Evolution of "Beauty"

Anna Barry

Models have always reflected an idealized view on how a woman’s body should look. From the 1950s to today, there has been an ever-changing stereotype and debate on the perfect, flawless woman.

Although Marilyn Monroe began her modeling career in the mid-1940s, her voluptuous body communicated the dream body type for every young woman in the 1950s. Women everywhere wanted to have her hourglass figure.

The 1960s-70s marked a transition in the modeling world as curvy models, like Monroe, were no longer romanticized, but replaced by tall, thin models like Twiggy, Jerry Hall and Iman. Twiggy was one of the iconic models in the 1960s; her lanky and slender build combined with her doll-like features made her extremely photogenic.

With the rise of supermodels in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a shift in the modelling field as models began to sign exclusive contracts with brands and changed body stereotypes. The ‘80s was the decade of aerobics, so all models were expected to maintain a physique. Therefore, supermodels like Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson and Christie Brinkley exuded the perfect body type as they were tall, athletic and thin.

Today, models purport the notion that females should be thin and athletic. Society often critiques models when they appear “too skinny” or “chubby.” Models like Gigi Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and Kendall Jenner coincide with the ever-present emphasis on being a rare combination of skinny and healthy.

Although the typical model today is thin and fit, there has been an increase in plus-size models, who are advocating for a role in the modeling world. Plus size models like Ashley Graham have embraced their size and are utilizing their modeling contracts to promote a healthier body image. Plus size models have made women embrace their curves.

With models Instagramming everything from behind the scenes at runway shows to vacations, society has more access to the idealized female body shape. Self-body shaming can stem from opening up Instagram to see photos of Gigi Hadid at the gym with perfect abs, or Kendall Jenner looking flawless in a bathing suit. However, it is important to realize that, for a model, a huge part of life is about looking thin and flawless.

Although couture runways generally have thin models, popular every day companies like Dove and J. Crew are challenging the norm and encouraging a healthy outlook on body image. Dove launched its “Self-Esteem Project” in 2004 to increase body confidence among women. In connection with this campaign, Dove put out a series of ads with real women who embraced their bodies for what they were and bared all for the ad campaign, without any touch-ups. The recent September, J. Crew chose to display the brands employees as models in the Fall 2016 collection. Out went the size 0 model and in came models of all sizes, shapes and ages. Both of these companies are promoting the necessity for a conversation on loving your body.

Models are plastered throughout magazines, ad campaigns, runways and on social media outlets. The ideal body shape has evolved from curvy to skinny to healthy, and the modeling agencies have started embracing the realm of plus-size models. Although looking like a model is perceived as a goal by most women, it is important to remind yourself to love your body and feel comfortable in your skin. Everyone is beautiful!