Black is the new white – Feminine beauty ideals throughout history

Women have always struggled to achieve and maintain the actual beauty ideals. 

In the Prehistoric Age, men did long for “Venus figurines”, which is known as „depictions of nude women with exaggerated sexual features”. In the Antiquity beauty became truly worshipped since a nice body was considered the materialisation of a wonderful mind. Alluring women boosted with slim waist and round hip, which excluded too plump or skinny silhouettes.

In the Middle Ages, curvaceous women retained their charm. As having significant fatstock, they proved to be more resistant to epidemics and fit for demanding household chores.

Renaissance created classical beauty embracing white skin, more fragile and proportionate shapes. From the 16th century, corsets  were worn to emphasis the attracting difference between bosom and waist. The higher the oestrogene level, the rounder the hip.  As curved shape was in demand, women used additional cloths to fill up the delicate points dy deceit.

During the 19th century in Britain, gender roles became increasingly disciminated. Women became stay-at-home to oversee household chores carried out mainly by servants, although they had worked in family businesses earlier. Women started to wear crinoline, a large bell-shaped skirt, which made  almost impossible to make complex movements. Corsets reached their popularity in this period.


World Wars and the increasing female workforce resulted that the importance of reproduction and endurance overtook the aspiration for impractical cloths.

From the 1950’ the improved sanitary circumstances triggered the dethronement of well-built women. It was time to rise for slim and frail girls needing masculine protection. Recently the spread of civilisation diseases (heart diseases, diabetes, obesity) brought about the model of slim yet sporty ladies and the demand for conscious body building.

From the XXth century not only health concerns drive the features of new ideals but consumerism as well.

It is so interesting how economic, social and sanitary circumstances have affected the concept of female beauty which is supposed to be free from objective considerations.


  1. This is such an interesting viewpoint. As a guy, I can attest to the fact that the women one sees while growing up shape the fantasies, so it is also not uncommon for old folks to shake their head in disapproval at modern so called “beauties”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good overview. I read a lot of historical fiction and notice many of the trends as I select different periods. Relating it to someone’s perspective on what people like to see versus how someone feels about their body is a good approach.

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  3. Or maybe it is the other way round? A certain style of women shapes a certain style of world?
    I have photos of my grandmother (1890 born) just before WWI, complete with knee long hair, corset and ample foot long dress, and another in 1920, when she had cut both her hair and dress.
    The world today would be/look different if Coco Chanel had been… plump.

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