodies.

3. Han Dynasty (206-220 A.D)

Medieval Chinese society was patriarchal , and resulted in little roles for women in the society to take on.

In the Han Dynasty time period, women were expected to have small, delicate bodies with radiantly pale skin. They were also expected to have long, straight black hair, red lips, white teeth, and a dainty walk with small feet. Because of this, foot binding was common, which involves binding the foot at a young age to achieve the small, ideal foot. To achieve the slender body, breast binding was also widely practiced.

4. Italian Renaissance (1400-1700)

The Italian Renaissance was Catholic, and they were supposed to represent purity, so women were separated from men in both public and at home. Renaissance women had their value linked with their status to men that had a role in her life, whether it be her father, husband, or God.

Beauty standards were thought to reflect her husband's social status. This meant that plump, rounded bodies where the ideal. Also strawberry blonde hair, pale skin, and high foreheads were also common, and considered the norm and beautiful.

5. Victorian England (1837-1901)

The Victorian Era lasted the length of Queen Victoria's reign. She was an influential figure of the time, a young queen who was a wife and mother. She embodied the ideal views of womenhood at the time. Family and motherhood were valued greatly in Victorian society.

To represent these values, women often wore corsets, which clenched their waists in as tightly as possible and created the widely desired hourglass figure. These pieces were painful and restricted their range of motion, and were used to flaunt their separation from physical labor. Women wore their long hair as a symbol of their femininity. They would usually wear it it up-dos.

6. Roaring Twenties (1920s)

The Woman's Suffrage Movement ended in the Twenties, which gave them the right to vote. Women often held down jobs after World War I and wanted to continue working. Alcohol Prohibition caused the rise of liquor stores, and with the boom of "talkies", created flappers.

Women preferred the boyish look overall, and liked to hide their waists and wear bras that flattened their breasts. Beauty was a rectangular, curve-less body.

7. Hollywood Golden Age (1930s-1950s)

The 1930s through 1960s gave rise to the Hollywood Golden Age. During that time, Hays Codes were going strong, and these limited the roles that women could take on in films, so the ideal beauty standards were widespread.

Ideal bodies were like that of Marilyn Monroe's: curvy bodies and slim waists with medium-sized breasts.

8. Swinging Sixties (1960s)

Women benefited greatly from the Women's Rights Movement. They had access to birth control, and gained more rights. London had a huge influence on sixties fashion, and mini skirts and A line pieces were in style.

Twiggy, a popular model at the time changed the way that the ideals were seen. The ideal body of a woman had shifted from curvy to tall and thin.

9. Eighties (Supermodel Era) (1980s)

Jane Fonda started the aerobics fad in the eighties, which pushed for people to get active and healthy. Women began to strive for fit figures.

Supermodels like Cindy Crawford were the ideal of this era: tall, slim, athletic, but still buxom. There was also a rise in cases of anorexia. Experts think that this may be due to all the emphasis on exercise.

10. Nineties (Heroin Chic) (1990s)

After all the emphasis on health and fitness, fashion took a turn in the opposite direction. Thin, petite and pale described the ideal of this time period. Kate Moss called this the heroin chic look in the 90s, because heroin use had gone up.

11. Present Day (Postmodern Beauty) (2000s-Today)

From the 2000s and so forth, all of these standards have seemed to come together. Women are expected to skinny, but not too skinny. Flat stomachs are in, but women should also have large breasts and a prominent butt, which wasn't really expected until now.

Plastic surgery has gone up to achieve these ideals, and people have been using selfies as reference in order to have it done. What is the world coming to? I wonder what the next trend will be.

What body type did you best match up to? Which was your favorite era? What do YOU find beautiful? <3


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What Guys Said 19

  • Normal female body types is really not a new idea, it just is for America. A lot of other nations around the world don't have any problem with it except for Europe with their anorexic ideals of a perfect woman's body.

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    • You have a point 😛

    • I have to agree. European countries, specifically Britain, are way worse when it comes to body type standards. And they're meaner! Like, do you ever watch the documentaries they have like Supersized vs. Superskinny or Fat Doctor? People there are so mean. They throw eggs at people, call them names, point, laugh, mock, harass... I know some heavy people in America and just as many who don't like them but I've never heard of a case where they get eggs and milk thrown at them in public.

