How The ‘Perfect’ Body Has Changed Throughout The Decades

By Nick Hadji 6 months ago

The Paleolithic Era: The Earliest Example Of Art Shows A Symbol Of A Curvy Woman

Image Source / The ListLet's start at the beginning! Before anyone even know what an 'hourglass' figure was. The very first piece of art that's ever been discovered was actually a depiction of a woman, in carved model form. The symbol shows a very curvy woman, with a large stomach and big breasts. The symbol also has no face, which shows that, during this time, what was counted as the 'perfect' female body was actually the body itself, and a healthy one that could bear children at that.Original content sourced from

Ancient Greece: Big Hips, Big Boobs But A Not-So-Flat Stomach

Image Source / The ListStomach rolls rejoice, because in this time period, the Ancient Greeks had statues and other artworks depicting woman as having ample breasts, a stomach that definitely didn't have a six pack and wide hips ('child-bearing', no doubt). But to make the pressure on women worse, the Ancient Greeks actually had mathematical formulas behind the idea of true beauty - namely, to be 'beautiful' a woman had to have a face that was two thirds as wide as it was long, and be symmetrical. No pressure, then, ladies.

Early Renaissance Period: Curvy And Pale With Round Faces

Image Source / The ListNo fake tan for these ladies in the Renaissance era. According to artists of the age, the 'idealized' woman was often seen as quite curvy around the hips and boobs, as well as very pale with soft, round faces - often with a little blush on them. The Renaissance period also began the shift from women being seen as only child-bearing to actually being beautiful in their own right, whether they wanted kids or not!

Elizabethan England Era: Lots Of Makeup

Image Source / The ListThere's a reason that Queen Elizabeth had very thick, white makeup on her face with rouged lips, all of the time. A woman with a full face of makeup was actually originally called "an incarnation of Satan" (great to see the abuse of women who choose to wear a lot of makeup these days had roots in history, too) but Elizabeth began a trend that meant the paler you were (through makeup), the higher status you were. So lots of makeup became fashionable.

Moving Into The 18th Century: Makeup Gained Even More Popularity

Image Source / The ListWe're now moving into the time when makeup became exclusive for women, and seen as a way of her 'seducing' others. Before this period, makeup was actually worn by any gender without an issue, but then makeup for women become popular while makeup for men dropped out. Wearing makeup and getting dressed in fancy gowns became a popular ritual, and also began this idea of the way a woman looks being the sexiest thing about her (obviously incorrect, but you do you 18th century people).

Victorian England Era: No Emphasis On Any Particular Body Part, But Women Shouldn't Look 'Strong'

Image Source / The ListDuring this era, women should look 'pretty' yet modest, and most often with ringlets in their hair. Through fashion, there wasn't any focus on any particular body part, like corsets having to push boobs up as much as possible, but apparently women shouldn't look too 'strong'. A lot of this was to do with domesticity, and the woman's place being in the home. So the sort of homey, frail and 'I need a man' look was better than looking too strong, capable and independent as a woman, apparently.

1890's: The Gibson Girl

Image Source / The List'The Gibson Girl' was a picture of a woman by Charles Gibson that apparently was the standard for beautiful women during this time. Because of this, women would try to match the woman in the illustration. This included a pale skin tone and a corset which would tightly pull in the women's figure to show more of her curves. Big breasts were always the most popular, but a 'skinnier' look was starting to come into fashion. But just a reminder that this was an illustration of the idea of a perfect woman - coming from a man.

1900s: The Corset

Image Source / Wikimedia CommonsBecause of the pressures of having that cinched in waist and curvy figure, the only option women of this time had was to wear a corset as much as possible. Even us women who have never worn one know they look mighty uncomfortable and this couldn't have been fun. Apparently they were also dangerous, too. They were pulled in so tightly they would make it difficult for a woman to breathe (but who needs to breathe when looking beautiful is more important).

1910s: Hourglass Figure With Tiny Waist

Image Source / PinterestThis is where the 'hourglass' hype all began, with the idea that the perfect female body had to be one with a big chest, a tiny, cinched-in waist and an ample behind, all achieved by wearing a tight corset and figure-hugging gown, of course. Many women would try to get this hourglass look by using a super duper tight corset.

1920s: Thin Body With No Curves

Image Source / WikipediaYep, you read that right - no curves! Thin always being the go-to is no surprise for this era, but suddenly curves were not *it*. This came from Miss America 1921, Margaret Gorman, who apparently had the ideal body shape of the time. She had a tiny frame, with smaller breasts and hips.

