The Evolution of Beauty

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22nd century beauty?

We’ve covered the past, the present … What about the future?

What will the future be like besides hover cars, lasers and doors that go *whoosh*?  Will physical beauty be completely obsolete?  Will we be able to safely and inexpensively genetically engineer perfect babies who will grow up to be “perfectly beautiful”?  Will film cameras automatically “fix” pictures and movies?  Will people be able to completely exchange their body or parts of it to their definition of beautiful?

What will be considered beautiful?

No one can’t say.  But we can confidently say that history shows one thing is certain: we will use more and more technology and digital media to achieve what is accepted as beautiful.

Future Beauty?. And I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords....  Deds to mrdiddles, got the idea from his content.  Top 60. Thanks all!


Victoria’s Secret

The Victoria’s Secret fashion show is one of the most viewed TV specials aired each year.  People talk about it like it’s more important than the Grammys and the Oscars combined.  If you aren’t lucky enough to catch it on TV, it’s okay — you can see it online, on YouTube!  While yes, we can’t deny these women are beautiful by our standards today, they are promoting the image of how everyone should look and even dress.  Normal, healthy women do not walk, talk, look, act or dress like that.  Their whole bodies are airbrushed.  The models have personal trainers and nutritionists that are with them constantly.  Fans blow on them and their hair as they walk down the runway to give an enhanced look for the camera.  You can tell, compared to Nicki Minaj, how tall all of those models are.  They fit into such a small population and it’s their job to look good and their trainers, stylists, nutritionists, makeup artists, agents … all of their jobs, and more, to make them look that good.

This isn’t normal and they’re trying to tell us it is!

Researchers Say Facebook Fueling Eating Disorders

Researchers Say Facebook Fueling Eating Disorders

How to be beautiful

How to be beautiful.

It’s really depressing how the first few sites are titled:

How to Be Beautiful: 5 steps (with pictures) – wikiHow

How to Look Beautiful As a Teenage Girl: 14 steps – wikiHow

35 Simple Ways to Be Beautiful

How to be beautiful.? – Yahoo! Answers

How to be beautiful ON OUTSIDE? – Yahoo! Answers

In the age of the internet, people — especially young girls — are getting all of these beauty ideals from media.  A lot of time is spent online nowadays so a lot of it comes from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, and other sites on the web.  We rely on these sites to tell us what is beautiful and what we should aim to be.

Also, because of these sites and the “profile pictures” they all suggest us to have, we don’t only have to be pretty in person anymore — we have to be pretty online, as well.  In pictures on our profile, in pictures we’re tagged in on Facebook and anywhere else.  Pressures to wear makeup and look our best are higher than they ever were.

Watch the video here.

21st Century Beauty [present day]

Voted most beautiful woman of the 21st century:

Angelina Jolie Gallery

Nowadays, the beauty we all strive to reach from what we see in magazines and movies simply isn’t real.  It’s impossible.  Technology has blurred our image of beauty so much that it has become something non-existent in real life.  Because of websites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Tumblr, beauty isn’t just physical prescence anymore — in fact, most of the time we see these images of beauty through some form of digital screen.  We not only aim to be beautiful in person anymore, but also online.

This popular campaign by Dove shows how unattainable our current views of beauty are.

Although featuring the video above, this highlights a lot of points about beauty the media brought up in the 21st century.

Cosmetic surgery is considered a norm, botox isn’t unusual (they’ve even made a TV show about it), “boob jobs” — whether women want larger or smaller breasts — are not uncommon.  Laser surgery to remove unwanted hair, correct vision, eliminate spider veins – all common.  Stem-cell technology is showing potential anti-aging properties in fat cells, making faces look years younger.



There are uncountable beauty magazines telling us how to look, dress, be tan, please our men, how to do our hair, have long and beautiful eyelashes, makeup makeup makeup, makeup that makes us flawless and makeup that makes us look younger and makeup that stays in place for 24 hours.  Even articles encouraging surgery to enhance our bodies to today’s standards of beauty.

In the 21st century, the word “beautiful” isn’t even all that common.  Words like “hot” and “sexy” have replaced standard beauty, and the fewer the clothes, the better:

We’ve come a long way since the 16th century in terms of beauty, haven’t we?

No.  We haven’t.

