Time Period & Ideal Body

Ideal Women

Political, Economic, & Social Trends


Hourglass figure

Large Breasts

Slim waist

Large Hips

Lillian Russell

Less social freedom than 1890’s


Thinner hourglass figure

African American ideal is a version of white middle class respectability

Gibson Girl

More social freedom: women participate in the bicycling craze and take calisthenics

African American migration North. Black elite fear lower class visibility and engage in the politics of respectability


Straight silhouette

Small Breasts

Slim Hips

Boyish/girlish look

The Flapper

Clara Bow

Myrtle Gonzalez

Nina Mae McKinney

First wave of feminism

Women achieve the right to vote on the federal level

Period of economic prosperity

“Latin” movie stars are popular including Myrtle Gonzalez

Segregated Black movie theaters feature African American stars


Mature, classical beauty

Large Breasts

Broad hips

Hourglass look

Greta Garbo

Anna May Wong

Fredi Washington

Dolores del Rio (with Fred Astaire)

The Great Depression

A socially and politically conservative period

Light-skinned Black women like Fredi Washington play “tragic mulatto” figures

“Latin invasion” in film resulted in many popular “Latin” movie stars


Marilyn Monroe

Rita Hayworth

Dorothy Dandridge

McCarthy Era “Red Scare” of 1950’s

Conservative period

The women’s movement is less active

Anti-ethnic image of America prevails

Period of “Latin” invisibility

Tragic mulatto figure played by Dorothy Dandridge coincides with racial segregation


Return to the thin ideal

Small breasts

Slim hips

Voluptuous ideal still has appeal

Twiggy (Lesley Hornby)

Angela Davis (center, no glasses)

Raquel Welch

Second Wave of Feminism

Liberal social, and political movements have broad support

Black Power movement

Black is beautiful

Darker Black women are more accepted as beautiful by the Black middle class 

Politics of respectability is rejected by some Black people

Latina invisibility continues


Thin ideal exists alongside voluptuous ideal

Farah Fawcett

Lynda Carter

Economic downturn


Hourglass look

Large breasts

Broad hips

More athletic and toned figure

Jane Fonda

Naomi Campbell

Sonia Braga

“Backlash” period where conservative political and social forces gain more support

Fitness training is popular


Two ideals:

     1.      Waif look

Small breasted

Slim hips

Boyish/girlish look, “heroin chic” look

     2.      Glamazon Supermodel

Thin but more athletic and curvy

Kate Moss

Cindy Crawford

Jennifer Lopez

Gay rights gain popular support

“Latinization” occurs: Hispanic women are visible icons of beauty again, including Jennifer Lopez, Penélope Cruz, and Salma Hayek


Two ideals:

     1.      Slim to very slim with large breasts

     2.      Hourglass look

Christina Hendricks


Lucy Liu

Penélope Cruz

Reality TV becomes popular Internet use grows as a mass medium.

Increasing legal recognition of gay rights

Increasing transgender visibility

Politically polarized period