100 Years of Beauty and Why It Matters

My dad and I were catching a quick breakfast before heading into work. We were at the checkout counter in a local bakery waiting to pay our bill. The waitress walked up to the counter and stopped dead in her tracks. She looked me up and down and said, “You are freakishly tall!”

I stood there absolutely stunned.

I had no idea how to respond to that. I know that at 6’ 1” I’m on the taller side, but I’ve never been called “freakishly tall.”

I decided to just smile nicely and say, “Yeah . . . I am really tall . . .ha ha.” Awkward.

What Does Perfect Look Like?

When someone calls a girl freakish, it kind of makes her stop and think. And that’s exactly what it did to me.

I wanted to know what the ideal standard for beauty is. Do girls want to be tall, short, or average height? Do guys like blondes, brunettes, or red heads? What’s the best body type? On and on the questions scrolled in my head.

Instead of women embracing their unique God-given shapes, sizes, and features, we have a long history of picking a mold and try to conform.

I searched the Internet for answers and found that some people prefer tall girls like me, while others think I’m “freakish.” Some people love my blonde hair and fair skin, while others prefer darker complexions. Some people prefer being toothpick thin, while others like being more curvy. Clearly, beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder. No girl will appear physically beautiful to every single person she comes in contact with. Everyone has different preferences, opinions, likes and dislikes.

When we live for the approval of others, we will always be dissatisfied. The crazy cycle of feeling good and feeling bad based on what others think about us will leave us exhausted and frustrated.

100 Years of Change

After doing some more in-depth research on beauty, I came across information that shocked me. I had no idea just how flakey the culture’s standards for beauty truly are.

Get this. Over the past 100 years, the ideal body for a woman has changed drastically at least ten times. Check it out:

1910: The Gibson Girl

The ideal body shape during this time period was known as the Gibson Girl. This “perfect” woman was tall with a large bust, large hips and a tiny waist. This body type was the most desired and women did whatever they could to fit the mold.

1920: The Flapper

Only ten years later the perfect shape had drastically changed. Corsets were no longer in. Small chests and minimal curves were. The new ideal was a short bob hairstyle, downplayed waist, and a boyish figure.

1930: May West

May West was the idol for womanhood at this time, and she looked nothing like a flapper. She emphasized her curves and dressed to show them off.

1940: Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth was very similar to an average American girl. The ideal standard was a girl with healthy skin, a slender body frame, and a carefree spirit.

1950: Marilyn Monroe

Long legs and a busty hourglass figure was the new rage. Skinny women even took weight gain supplements during this era to fill in their curves.

1960: Twiggy

Long legs and small frame was the ideal for the 60s. Twiggy’s name was a perfect description of the shape that was in style. A willowy woman with an adolescent physique was the new standard of beauty

1970: Farrah Fawcett

Ten years brought a major shift in the new standard for beauty. Tan skin, flowing hair, and a toned body was the new look. The athletic body and natural makeup was the ideal for a beautiful woman.

1980: Jane Fonda

The athletic body type gained speed and strong women were all the rage. Being thin was very popular, but being thin and strong was the ultimate.

1990: Kate Moss

Thin, thin, thin. That was everything. Unhealthily skinny was the new standard for beauty.

2000: The Victoria’s Secret Model

Tall girls with long legs and big busts were back in style. Tanned skin and flowing hair was a must as well, and rock hard abs were the new goal for women to aspire to.

100 Years of Insecurity

The standard for beauty over the past 100 years has changed drastically. That was strictly an overview of popular body types. That list didn’t even include the makeup styles, hair trends, or fashion preferences.

When I look over that list and see the drastic changes, I can’t help but get a little upset. Instead of women embracing their unique God-given shapes, sizes, and features, we have a long history of picking a mold and try to conform.

That is not how God created us, and it’s not how He intended for us to live. He created us completely unique from one another on purpose.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Ps. 139:13–14).

Imagine how content and secure we as girls would feel if we embraced our God-given designs. Instead comparing ourselves, we would be free to thank God for the shape and features He chose for us to have.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Instead of trying to conform our bodies to the “perfect woman,” let’s instead embrace our God-given differences. God is so creative and made each one us to look special and unique. It’s time we ditched the culture’s “beauty ideas” and instead accepted God’s creativity.

He designed us. He loves us. He defines our beauty. He is our maker.

What do you think?

  • Do you look to the culture and aim toward their standard of beauty?
  • Do you accept the unique qualities that God has given you?
  • Do you find confidence in God’s intentional design of you?

About Author

After a brief experience in the modeling industry, Bethany’s eyes were opened to how self-absorbed and lost her generation of young women really are. She and her older sister were inspired to start a blog (www.GirlDefined.com) and wrote a book Girl Defined: God’s Radical Design for Beauty, Femininity and Identity. Their passion is to help young women find God’s truth about beauty and womanhood and the freedom that comes from living a radically different life for Christ.

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