  • Well technically actually the beauty standard of human perfection for thousands of years has been the golden ratio.

    For females it is this.

    Ideal waist circumference = height x 0.382

    Ideal shoulder circumference = ideal waist circumference x 1.618

    Ideal hip circumference = ideal waist circumference x 1.42

    What women who adhere to these measurements look like.

    s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/.../...4a7f112b36.jpg

    Here the male measurements

    Your flexed arms should be 150% larger than the circumference of your non-dominant wrist (wrist measurement x 2.5).

    Your shoulder circumference should measure 1.618 times larger than your waist (waist x 1.618).

    Your chest circumference should be 550% larger than the circumference of your non-dominant wrist (wrist measurement x 6.5).

    Your upper leg circumference should be 75% larger than your knee circumference (knee measurement x 1.75).

    Here is German strongman Eugen Sandow who built his body exactly to the golden ratio measurements, here was the result.

    cdn.muscleforlife.com/.../eugen-sandow.jpg

    The story behind that enigmatic statement brings us to what’s known as the divine proportion or golden ratio. For over two thousand years, esteemed mathematicians and scientists have studied, pondered, and debated this ratio and its ubiquity in nature, mathematics, architecture, and art.

    So, what is this ratio? Euclid first defined it in his tour de force Elements, published in 300 BC.

    The concept is simple: two quantities are in the Golden Ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one.

    Here is the golden ratio as it appears as a equation.

    cdn.muscleforlife.com/.../phi.jpg

    And numerically, it’s expressed like this: 1:1.618 (1 to 1.618). In the case of the above image, b is 1 unit long, and a is 1.618 units long.

    Now, the fascinating thing about the Golden Ratio is its plausibility as a natural law.

    Scientists have found its expression in the arrangement of branches along the stems of plants and in the veins of leaves, in the skeletons of animals and the disposition of their veins and nerves, and in the composition of chemical compounds and the geometry of crystals. Researchers have recently reported the ratio present even at the atomic level.

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    • Nowhere is the Golden Ratio more exemplified than in the human body, however, as da Vinci knew so long ago. In fact, he found that the more the body reflected this proportion, the more beautiful it was.

      The human face, for instance, abounds with examples of the Golden Ratio. The head forms a golden rectangle with the eyes at its midpoint. The mouth and nose are each placed at golden distances between the eyes and the bottom of the chin. The spatial relationship of the teeth and the construction of the ear each reflect the ratio too.

      Further, the Golden Ratio is found in the overall proportions of the human body: the different lengths of the finger bones, the makeup of the feet and toes, and even the structure of DNA.

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    • Spot on my man. It's also referred to as the devine ratio and "phi".
      The most aesthetically appealing architecture and furniture also abides very closely to these ratios.

      www.livescience.com/.../golden-ratio.jpg

      You can even buy calculators for it.

    • @GuysGuy Mhmm thank you, and indeed you are right there.

  • Why are all the girls fat?

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  • Damn women... the best creatures <3

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  • A. 0.95-1.05 midface ratio
    B. A face width to height ratio of 1.5-1.7 for women and 1.6-1.9 for men
    C. Mouth should be 0.34-0.36 times the width of the face width
    D. Distance between center of eyes should be 0.45-0.47 times the width of the face
    E. The nose should be thinner and shorter for women and wider and longer for men but not too wide
    F. 3-5 fingers of forehead is desirable
    G. Face symmetry of 100% looks weird and shit and no one ever has it, as long as u don't look like u have bells palsy and ur features are generally even looking you are good to go
    H. Health indicators like your skin, hair etc should be at optimum

    These are things that will never change with time with regard to attractiveness. Body ideals will.

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  • Han, 20s, 60s, and 90s.
    Petite is awesome.

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  • I found the Egyptian, Han, 20s, 60s, and 90s girls attractive in the above. Not so much any of the others. Oddly enough, I found myself taking issue with minute points concerning the values of these women.

    Egyptians may have been as permissive as women today, but had the same social and health problems as a result.

    The Han women were naturally very beautiful, but would abuse themselves to achieve perfection.

