Female Body Image Through History


Throughout time and history, female bodies were worshipped like Gods or been shamed for their shape. Tight clothing to make them more obvious of their curves (yes I’m talking about boobies and booties), A-line dresses  and flat chested  gals, to seem more masculine, athletic tops and shorts to show off their muscles, stick-skinny modely figures and many more fashion trends were introduced to the world in so many years of female fashion.

In renaissance period, women that were curvy were considered to be wealthy and high statur. It was a symbol of an upper class and it meant that they had money so they could eat. Also the super light skin was a  proof that they did not work, as they did not have to go out in the sun and work in the fields. Dark skinned women were not high status and as they were thin, seemed they did not have enough money to feed themselves. All portraits from that era were about women who ‘rocked’ curvy and beautiful.

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Women in the early 1800’s were beginning to embrace a new fashion choice. They needed super thin waist line to be wanted, so they wore corsets I am fascinated about corsets. While the corset has typically been worn as an undergarment, it has occasionally been used as an outer-garment; corsets as outer-garments can be seen in the national dress of many European countries. The term “corset” is attested from 1300, coming from the French “corset” which meant “a kind of laced bodice. The corset as an undergarment had its origin in Italy, and was introduced by Catherine de Medici into France in the 1500s, where the women of the French court embraced it. This type of corset was a tight, elongated bodice that was worn underneath the clothing. These corsets were typically made out of layered fabric, stiffened with glue, and were tightly laced. The most common type of corset in the 1700s was an inverted conical shape, often worn to create a contrast between a rigid quasi-cylindrical torso above the waist and heavy full skirts below. The primary purpose of 18th-century stays was to raise and shape the breasts, tighten the midriff, support the back, improve posture to help a woman stand straight, with the shoulders down and back, and only slightly narrow the waist, creating a ‘V’ shaped upper torso over which the outer garment would be worn; however, ‘jumps’ of quilted linen were also worn instead of stays for informal situations. Jumps were only partially boned, did little for one’s posture, but did add some support. Both garments were considered undergarments, and would be seen only under very limited circumstances. Well-fitting eighteenth-century corsets were quite comfortable, did not restrict breathing, and allowed women to work, although they did restrict bending at the waist, forcing one to protect one’s back by lifting with the legs.

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Victorian corset

When the waistline returned to its natural position during the 1830s, the corset reappeared and served the dual purpose of supporting the breasts and narrowing the waist. However, it had changed its shape to the hourglass silhouette that is even now considered typical both for corsets and for Victorian fashion. At the same time, the term corset was first used for this garment in English. In the 1830s, the artificially inflated shoulders and skirts made the intervening waist look narrow, even with the corset laced only moderately.


Edwardian corset

The straight-front corset, also known as the swan-bill corset, the S-bend corset or the health corset, was worn from circa 1900 to the early 1910s. Its name is derived from the very rigid, straight busk inserted in the center front of the corset. This corset forced the torso forward and made the hips jut out in back. The straight-front corset was popularized by Inez Gaches-Sarraute, a corsetiere with a degree in medicine. It was intended to be less injurious to wearers’ health than other corsets in that it exerted less pressure on the stomach area. However, any benefits to the stomach were more than counterbalanced by injury caused to the back due to the unnatural posture that it forced upon its wearer. At this time, the bust lowered and corsetsprovided much less support for the breasts.

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But what is a fashion choice without a little risk of ruining your internal organs right?

The constriction of the corset, if too tight, prevents the lower lobes of the lungs from fully expanding when taking a breath. This puts extra strain on and causes additional work for the lower lobes of the lungs. David Kunzle, an art historian  argues that because the lower lobes have been strained, they are unable to adequately fight off pneumonia or bacillus tuberculosis which go to the lower lobes of the lungs first. The pressure placed on the breasts results in many injuries and complications. Corset-wearing cannot cause breast cancer. Occurring more frequently is a reduction of the size of the nipples. Victorians believed the corset caused mammary abscesses, a common inflammation of the connective tissue in the breast; however, mastitis is caused by bacteria, and thus there is no evidence supporting that clothing of any type alone could have led to the condition. These effects are only consistent with that of over-bust corsets and not relevant to those using under-bust only.

Victorian doctors believed that, in a tightly-laced corset, the stomach would be unable to churn correctly, making it difficult to digest food completely. This condition is called dyspepsia, more commonly known as indigestion.It may cause constipation and make it difficult for the wearer to eat a sizable meal. Maybe that’s how to stay thin? NOT. Enough about corsets.


In 1920’s dresses were much more less ‘puffy’. There was a period that were women that were called  Flappers.

Flappers (?) 

Flappers took over during the 1920s; they were trendy women with bob haircuts and slender, lean builds. Showing their disdain for what was considered polite and acceptable feminine behavior, flappers smoked, drank, danced, drove cars, listened to jazz, and reveled in casual sex. Woo you go girls!  Women were beginning to behave more like men, living life to its full , gender roles were already changing. Now, women could vote, drive cars, choose who they married (shocking this one), and even hold jobs that were previously allotted only to men. Men began clinging to attributes that defined their masculinity — like mustaches — a trend that still seems to hold on well. I really don’t like staches, they creep me out. Brr..

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 1940s-1950s: The curvy girls

Girls like Merilyn Monroe and Betty Grable were famous pin-up girls. A  pin-up is a model whose mass-produced pictures see wide appeal as popular culture. Their bodies were slim but not stick thin and had some curves. Thin was not very ‘in’ those days as it is now. You had to have some curves to succeed and find your other half. What? All of these for men? And a man couldn’t tell if you dyed your hair green. Ugh..

Lilly Christine


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The 1960s

Ahh..The 60’s..Twiggy was the most recognisable model back them. Curves weren’t as important as being rail-thin and elegantly fashionable, like the tiny model Twiggy and the slender, Audrey Hepburn.




1990s: The heroin-chic

Heroin chic was a look popularized in mid-1990s fashion and characterized by pale skin, dark circles underneath the eyes and angular bone structure. The look, characterised by emaciated features and androgyny, was a reaction against the “healthy” and vibrant look of models.

This waifish, emaciated look was the basis of the 1993 advertising campaign of Calvin Klein featuring Kate Moss. Film director and actor Vincent Gallo contributed to the development of the image through his Calvin Klein fashion shoots. The trend eventually faded, in part due to the drug-related death of prominent fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti. Sorrenti fell in love with teenage model and heroin addict Jaime King ( wha Lemon Breeland??) and began abusing substances himself. Heroin chic fashion drew much criticism, especially from anti-drug groups. Fashion designers, models such as Kate Moss and Jaime King, and movies such as Trainspotting were blamed for glamorizing heroin use.





 2010: Curves again

Curvy is back! Plus-sized supermodels are gaining more and more ground in fashion industry. Of course skinny wil always be in fashion, but it’s nice to see something different. After all, not all women have the same size. Get over it.




Kim K. could not, not be in this list.




All women are beautiful. And all bodytypes, figures, shapes or whatever you want to call them are gorgeous. Shape does not define you as a woman. YOU are beautiful, even the days you think you are not ♥


Georgia T.


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