A Standard Is A Standard

I’m clearly not one to talk ill of people who love the past. But we honestly have to stop using the 1950s as an example of “better body standards” of what is considering beautiful. I’ve seen it come up a number of times on social media. I once even saw it in some art work at school, where a girl used images of a 1950s pin-up model in her work under the theme of body image, and my teacher pointed out that the use of the pin-up girl “represented the better body standards of the 1950s”. Then there is this image that’s floated through the internet for the past few years, and still people are fooled by it (pictures left).

This is a recent picture, and the woman is in fact adult film star Aria Giovanni. She’s gorgeous, and I would kill to have that figure. But that IS NOT what was considered perfect in the 1950s. And you don’t have to go very far to figure this out. Simply look at 1950s fashion photography, or watch a 1950s film. The women considered beautiful were petite.

Obviously, I wasn’t alive in the 1950s so I can’t really speak the exact truth, but being a lover of decades gone and quite familiar with the trends and fashions, as well as a number of films of the 1950s, it’s clear to see that the curvy, larger figure wasn’t exactly the most cherished body of the decade, as some people claim it was.

In 1947 Dior launched the first collection of the House of Dior, which emphasised the feminine shape with pointed busts, cinched in waists and full skirts. It was referred to as “the New Look”, influencing fashion in the 1950s. This was a drastic change from the masculine, broad padded shoulders and narrow hipped look of the 1940s. But as I said, just look at fashion photography and all the woman are petite. What’s more, 1950s fashion was tailored, with interior structuring such as boning, or worn over girdles. Even bathing suits had boning! The hourglass figure was emphasised through fashion, but still in a very petite way.

Did you know, pin-up icon (and love of my life) Bettie Page was rejected from fashion modelling for being TOO BIG! Yes, that’s right. She was told that she was too short and her hips were far too wide. Fashion wanted thin models, just like they do now.

And what about Marilyn Monroe, the famous curvy-figured actress? Well, she was indeed curvy, but in a very petite way by todays standards. Apparently when she was signed to Blue Book modelling agency in 1945, she was referred to as “too plump, but in a beautiful way”. But she was in no way plus-sized by todays standard dress sizing. Keep in mind that the average size of the everyday woman was smaller back then, but Marilyn was in a completely healthy weight range. Of course, her weight changed over her career. In the 1959 film Some Like It Hot, and in some of her iconic photographs (pictured above right), she was even pregnant, which is what spurned this idea that she was plus-sized. However, her standard measurements were 35-22-35 (inches), according to her dressmaker.

But you know what? Who cares if the 1950s did have a better body standard of what is considering beautiful, it was still a standard. A standard that women were either expected to live up to or wanted to be like, wether they were physically capable or not. Sound familiar? Of course, there is always the average size and height of the everyday woman, and that has definitely changed. A woman considered larger back then, would probably be considered average now. But for Bettie to be rejected from fashion modelling for being too large in the hips, and Marilyn to practically be labelled a plus-sized model by her agency? That’s ridiculous!

All through the 20th century a thin figure is what was considering beautiful, to the point where eating disorders hit an all-time high in the 1970s. It sucks that there is an obesity problem in the Western world today, which is probably at least part of the reason the average size of women is larger. But it’s awesome that women who are not stick thin are learning that the way they look is okay, and can be healthy and beautiful. As long as we are taking care of ourselves, and treating our bodies mentally and physically with the respect it deserves, then size does not matter. You don’t need to look to the past to make yourself feel beautiful. And you definitely shouldn’t be using it as a better example. Just take care of yourself, because you already are beautiful.

Maddy xxx

To read more about the controversy around Marilyn Monroe’s dress size have a read of this article on mental_floss.


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