    The 20s gals may have been rectangular, but they knew how to wear it well. The 60s were a time when a LOT of really bad ideas were touted as good ideas, when bondage to some very unhealthy fads was touted as "liberation," as if the guardrails of tradition keeping many from falling over the cliff to their doom were somehow "oppressive." A notion that reality itself has often objected to, to little avail.

    The 90s look... calling it the "heroin" era may be pejorative; but the 90s were when I first started noticing girls. So I sort of bonded with that standard. I remember when the boys in my neighborhood (even at age 11!) were all hot for Thuy Trang. (And most of them liked Amy Jo Johnson too, but I preferred Thuy.)

    Disney animation of that era helped shape sexual and body figure values a lot too. If you were a guy and claimed you didn't find Jasmine or Esmeralda hot... you were lying.

    That "heroin chic" look has haunted me all my life since. Caring more about Avril Lavinge's early outfits than any of her songs. (Which I found mediocre at best.) Ana Johnson's "We Are," and that grungy apartment look in Spider-Man 2 in 2004... hypnotic. Emma Lahana's look on PRDT as Kira... argh! Not fair! Way too sexy for a kids' show!

    Combine this with Ameriie, Lee Loo La, and some Filipinas I've met, it's given rise to the Blasian / Ambiguously Brown / Exotic Hipster / Misunderstood Grunge Girl fantasy that defines most of the female characters I write.

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  • I love the "post-modern beauties" of today! 😍

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  • What you forgot is that beauty standards don't necessarily equal expectations people had of women. This especially applies to the renaissance age.

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  • I wonder it is just a sexual attraction thing, as beauty itself does not exist in people's heart.

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  • A good take. Although the "present day" figure is based on Western definitions of an ideal body figure. It's definitely not the case in many non-western societies.

    When the ideal body figure differs between two generations, it is very visible to those involved. In the 1920's - 1950's during WWI, WWII and post-war era, much of the population was rationing and starving. If you saw a woman like the "Present-day beauty", she would actually be described as malnourished and looking unhealthy. Those who were more plump were perceived as healthy and having greater status. This was especially true in other countries with lots of famine like China.

    Hence, if you are Asian, many of your grandparents may tell you "how fat you look". To them, it is a term to describe you looking healthy. However, to us, it is often perceived as an embarrassing insult that we are overweight and unhealthy. Almost all my grandparents and aunts used to call us fat when we were kids. I doubt they really understood that it was not a compliment to the current generation.

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    • Thank you :)

      And yes about plumpness and social status is true. People who were larger were more financially stable than thinner people which is why many seen it as attractive.

      And yes the Asian standard of beauty still holds true. I have an Asian friend and his parents would also call him fat.

  • Dang some of them ideals were really fat! lol

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  • Give me the girls from the roaring twenties pls

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  • My favorites here are 90's Heroin chick, followed by 80's and Han dynasty. Great Take, as always ;)

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  • Interesting piece. Whoever the "Postmodern beauty" is, she is so fit! Tbh she is my fave. Otherwise ancient egypt is very beautiful.

    The Postmodern one really is ideal.

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    • Yeah, many people like the postmodern woman. :)

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    • Just be honest and tell her. :)

    • But then a lot of women say that's what to do, but the actions don't really reward that according to many articles?

  • The Heroin Chic is hot 😍

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  • I still think the stansaess of all timea are weird. People like what they like...
    Thats what i think.
    Good take though

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  • why are they all hairless?

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  • Wow this competition is creating literal buzzfeed articles, this article from last year has the exact same title and yours is pretty much the exact same with a few changed words almost laughed when I saw #seemywork this is definitely not your work.
    www.buzzfeed.com/.../womens-ideal-body-types-throughout-history
    here are some compiled references of both this 'mytake' and the article
    http://i.imgur.com/araUdBD.png
    http://i.imgur.com/eHbGGiJ.png
    I thought these my-takes had to be creative and not copied and pasted literally anyone can do this.

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    • I already linked the article so um yeah.

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    • I am not entering this in the competion. We already discussed this and it's over with.

    • I am growing as a writer and we make mistakes. I am not perfect. I admitted I was wrong so can we move the fuck on? I'm not going to do this anymore. Sorry.

What Girls Said 23

  • the 80s and the golden ages

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  • swinging sixties was cute lol

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  • @Fathom77

    This chick copy pasted big portions of the BuzzFeed article AND used the same title. Isn't this against the rules?

