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A brief history of the hourglass figure

Updated: Feb 10, 2022



Popular culture evolves. But what makes something "popular?" According to a marketing professor "people, brands, and styles become popular because the right people have adopted it — rich people, celebrities, opinion leaders, hipsters in subcultures — and we copy them in the eternal human quest to be fashionable and admired." (Holt, 2010)

So, what has been popular?

Ancient Egypt: Apparently Egyptians of the past preferred women to be slender with narrow shoulders and a high waist.

Ancient Greece: During this period, plump and full bodies were valued as most beautiful. The ideal shape was an ample bosom, large backside, and thick thighs / arms.

Italian Renaissance (1400-1700 AD): Beautiful women during this period had chubby bodies and rounded features.

Victorian England: Plump hourglass figures were most preferred. This was the age of the corset, worn to create the illusion of the hourglass shape.

The Roaring Twenties: During this period, a thin boyish figure was preferred and clothing often downplayed the bust and curves. Women cut their hair short into a bob and went for an androgynous look.

Glam Hollywood of the 40's and 50's: The age of the hourglass!!!! Women accentuated their curves, and tried to emulate the big stars of the day such as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.

Hippie Sixties and Seventies: During this period, a more petite figured was preferred and the "ideal" was for thin bodies with long legs.

Let's get Physical Eighties: During the fitness era, the most desirable female shape was sporty and toned. But with the workout craze, and the initial emphasis on health, came a desire for thinness that eventually perhaps led to a spike in anorexia.

Nineties waif: The models of the 90's were extremely thin, and somewhat androgynous.

2000 to today: The media ideal of beauty today is both unrealistic and often fake. There has been a spike in plastic surgery, fad diets, and the use of implants and photo filters.


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