Everyone has their own idea of what is beautiful. However we are bombarded every day with images of what the ideal body should look like, from magazines, television, movies, billboards and ads, and models. How has body image changed over the years? Does body image change our culture or does culture change body image? We will look at the culture and body image of the 1950s and 1990s and see if we can answer these questions. The similarities of these eras are that even though the ideal body image of their time is very different that the others, they both influence woman to change things in their lives to try to look like the ideal woman. They both had diet pills come out in their time for people to take to help them obtain the body they desired. The biggest differences is the lengths women in those eras would go to obtain that ideal body.
In the 1950s according a “Body as a History” article, “Marilyn Monroe epitomizes the shifting beauty standards.”(Body Icon). Monroe became one of many famous “pin-up girls” of the 1950s. Other famous pin-up girls were: Betty Grable, Ava Gardner, Marie McDonald, Bettie Davis, Bettie Page, and Jayne Mansfield (Famous Hollywood). All of these women have curvy full figured bodies. Monroe, according to the book, Coping with a Negative Body-Image, was “an actress, a sex symbol, and had a very voluptuous body. She had full hips, round, pointed breasts, and a cinched waist. She also had long legs that were shown by her short dresses. At the time, she was considered to be a perfect size 14” (Bowen-Woodward13). According to the “Body as a History” article, training bras and girdles became more common (Body Icon). More women started wearing girdles and training bras to try to achieve the look of the pin-up girls. Another way that the body image of the 1950s effected women was, “ in 1959 Phentermine an appetite suppressant that increases the body’s metabolism was approved by the FDA to help speed weight loss”(Body Icon). Towards the end of the era women started using diet pills to help them achieve their “pin-up girl” look. Mostly though women just wore articles of clothing that gave the impression of having that “pin-up girl” look.
Popular clothing trends of the 1950s became more tailored and fitted with hourglass silhouetted clothes becoming the trend of the decade. The patterns of skirts became very different from the earlier decades with the most popular patterns being the poodle skirt and the circle skirt for younger women. Pencil skirts became a favorite with older women. Dress patterns also changed quite a bit with strapless dresses with full skirts becoming quite a rage. The popularity of this pattern of full skirts could also be credited to the advent of swing dancing. Another dress pattern that was widely worn was the chemise dress that was straight cut and did not have a defined waist. This allowed the woman wearing the dress to decide what part of her waist she wanted to define by tying the dress with a belt. The belt could be worn as high or as low as the woman pleased. Chemise dresses were flattering on most figures and therefore were worn by most women in the '50s. (1950s Fashion). This helped women of the 1950s show off their curves. Also according to the same article, Women stopped carrying shawls and started wearing coats. Long coats that flirted with the knees and had loose sleeves became the clothing item to possess. Coats for evening wear were often made of silk and trimmed with fur. With fur becoming a status symbol, which was affordable only for the rich, a whole new market of imitation fur opened up to cater to the increasing demand. Many designers also used feathers in their designs. The long-lasting popularity of animal prints, especially leopard prints can also be traced to the fashion trends of the 1950s. This was the era in which necklines such as halter necklines, shawl collars, and round collars caught on. Amongst