Throughout the decades of time, society has been continuously determining the perception of what it is to be “beautiful.” The American standard of beauty is often reflected upon advertisements that convey an unrealistic expectation for most everyday women. Whereas, teenagers have grown to interpret advertisements as a model for how they should appear physically. Marilyn Monroe was perceived as the epitome of beauty in the 1950s. The well-known sex symbol was recognized because of her curvaceous build. But for instance, Twiggy, a popular model in the midst of the 1960s, later set a misconstrued standard to what was beautiful. With the rising of her stardom, the glamorization of being thin was beginning to take a turn on a more positive note. That is until the famous 90s heroin chic model, Kate Moss, hit the scene taking the modeling industry by storm in an unhealthy manner with her campaign “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” As time continues to inevitably move forward in American culture, as will the image and conception of what beauty truly is in the eyes of our society.
The value of women has always been subjectified to that of their appearance; therefore, the desired standard to be “beautiful” continues to evolve in the wrong ways. Today, the media puts pressure on both girls and women to look a specific type of way and throughout the past several years it has begun surface more frequently due to the drastic lengths people are willing to go to achieve their idea of perfection. Molly Edmonds, a woman who wrote “10 Ways the Definition of Beauty Has Changed” on a popular health website – HowStuffWorks – exclaims “the problem is, what society considers beautiful has a tendency to change, which means our pursuit of beauty tends to be lifelong and subject to the whims of trendsetters.” In American culture today, society is endlessly pushing the average woman be compelled to the thought of have a slimming but toned stomach, long but muscular legs, basically, a perfectly proportioned body in order to bear acceptance from those amongst them.
If a young female in this day and age is, for example born with brown, curly hair she might feel as if she has to have blonde, straight hair in order to fit in. As if somewhere in the world there is a recipe for the perfect woman that requires specific ingredients and an exquisite taste. Most females are not satisfied with their physical features because of the image of this “ideal woman” that has been corrupted in the minds of people through radio, television, magazines, and movies by advertising with these countless models, which are materialized by their unrealistic slender bodies and high cheek bones. Basically, telling us that we are not good enough on our own skin; that we need THEIR tips, THEIR products and THEIR services to transform into THEIR picture perfect, ideal women. To the naked eye, these various advertisements and ways of entertainment seem to be harmless but in the reality of the widespread problem, the media is relentlessly bombarding us with their desires, permanently damaging the self-esteem of both women and even men.
Although it isn’t written about or explained through definitions, we’re able to recognize society’s standard of “beauty” by the images of the men and women that are chosen to be projected. Beauty throughout the mid-century was evoked sensually through a “natural look.” Therefore, normal women were discovered for that certain type of look; women like Norma Jean, also known as Marilyn Monroe. Traveling back into the 50’s, a time where beautifully built women were praised by all, both men and women, because of their physical appearance. Marilyn Monroe was emulated for her full-figured stature and ravishing natural beauty. Anne Peterson once wrote, ” Monroe was a presence impossible to ignore. Her image signified vitality and brazenness, sexuality and innocence. It reset the standard of what it meant to be sexy, and what it meant to be sexy in public. No star has troubled the status quo as significantly since.”
After becoming Playboy Magazine’s first cover model and centerfold, Monroe soon achieved in becoming one of the largest the sex symbols of the decade. The actions people displayed began to transcend from an uptight society to a point where people were free to express themselves. This added a boost to prod individuals into becoming more open with their sexuality instead of hiding their true selves to those who surrounded them. In addition to modeling Marilyn’s acting career blossomed. “People all over America were buying televisions to put in their homes, which caused moving film to play a much larger role in society than in previous decades.” (Boyd) This new up rise in the ways of entertainment developed a type of industry where physical beauty was essential for making a career. Marilyn Monroe’s signature blue eyes and curly blonde hair contributed to her stand out look compared to the other popular models and actresses of the era.
As the years continued to pass, so had a tremendous development and perception of beauty through the eyes of our society. “Since the 1960s, models such as Twiggy and Kate Moss have replaced more voluptuous figures like Marilyn Monroe as the new ideal of beauty and the desired male look has likewise become more trim and hard-bodied with each passing decade.” (Tolerence) From the original curvaceous figure of Marilyn Monroe, that had rose along with television sales in the 50s, to Twiggy’s emaciated figure that was popularized as the art of runway modeling began to become more common, and which later returned back to a more waifish or heroin chic look, increasing Kate Moss’ popularity in the fashion industry.
“Twiggy’s role in new fashion portrayal was probably the biggest change in ideals in the 20th century.” This “skinny” look that was advertised more and more, pushing the image that full-figured models were beautiful too created an uprooting dilemma throughout the years. Taking a turn for the worst in this time period, girls and women then began to obsess over both their weight and self-image. It wasn’t until then was when many of the different eating disorders that are known today were discovered.
George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The quote is suitable to relevance of the fashion industry; in a way that history does repeat itself. Each year that passes uncovers a new kind of fashion statement. Along with these statements comes a new image; an image on how one needs to look to fit in. What society has had trouble grasping is that physical appear is not what beauty needs to be defined as. Beauty should be defined by the goodness of your heart and the knowledge you enlighten the world with.
“THE IDEAL WOMAN THROUGH THE AGES.” DISCOVERY NEWS. N.P. 12 DEC. 2012. WEB. 2 APRIL 2014.
PETERSON, ANNE. “THE UNHERALDED MARILYN MONROE.” THE HAIRPIN. N.P. 26 OCT. 2011. WEB. 2 APRIL 2014.
Edmond, Molly. “10 Ways the Definition of Beauty Has Changed.” HowStuffWorks. Web. 7 April 2014.
“SIZE BIAS AS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION.” TOLERANCE. WEB. 7 APRIL 2014.
Wood, Louise. “Perceptions Of Female Beauty In The 20th Century.” Web. 7 April 2014.
“Playboy.” Wikipedia. Web. 7 April 2014.
Etcoff, Nancy. “Survival of the Prettiest.” Web. April 7 2014.