How do you define beauty? Is it a small waist and large breasts? A perfect smile and straight hair? If you flip through the pages of an American fashion magazine, you may think beauty is narrowly defined…but that’s not the case. From thick ankles to small noses, women from five continents are revealing what’s considered beautiful in their countries. “It’s a way of connecting yourselves from your kitchen, your living room, your bedroom … to the rest of the world.” The first culture I will speak about are the Koreans. In any subway car you will see young Korean women checking their hair and makeup in mirrors that come attached to their cell phones. For those with less image-savvy devices, the windows provide ample reflection for women to fretfully fix stray stands of hair or rouge streaks of foundation.
This preoccupation with beauty is no less reflected in how many Korean women dress. High heels, mini-skirts and frilled blouses are not reserved for nights out on the town – they are the norm for many women going about their daily business. While looking good is a matter of boosting self-esteem for many women, there are often more practical reasons for going under the knife. A lot of women believe that their chances of employment are largely dependent on their looks and will improve significantly after a cosmetic touch-up. In this highly competitive society, where it is routine to send your photo attached to your resume, a pretty face can give you the edge in a job or college interview. The next country/culture we will look at is Africa.
There are some countries in Africa who have recently adopted a new definition of beauty accepting the same beliefs as Western culture. However, many countries maintain a quite different perspective of what beauty means within Africa. This different perspective defines beauty as:
* Large Breasts: In some countries, women with large chests are much more desirable and considered much more beautiful than women with small chests. * Ample Backside: In some countries, generally the same ones that consider big breasts to be beautiful, a large backside is desirable and considered beautiful. * Fat vs. Skinny: Although it has become a newly accepted form of beauty, being skinny is not desirable in every country in Africa. There are countries where brides are force fed in order to make them fat or to make them more desirable to their male counterparts. Although this may not be considered healthy, it is what many in the culture of these countries consider beautiful. * Skin Color: Another aspect of beauty in Africa relates to skin color. Many countries believe that a lighter skinned African woman is more desirable than those who have darker skin. Therefore, a market has grown for skin creams that will lighten the complexion of African women in order to make them more attractive to the opposite sex. Importance of Curves in African Beauty
Looking at this list of what beauty means in certain parts of Africa, we can deduce that the more curves a woman has in some countries across the African continent, the more desirable she is to the opposite sex. The idea of this form of accepted beauty has caused many clothing designers in Africa to increase their sizes available in their clothing lines in order to show their acceptance that even a bigger woman can be beautiful.
In Southwestern Asia, the area often known as the Middle East, the rejection of Western culture and beauty standards, along with the insurgence of Islamic traditions, has seen the rise in more traditional, Arabic clothing. This clothing tends to cover more of the body and gives only an alluring glimpse at the feminine figure within as a clear denunciation of the revealing outfits worn by many in the Western world. These outfits display the humble, demure and secret beauty of the wearer, whose husband is the only one with access to the body hidden within the folds of fabric. Still, with increasing globalization, many Western beauty ideals have spread throughout the world, while cultures with little contact outside their indigenous communities continue to observe their own beauty practices. Either way, ideals of beauty are ever-present throughout the diverse communities of world.
Beauty Throughout The Ages It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, women were celebrated for their natural god-given bodies. In fact, the female standard of beauty has gone through many drastic changes over the last several hundred years. I’ve compiled a timeline of all the major trends over the past 600 years, starting with the Renaissance up until the last decade.
Renaissance Body Type: The ideal Renaissance woman was more voluptuous than any other time in history. Paintings from this era depict women who would be considered beyond curvy by today’s standards – but at that time, these full-figured ladies were the epitome of sexiness. For the first time in recorded history, women were prized for their natural bodies. Beauty: The term “blondes have more fun” may have stemmed from the Renaissance, because they believed that the lighter the hair color, the better. As for make-up, pale ivory skin was considered sexy, and vermillion was used to tint the lips to a deep red color. Pale complexion and blood red lips – it seems like the Renaissance era may have originated the popular vampire-chic look. Victorian
Body Type: Unlike Renaissance women, Victorian women were very body conscious. Sexy meant having the smallest waistline humanly possible, and in order to achieve this look, women wore corsets. Some corsets were wound so tight that women could hardly breathe, to the point where sitting down was completely out of the question. Many women would even break ribs trying to get their waistlines down to an inconceivable 12 inches. Beauty: Modesty was the operative word when it came to Victorian makeup. High-class women were expected to use makeup sparingly. Bold colors were considered trashy, and reserved for prostitutes. Some religions at the time even proclaimed beauty products to be “the look of the devil.”
1920’s Era Body Type: The 1920’s was a time when women didn’t want to look like women at all. We can’t imagine that men today would find this sexy, but some women from the 20’s era would even bind their chests with strips of cloth to achieve a “little boy” look – quite contradictory to some of the measures that today’s women take in order to amplify their chests. The loose silhouette of the flapper dress was in stark contrast to the corseted waist of the Victorian era. Elastic webbed girdles replaced corsets and gave off the look of a flat boyish abdomen. Beauty: Going right along with the boyish look, the hair bob or finger wave was a big trend. Bold make-up, which had once been considered “trashy,” was now considered sexy. Powder was applied to make the skin look as pale as possible, and eyebrows were lifted and penciled in to appear thin and bold. Kohl was used to line the eye and achieve an overall dramatic look.
1930-1970s Era Body Type: As they became more body conscious, women started to pay attention to what they ate. Fashions accented the arms and legs, so women lifted light weights to build muscle tone. The new padded stretch cotton bra was introduced – something we’re sure all men and women are very thankful for. Designers like Chanel (credited as the originator of the “little black dress”), Dior, and Elsa Schiaparelli started designing glamorous attire that allowed women to show off their feminine curves. Beauty: Hairstyles became more feminine than they had been in the 1920’s. Hair color varied, depending on which movie star one was trying to emulate. Jean Harlow made platinum blonde a trend, and meanwhile, Rita Hayworth made being a redhead popular. Last, but not least, Marlene Dietrich was a symbol for all the brunettes out there. Make-up became a little less drag, and more girl-next-door than in the 20’s. The pasty white skin trend was finally passé, and women started opting for foundations closer to their natural complexions.
Courtney from Study Moose
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