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    • I linked the article in the post and said that it was from a video. It would only be a problem if I claimed it as my own work.

      @Fathoms77

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    • So long as the writing is different, the headline is different, and the original piece is cited, it's fine. We just encourage people to put their own spin on it.

  • Take me to the 80's! Athletic but still buxom. Woooo 😎

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  • The only reason that sex before marriage is considered unacceptable is ONLY because of the Abrahamic people/faith: Christianity, Judaism and later Islam. EVERYBODY else considered it natural to just breed.

    1. Egypt: Egypt would've opposed anything to do with Judaism/Hebrews/Adamites so it wouldn't surprise me they were the complete opposite.
    2. Greece: were well-known for homosexuality and pedophilia. Or man-boy love so their misogyny wouldn't surprise me.
    3. China: They haven't changed too much I see
    4. Rome used to be like Greece until they adopted Christianity
    5. Victorian England: While painful this one seems interesting to me
    6. 20s: interesting correlation between boyish figures and the political movement
    7. Golden age: Marilyn had the perfect body
    8. 60s: Set the stage for modern fashion in a lot of way
    9. 80s: My favorite era for fashion in terms of body. Victorias Secret has been brining it back though
    10.. 90s: my least favorite ear
    11. Present: Slim and Big butts and boobs are abundantly common with Black and Hispanic/Latinx women. They have the best bodies in the world. No contest or arguing that.
    Every other ethnicity that has them is a genetic freak and is an exception or has surgery, trains super hard to get "muscle butt". No other possibility.

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  • I'm somewhere between hollywood golden age and eighties...

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  • Cool.

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  • Nineties ( Heroin Chic )

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  • I matched up with the current era most. Tbh I like HEALTHY bodies and that can look like anything

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  • I Liked the beauty standards of the 1920's as that's what I am XD

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  • "Ancient Egyptian culture was positive towards sex, and sex before marriage was widely acceptable"
    hell yaa take me to BC ancient egypt lmfao that's my body type too

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  • Inaccurate for a few of those. It has never been ideal for a woman to be too overweight or obese.

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  • I'm pretty sure the bodies of Victorian England and Hollywood era is wrong... When I saw the dresses to both eras they were so so tiny. Especially Victorian era. Even their feet were skinny as hell... There's a reason they wore corsets lol.
    As for the 30s-50s still increeedibly small clothes. Even Monroe was tiny. Same height as me but far skinnier. I think she was like 118lbs. No clue where the fat myth came from. My great grandmother even used to call my mum too fat when she's not in today's standards. 😅 And I can barely fit into my great grandma's dresses lool and I'm already pretty skinny.

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  • Just be active, fit, HEALTHY.

    Doesn't matter about your body type. Take care of yourself. :]

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  • I think I fit into the Victorian Age, body wise. That works for me, because I also love my corsets!

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    • Really? Do they hurt? I always wanted to know haha )

    • Not at all! When you first get into wearing corsets (real corsets, with metal boning) you usually wear them just snug, not actually constricting. Once you get comfortable with the weight and everything, you start to cinch. Slowly cinching down (waist training), you give your body time to adjust to the new shape. With my first corsets, it took me almost four months to cinch all the way down (a six inch difference in waist).
      Even though it doesn't hurt, it does leave marks. Because of how close to the skin the boning is, it presses lines into the skin. I'm really pale and have sensitive skin, so for me these show up fairly red. It can be a little surprising to someone who doesn't know about it.

      If you have any questions, let me know!

  • I watched this video a while back and I loved it. I also like the 100 years of beauty by WatchCut video

    www.youtube.com/playlist

    Seeing how looks change all over the world is fascinating to me, and they're all beautiful.

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    • Me too. :) I watched the video back in 2015 and loved it also. I saw the one by watchcut too. I thought that was also interesting. Yes I agree they are all beautiful in their own ways.

  • Cool mytake, some of these standards were really weird

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  • As the times went by, we wore less and less clothes (generally)

    Nice MyTake.

    If only I could increase my booty size :'c the boyfriend says it's big, but he's white. Different standard X'''c

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  • I prefer the body of 2000

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  • I'm the sixties - han dynasty with boobs...

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