People wore wigs to improve their hair before they had hair products like we do now.  They wore powders that harmed their skin, even “bled” themselves on a regular basis because translucent pale was considered beautiful.  They wore perfumes, too. None of that is real either.  The only thing that has changed is our means of improvement are more advanced than they used to be.  What technology has changed, however, is the ability to alter ourselves in photographs and in movies with a few clicks on programs like Photoshop:

(our most beautiful woman, Angelina Jolie, before and after Photoshop — of course she is still beautiful before, but after she is flawless according to today’s standards of beauty)

In times before computers, though, and before photography, they had something even better than Photoshop: a painter.  Women didn’t have breast implants but they did wear corsets to raise their chest, flatten their stomachs and reduce their waistline.  In current times, we get a (heavily doctored) picture from society that is what we define as beautiful:

But back in centuries past, there were tales about the most beautiful princesses with “skin as white as snow” – “Oh, how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony” and she was the fairest, most beautiful one of all.

(Snow White was written in 1812)

This was their form of media, of telling women how they should look to be beautiful.  In order to become beautiful like Snow White, women used all kinds of artificial tricks to paint that picture of common and accepted “beauty” on their faces.

Only thing is, that commonly accepted picture of beauty changed over the years, adapting to current times and circumstances.  Like I said before, at one time wide hips were considered beautiful.  We wanted to expand our population and fertile women seemed most attractive.  Some of it comes down to biology.  Some of it comes from stories.  Some from revolutionary ideas.  But what it always comes down to is that everyone is pressured to be “beautiful” by someone else’s standards, and no one — even before digital media — has ever been satisfied with their natural beauty.

20th Century Beauty

We’ll come to some more familiar faces here in the 20th century.

Grace Kelly

Princess Diana of Wales

Audrey Hepburn


Marilyn Monroe

A video clip of Marilyn Monroe showcases the flair of 20th century beauty.

In the 1950’s, Marilyn Monroe’s womanly curves and perfect hourglass figure were the most desired and sought after body type.

In present day, she would be considered too heavy to meet our 21st century standards of beauty.

From here:

Early 1900′s: The thin rectangle

    • The average woman is 5′ 2″ tall and weighs 129 pounds.
    • The brassiere is patented in 1913.
    • In the 1920s women bind their breasts to gain more boyish figure.
    • “Flappers” show skin and women become more self-conscious.
    • Shaved armpits become popular.
    • Comfort and freedom are priorities; bobbed hairstyle popular.
    • First Miss America Pageant is held in 1921.

Mid 1900s: The hourglass

    • Marilyn Monroe embodies the ideal figure.
    • Pin-up girls make large breasts popular.
    • Large hips come back in style with the baby boom of the 1950s.
    • Shaved legs become popular, sometimes by use of sandpaper.
    • First official weight-loss drug approved by FDA in 1959.
    • The ideal thins out again in the 1970s, repeating trend of the 1920s.

1980s: Muscular and toned

    • Death of Karen Carpenter raises awareness of eating disorders.
    • Excercise tapes become the new trend.
    • Muscular woman is prominent but boyish figure is popular and voluptuous curves gain popularity.


The 20th century brought safer cosmetics, freedom to wear as much or little makeup as they desired, lipsticks, the first liquid nail polish, and powder compacts and blushes.  Makeup was considered standard.  Few women went without it, and the cosmetic industry blew up.  In addition, it brought something completely new to beauty: the tan!  Instead of being stuck inside all day to show their wealth and luxury, woman instead went outside to play and lay in the sun, giving them a sunkissed bronze complexion that was considered the new beautiful. -source



The media also became more popular in this century, due to the popularization of fashion and glamour magazines, showing and telling women exactly how they should strive to look to be beautiful.  Role models appeared in movies and models set the stage for perfection.

19th Century Beauty

19th century: The Age of the Corset

This is when the 18 inch waist was all the rage.

Harper’s Bazaar was a fashion magazine that was first publicized in 1867.  The magazine’s focus was on “….the useful with the beautiful, and aiming to include every thing that will be interesting to the family circle…. Being intended largely for ladies, it will devote a considerable space to the matters which fall particularly under their jurisdiction, such as dress and household affairs.” -source  It told you how to dress, how to take care of your family, and how to be beautiful.  Although not digital yet, this form of media was already influencing how women were “supposed” to be.

