This image portrays the female beauty ideal in the early 1900s and the decades previous. The curvaceous and soft lines of her body represent the freedom of expression and the true, honest beauty of the female body. Women with this weight on their body nowadays could feel negatively about it due to today’s ideals, however, back then it was celebrated to the highest degree. I really love this image showing her beauty in full glory with her admiring herself and others looking on.
This 1910 image of a female beauty shows the fashion for the corseted wasp waist. The corset creates a definite hourglass figure through the use of a heavy-duty corset normally made using whalebone. The corset would be tied so tight that it even could damage the internal organs of the women and could often leave her breathless. My personal opinion of this look is the discomfort would outweigh the overall appeal of the wasp waist.
The 1920’s female ideal completely changed from the years previous. Women could bin their corsets and start to celebrate looser fitting outfits with a boyish feel. Hair was cut short to represent the freedom of expression during the roaring twenties. Women with boyish figures could at last be celebrated for being the beauty ideal and dresses were made with low waist lines to accentuate long legs. Beading was used on many garments to add weight and increase the movement of the fabric. Women could for the first time be as comfotable as a man. I love the 1920’s female ideal; the glitz and glamour of everyday outfits would make anyone feel good about themselves!
This image show a bunch of lovely 1930’s young women, showing off on the beach. Look how happy they look in swimwear in the height of summer. This era allowed the female ideal shape to become again curvaceous. Hemlines dropped again and allowed femininity to take pride of place in many outfits. Florals and girly colours were used to showcase the divide between men and women, where the 1920’s seemed to blur the gender through dressing more. This more curvaceous look really looks great and a lot of 1930’s inspired clothes can be seen on the catwalk and in the high street, which is great! Water for Elephants, a recent film by Francis Lawrence showcases 1930’s fashion perfectly in such amazing costume! Go check it out!
5- 1940 women were sexualised and in full femininity. Curves, legs, breasts, full make up, glamour hair and pin up style looks were popular. The female ideal was sexy, full figured, hourglass shaped and glamorous day and night. Perfection was key and women had the opportunity to try many newly introduced beauty products such as max factor pancake foundation, liquid silk stockings and pillar-box red lipstick. This look is also always available now in mainstream fashion and looks great on every shape, everyone loves a bit of glamour from time to time.
6- The 1950’s female ideal is basically an exaggerated 1940’s one. The waist was even more emphasised and hair and make up was flawless. The glamour icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren reined as style icons giving women aspirations to be glamorous. The glamour idea solely stemmed from Hollywood icons and film stars allowing women who didn’t fit the ‘ideal’ feel very excluded and insecure. The pressure to live up the ideal was tough and demanding, comparing this to today’s ‘slim ideal’ some people would say it’s a similar pressure felt today by some women.

I completely love everything about the 1960’s, the fashion, the music, the art and the entire zeitgeist of the decade. However, the curvy and glamorous ideal of previous decades changed suddenly to a preference for slim, boyish frames. Female ideals consisted of very slight, slim figures, with short pixie crops and heavy eye make up. The fashion encouraged women to look like young girls, with short shift dresses showing off full legs, and boxed jackets not allowing the waist to be cinched in. Most women wanted a boyish frame with fashion models becoming slim for the first time since the 1920’s female ideal. The contrast from 1950-1960’s was evidently huge and could be considered one of the biggest changes in the ever-changing ‘ideal’ of the female form throughout the decades.
The 1970’s again promoted the female body ideal as slim and slender. This image shows a 1970’s fashion model, showing less skin and flesh than a 1960’s model but still with an innocent look. However, the late seventies allowed women to dress with freedom and with maxi dresses and flares being high on the fashion front, women were able to cover many parts of their body with voluminous clothing and long tousled hair. The unkempt look was popular and ‘bed-head’ hair was seen for the first time, in the decade of peace and love!
The 1980’s female ideal often celebrated the legs, with very high cut swimwear and underwear. Shoulder pads were worn to emphasise the new power that some women had in their careers.
The 1990s made women want to look healthy. With toned, muscled slender bodies as the ideal female shape, women took exercise and health very seriously. Women wanted to be ‘girl next door’ character, with a natural and fresh appearance. This gave women a chance to work out alongside men at the gym and take sports seriously for the first time; the 1990s saw women want to be gym bunnies!
In the ‘naught-ies’, the size zero issue has become prominent and the debate is long from being over. Skinny models are seen all over the catwalks and many ‘average’ women aspire to be as skinny as possible, with this issue sometimes taking over their lives. Women are bombarded with diets, fitness regimes and celebrities showcasing the skinny ‘ideal’. Today we are trying to tackle the pressure on women to be skinny, emphasizing that they should be able to celebrate their body no matter what shape, size, age or ethnicity they may be.
Join us in showing the decade that we’re happy with our bodies and that we want to celebrate body diversity!
Post by Zina Graber
Zina is a fashion styling student from Cornwall who has a huge interest in celebrating the female form and individuality through styling. I want to be part of changing women’s negative perceptions of themselves so I have recently created a campaign that promotes global style and fashion diversity. The idea is to collect photos of individuals around the world, no matter who you are and showcase you’re style to the world. Check out “What Ya Wearing World?” and find Zina on Twitter@whatyawearingw