The Flapper Girl

Image Source / RedditAs you might know, the 1920s was also known for the 'flapper girl' - and this was a very specific style both in body and fashion. The flapper girl outfits showed women with very slight and straight frames, with flapper fashion usually being a very straight and loose dress that didn't accentuate any curves.

1930s: A Curved Body With A Slim Waist

Image Source / Life MagazineAaand we're back to people wanting curves again! But god forbid the waist has some rolls on it, too, as long as you were curvy everywhere but the waist. During this time, women were put on pedestals for having a more 'feminine' style, which mean soft curves and a drawn-in waist. The need for this slim physique was more muted during this time compared to that extreme hourglass shape that was to come in future decades.

1940s: A Tall, Square Figure

Image Source / www.history.comNot that you had any chance of changing your natural height, but that's what heels are for, I guess. The idea behind this body shape was actually the woman who may have been behind the famous 'We Can Do It!' wartime poster: Naomi Parker. The square figure idea came from having women working during the Second World War wanting a stronger and broader look.

This Idea Was Also Reflected In Women's Lingerie Of The Time

Image Source / eBayBecause of course women's lingerie standards were changing as much as body shape standards, too. During this need for a broader and stronger look, women's lingerie would be called things like 'torpedo' or 'bullet' (and you may recognise the idea from the cone-shaped bra Madonna wore).

1950s: Bigger Hips, Bigger Boobs

Image Source / The SunEnter Marilyn Monroe: the Hollywood actress, sex symbol and ultimate pin-up. Which meant her body shape was also seen as the ideal of the time, too. This ideal body shape saw an hourglass figure, with bigger boobs, small (but curvy) hips and that all-important cinched in tiny waist.

This Began Experimentation With Breast Implants

Image Source / BellatoryWith the need for bigger breasts and a curvier figure being more desirable, it's no surprise that doctors began offering implants. At the time, these were sponge implants inserted to create a bigger bust. It's alleged that Marilyn herself had these implants. There were also weight-gain pills flying about to help thinner women achieve a fuller look.

1960s: Super Skinny With No Curves

Image Source / That's Not My AgeImagine going to all that effort in the 50s to get breast implants and weight-gain pills only to find out ten years later that nobody wants that anymore. But the swinging 60s brought with it a popularity for the ultra-skinny and petite look, shown through fashion of the time, too, with shorter and smaller dresses that were petite sizes rather than figure-hugging.

1970s: Flat Stomach With Smaller Hips

Image Source / Fifth Avenue GirlDuring this decade, more focus was put on women putting in the time and exercise to get that super flat stomach. It was also best combined with slim hips for a smoother look. This time period was also when plastic surgery had taken off more than before, so reshaping surgeries were becoming popular with celebs.

1980s: Tall, Athletic Figure

Image Source / WatchMojoMake way for super toned and skinny supermodels with legs that seem to go on forever! This was this decade's ideal body shape, with tall and athletic being the in-demand look. Fitness trends were also taking over, with aerobic vids becoming popular to keep that athletic shape and work those muscles - now that it was acceptable for women to have muscles.

1990s: Very, Very Thin/Bony

Image Source / SPINOne of the best examples of this time for the 'perfect' body shape is British supermodel Kate Moss, who had a very thin figure, a bony structure and minimal boobs or hips. During this time, it was very fashionable to be very slim, as well as very pale (which some may have called 'unhealthy' looking).

2000s: A More Toned Body - But Still Slim

Image Source / InsiderHere we have the era of that 'Victoria's Secret model' look, where more toned bodies were becoming fashionable, including stomachs having more of a six-pack outline, or at the very least muscle toned (think of a Britney Spears music video). The toned body was more a centerpiece than big boobs or wide hips would be.

2010s: The Ultimate Hourglass - The Bigger The Curves The Better

Image Source / FlickrNow that we're hitting a decade where social media and tech come at the forefront of everything, we have celebs and influencers showing off perfect hourglass figures and making every one else feel bad about their bodies by flaunting their perfect curves. Think Kim Kardashian, with perfect boobs, huge behind but the all-important tiny, tiny waist.

How Has The 'Perfect' Body Changed For Men? Ancient Greece: Muscular And Lean

Image Source / Australian Archaelogical Institute at AthensYou wouldn't catch any man in Ancient Greece with a beer belly, when that muscular and toned physique we're so used to seeing on Greek heroes and gods in media was the body type to have. It was also very fashionable for these muscular men to have longer hair tied back, as a symbol of power.