From this site:

Early 1800s: The rectangle

    • “Corset Mecaniques” make corsets more user-friendly.
    • Indoor lifestyle makes women pale and frail.
    • Small feet and rosebud lips accompany prim and reserved personality.

Mid 1800s: The bell

    • Ideal woman is curvy with big hips.
    • Corset becomes controversial because of restrictiveness.
    • Clothing sizes are developed.

Late 1800s: The hourglass

    • Beauty culture develops in the U.S.; first notions of mass-produced beauty.
    • Through early 1900s women have small waists and large updos.


A more natural look became the image of beauty.  The use of excessive makeup, like generations past, was considered “loose”.  Most men believed that women didn’t even wear makeup at all anymore.  A very natural looking foundation, usually coming from France, was acceptable, but

lip and cheek rouge were considered scandalous; instead of their use, beauty books of the era suggested women bite their lips and pinch their cheeks vigorously before entering a room. -source

Beauty regimes were introduced as necessity, including cold cream as a foundation remover.  Anti-aging and wrinkle cures were advertised heavily.  Even though medical studies knew and made public the consequences, women still continued to use toxic substances to achieve beauty:

Whiteners, still quite popular, contained substances such as zinc oxide, mercury, lead, nitrate of silver, and acids; some women even ate chalk or drank iodine to achieve whiteness.  -source

18th Century Beauty

In the 18th century, makeup was applied heavier. tells us:

 Likewise, a rise in medical complications occurred—tooth decay, adverse skin conditions, and poisonings were often caused by the use of dangerous makeup. Lead and sulfur (for enhancing the cleavage), mercury (for covering blemishes), and white lead (for whitening the complexion) were frequent hindrances of the medical world.

Men, women, and even children wore makeup to some extent in order to achieve the fashionable white face with flaming red cheeks and lips. Eyebrows were accentuated with pencils, or concealed beneath false eyebrows made of mouse fur.

It is easily noted that women who were heavier were considered beautiful.  This was partly because it showed they had enough money to eat, but partly because curves were just in back then.

This was the era of the pear body shape.  Eyebrows were sometimes shaved and replaced with mouse skin.  On average, a woman bore eight children, so large hips were a sign of fertility, which was considered beautiful. source

The women of Georgian high society looked beautiful in their satins and silks, but they hardly ever bathed.  Sanitation was still quite crude and they preferred to douse their clothes, their bodies and their belongings in toilet waters and perfumes. They wore scented pomanders and carried small scent bottles about their person.  They had false teeth, false hair, false bosoms, false calves and induced large eyes which they made to falsely dilate by using Belladonna extracted from the Deadly Nightshade plant.  They were a walking deception. -source

17th Century Beauty

I found this article, which gives us some insight on beauty in the 17th century.

This is a 17th century lady.

Even in the 1600’s, there were manuals produced for women for how to look their best, and what society deemed appropriate.  It  has been called the Cosmopolitan magazine of its time: The Ladies Dictionary.

It did include tips for makeup, dating, and dieting, but they were pretty different from what we’re used to today.  Exercise included bathing in a bath full of medicinal herbs.

At the time of its publication, fashionable women would wear floorlength dresses usually cut low enough to show a glimpse of cleavage, with their waists and busts exaggerated by tightly-strapped bodices.

Hair would be worn up, usually with a powdered wig or hairpiece to give extra height, and fans, embroidered handkerchiefs and pearl necklaces were essential accessories.


It was the 17th century when makeup stopped becoming a taboo and was more accepted as an everyday sign of beauty.  Both men and women used makeup in the 17th century.  White paint was applied as a foundation, followed by white powder, a brownish blush and red lip stain.  “Beauty Patches”, which were pieces of velvet or silk cut into stars, moons, hearts, and various shapes, were often applied to the face and body to cover up imperfections.


16th Century Beauty

Makeup and style has existed back as far as history can be tracked.  It has gone through its phases of usage and acceptableness, though.  In the middle ages, makeup and self indulgence was considered a taboo.  However, women still strived for a pale skin tone.  They did this by staying out of the sun (which also marked their social status), painting faces with white powder, or actually “bled” — drained of their blood — because it was a sign of beauty.  Noble women were able to dye their hair blonde with a mixture of saffron, cumin seed, celandine and oil.  Actual color applied to the face, however, was considered unfashionable.

This is a 16th Century Woman

In the 17th century, everything changed.  Click here to read about it!