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A History of the Female Body

How many times have you stalked a Victoria Secret Model on Instagram? Maybe found fitness inspiration from Karlie Kloss or Heidi Klum? Or envied Carrie Underwood’s legs, and wished for Gigi Hadid’s washboard abs?

Yup, most of us have been there without shame.

We currently live in an image-obsessed world (you just stopped to check Snapchat), but generations have played with the right definition of the “perfect body” for more than just a few years. It changes with the times. From the Victorian age to Marilyn Monroe, a woman’s body has evolved based on a public declaration of popularity. Where did the documented definition begin? Let’s take a look into what kind of toll the ups and downs and flips the rollercoaster of time has taken on our bodies in the last 100 years.

It all started with the “Gibson Girl.”  Penned by the illustrator, Charles Dana Gibson, the ideal feminine frame featured a voluptuous bust and hips with a small waist.  In his depictions, the woman is confident, independent, and at peace with herself…maybe our generation should take a hint?

The Roaring ‘20s ushered in the flapper girl.  Recently, you saw her as Daisy, the woman across from Leonardo diCaprio when he lost another Oscar (sorry Leo) in The Great Gatsby. The flapper girl disregarded conventionality, partaking in drinking, over-the-top makeup, and outrageous behavior for the time period. They had short hair and the flat-chested, boyish frame that handled loose apparel with a low waistline and bare arms.

After a short stint of curves, the body took on the same commanding attitude the women adopted in World War II: broad shoulders, athleticism, and longer limbs.

The aftermath of WWII in the 1950s led into beginnings of Playboy, Barbie, and the hourglass figure. Weight-supplements were encouraged, A-line skirts were purchased, and Marilyn Monroe’s hourglass frame was photographed in a white bathing suit on a beach.

Next, women had to gracefully throw off the weight from the ‘50s and transition into a minimalized figure that was popularized in the ‘60s.  The boyish frame was back from the ‘20s and with it came mini skirts, shift dresses, and the birth of Weight Watchers.

Women partied away in the ‘70s disco era with sequined jumpsuits and bell bottom jeans and kept their long lean legs in the ‘80s, as supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Elle MacPherson gained popularity. There were legs for days.

But fitness was trending, as Jane Fonda introduced the healthy look. Even if every woman had to go through a short, grunge look in the 90’s, contrasting the supermodel aura from the decade before, she found her way back in the 2000s.  Today, a woman’s fit figure reigns supreme and skin is in. We have gym memberships, fitness magazines, personal trainers, and running partners: all to achieve the fit new look that contributes to our all-around well-being.

But, hold on. Let’s remember that each body expectation cycled its way into history more than just once. So, it’s our turn to ask ourselves: which body will our generation choose next?

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