Elizabethan England: Powerful Legs

Image Source / PinterestYep, apparently men of this era put a huge focus on leg muscles only. To be overly muscular on top wasn't the done thing if you were an Elizabethan man - nobody cared about a perfect six-pack, but when it came to muscles, apparently a lot of focus was put on strong, powerful and defined legs.

Late 1800s/Early 1900s: Wide Around The Middle

Image Source / Wikimedia CommonsDuring this era, the bigger your stomach and the wider your waist, the more status you had as a man. It wasn't about muscles or shapely legs, it was about the 'fat' man. Because if you had a fat tummy, it meant you were eating well, and therefore could afford to eat - so everyone around you would see your stomach and know how wealthy you were.

1920s To 1950s, The Hollywood Golden Age: Athletic And Lean

Image Source / Vanguard of HollywoodThis is where the idea of the camera adding 10 pounds came into play, meaning for Hollywood stars, they had to be sure to be slim, toned and athletic to not appear larger on screen. Perfect examples include actors like Jimmy Stewart, with a lean body type that isn't necessarily buff.

1960s To 1970s: Thin And Slender

Image Source / Pop ExpessoThe body type preferred for men of this time was very slender, and sort of androgynous, as shown through icons like David Bowie. There was no focus on any sort of muscle or toned body parts, as it was all about that very slim look, with a variety of different hairstyles to show off during this time, including afros or mop tops!

1980s: Bodybuilder Physique

Image Source / Insider BodybuildingFrom the slender forms of the previous decade to the polar opposite now with huge, HUGE muscles and bodybuilder physiques, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. 'Pumping iron' was the done thing during this decade, and the perfect 'masculine' look was supposed to be the more muscles, the more manly you are. But don't forget the body oil!

1990s To 2000s: More Lean, Less Muscly

Image Source / British GQFortunately, this pressure to have the biggest muscles around didn't continue much into the next decades. There was still a huge focus on toned and defined bodies, but it was more a lean physique with a toned torso. Think Brad Pitt in Fight Club, and this is pretty much the desired look for the time.

2015 To Now: The Dad Bod

Image Source / New York PostThe dad bod was men's solution to the pressures of needing to look too skinny, or too muscly. The dad bod is defined as a body type ideal that sees a man looking healthy (so not obese) but clearly having some fat on him. It's associated with the idea of what a middle aged man might look like, in that he'd be slim enough with a bit of a paunch without spending 24 hours a day at the gym.

And Now... How The Perfect Hairstyle Has Changed Throughout The Decades! 1850s: Tight Bun

Image Source / costume cocktailFemale hairstyles of this era were often very simple, but there was a huge focus on being symmetrical. If women had long hair, it would be parted in the very center and then pulled back over the ears (over and not behind them) and then pulled into a bun at the back of the head.

1860s: Hello To Ringlets

Image Source / The Pragmatic CostumerThe center part was still very big in this decade, but now straighter, pulled-back hair had been swapped out for ringlets. These ringlet curls should be elegantly falling over the shoulders instead of pulled too tightly back, and could even be accessorised with flowers! Full ear covering had now also been switched out.

1870s: Fancier And Longer

Image Source / MediakronHairstyles were now becoming more bold, with a variety of curls, braids and twists building up the hair. It was also common to have long hair now running down the back rather than gathered tight in a bun. Older women would be known to wear their hair higher on the head with less loose curls than younger women.

1880s: Large Waves And Heavy Shapes

Image Source / Aimee's Victorian ArmoireThis is when hairstyles started to look a little painful and heavy - at least to the modern day woman who wouldn't want all that piled on the top of her head. Braids continued to be in fashion, and would be shaped in particular ways on the head. Hair would still be rolled or put into ringlets and shaped around the head, too.

1890s: Tight Coils And Piled High

Image Source / Inspired By Life... And FictionThe hair would continue to be shaped on top of the head in this decade, with a focus on very tight coils to keep it in place. It was also in fashion to have bangs over the forehead which might be curled and fluffed up. Women were also expected to wear small hats as accessories, so the hairstyle needed to accommodate for that.

1900s: The Gibson Girl

Image Source / PinterestThe body type and style of the Gibson Girl from 1890 to 1900 affected expectations of women everywhere, but it was also her hairstyle that made an impact - and it was this hairstyle that therefore became in-demand at the beginning of the 20th century. This saw very tall and voluminous hair coiffed on the head.

1910s: The Pompadour From Paris

Image Source / Shady Lady ToursThese times of fashion and hairstyles were also seeing great influence from Paris. The hairstyle of this time was named 'The Pompadour', which the mistress of King Louis XV's famously had. This style saw a very high hairstyle, rounded and curved, in either a straight style or waved. The hair needed to be supported by wire or a pad to achieve this look!

1920s: A Short, Straight Bob

Image Source / RedditWhile the sleek bob is very much still popular in the current decade, it was THE hairstyle back in the 1920s. The perfect bob would be sleek and razor-sharp, and would also ideally have bangs along with it rather than a straight part. This decade focused on more 'masculine' trends for women, so it's no surprise the short bob cut was the go-to.

1930s: Platinum Blonde Curls Are In

Image Source / RedditAs a huge change from that black bob of the 1920s, a lighter platinum hair hue was now in fashion. While the favored hairstyle was still a shorter one, it was now better to have soft waves and curls in the hair rather than dead straight. You might recognise this sort of hairstyle later favored by Marilyn Monroe!

1940s: Longer, Wavy Hair

Image Source / RedditAnd now we have people embracing a much longer hair length for women, with feminine wavy curls. During this decade, it was more in-fashion to have women's hair grown out and then looking more glam with big waves. It was also ideal to have a side parting rather than a center parting, so that the hair could elegantly fall across one eye - no doubt to make women look more alluring.

1950s: Pinned Back Curls

Image Source / RedditWhile the decade before wanted those iconic curls to fall mysteriously into the eyes, the 50s was a decade that said no actually that could be annoying - let's pin them back. The fashion of this particular decade saw waves still in fashion, but now in a secured-back style, and the length maybe a little shorter than before.

1960s: Curls Are Gone, Straight And Short Is Back

Image Source / RedditThe 60s definitely saw more than one type of hairstyle for the hippies and free-lovers, but the most popular hairstyle for women during this decade was very short and straight. It was a very boyish haircut that had come back in style, and it would usually be paired with dead-straight bangs.

1970s: We Want Waves That Bounce

Image Source / All Things HairNot only did the 70s give a huge shout out to waves again, they now wanted waves that bounced and came away from the face in a flick. This was a decade where women were shifting away from 'boyish' looks again and growing out their hair in a more feminine way, which meant long and layered hair with huge, bouncy waves.

1980s: The Choppy, Feathered Look

Image Source / The Right Hairstyles

Women went into this decade still keeping hold of their longer locks, but now the 'in' look was a huge, choppy style. This mean shorter hair on top which would then come out down the sides in a thick, layered look. It was then popular to have this feathered to have it flick out a little more. And, of course, A LOT of hair product was popular in the 80s, like far too much gel, no matter your gender.

1990s: Straight With A Choppy Fringe

Image Source / Reddit

And now we're back to dead straight being the desired look, but this time women were enjoying very long straight hair rather than short bobs. The ideal was to then have this coupled with chopped and side-swept bangs. Gone were those thick layers and instead sleek, straight hair.

2000s: Bed Head

Image Source / Reddit

This was definitely a decade for having hair that just don't care. And that's a welcome relief for women, to be fair. The 2000s saw long and messy hair that didn't really have any styling to it, and didn't even look like it had been brushed. It definitely showed the more 'looser' view on hairstyles during this time.

2010s: Blonde Was Definitely In

Image Source / Reddit This era didn't see so much focus on the hairstyle itself, but rather the color. Blonde was definitely the way to go in the 2010s, with a variety of different shades like sandy blonde, honey blonde or bright blonde. This would popularly be coupled with layered and wavy hair, with blow-dried dos.

2015: The Midi Bob

Image Source / PinterestBobs are back! And this time it's the more wavy, mid-length bob that's in-demand rather than a straight cut. There's no doubt that wavy bobs are elite when it comes to hairstyles on women, because it's an easy, feminine look that looks great in any colour. Most actresses would have rocked this look at least once.

2022: The Messy Bun

Image Source / RedditTo be fair, this look isn't exclusive to 2022, but there seems to have been a surge in messy top knot buns on women in recent years. This look is a very popular one, especially for women wanting to have that 'I want to look casual like I haven't made an effort but actually it took me 10 hours to get this messy bun to look like I haven't tried'.

2023 And Beyond: Shaggy Bob

Image Source / RedditSo what's next to come? What hairstyle resolution should you have for the start of 2023? Well, it seems that there's already a popularity for the shaggy bob again, with chopped, shorter haircuts and shorter styles like the pixie cut being in-demand at the moment. It looks like bangs are also popular, too - but in this modern day and age it's more about the vivid hair colors than the styles, it would seem!