Have you ever wondered what “The Perfect Body” is? Research has shown, that the definition of the perfect body has never stayed the same, and has evolved drastically throughout the years.
Women have been expected to fit a certain mold in many cultures and, having taken a deeper look into this, I will be explaining what the “ideal” body type was in the world throughout different periods of history and how different the expectations became throughout time passing.
Paleolithic Era – Venus of Willendorf
The Venus of Willendorf was, at that time, the definition of beauty – strong, healthy and well-nourished. One of the earliest forms of art, Venus of Willendorf, the first primitive symbol of an idealized woman. This sculpture was found in 1908, and dates back to 33,000 years ago. “It has been suggested that she is a fertility figure, a good-luck totem, a mother goddess symbol, or an aphrodisiac made by men for the appreciation of men.” A good body, meant one that could carry children. Strength meant beauty, as you could not seduce a wild animal into sparing you as their dinner.
Vanity at its finest
Ancient Egypt 1292-1069 BC
Egyptians went through great measures to keep a good appearance. I think it’s safe to say, the pharaohs were incredibly vain, and perhaps the modern world emulated some ideas from Ancient Egypt, applying them to their own standards. Egyptian clothing was quite form-fitting, outlining every curve. It’s funny, comparing our standards, and how similarly superficial the Egyptian culture must have been. At least we are not alone in our judgemental thoughts.
Ancient Greece 500-300 BC
Women’s bodies were not as highlighted in ancient Greece, it was mostly about men. “A woman was a beautiful, evil thing” according to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod. With this, it is safe to say that men had it a bit harder, to reach a certain standard. As for the ladies, ancient statues give us a deeper look into how the standard woman’s body appeared. Beauty was defined by symmetry and harmony, in my opinion, a way nicer norm to implement- isn’t it? Kalon journal states “The female body was represented with soft shapes, round buttocks, long legs, long and wavy hair, and gentle face…The only thing that changed, talking about the ideal female body, is the size. The rounded, soft, and prosperous shapes of the antiquity are now replaced by a size two.”
Pleasure, fertility, and youth
Italian Renaissance 1400-1700
The Italian Renaissance aided in the return of the appreciation of pleasure, fertility, and youth. Even artists like Raphael had women as subjects, who were in fact quite curvy, and were the epitome of beauty. Researchgate suggests that Raphael himself has stated that his paintings epitomize the idealization of female beauty of this period but, by his own admission they were rarely based on real models, just his imagination of what a beautiful woman would look like. The honesty in this admittance goes to show what the true standard for women’s bodies was in the Italian Renaissance.
Not too hearty, not too strong
Victorian Era 1837-1901
No particular body part was emphasized here. In short, their expectations included the pale, frail, weak look, with a larger bust and a plumper figure. But make sure to finish off your look with a corset. As long as you fit these criteria, you are a perfect Victorian-era lady. Just don’t look too hearty or strong, and you’re good to go.
The turn of the century and what came after
After the end of the Victorian Era, the ideal body image fluctuated. Things took an interesting turn in the 20s, where a boyish figure, flat chest with a short hair bob was the idealized look of women. Androgynous was the theme, as they wanted to form a stronger identity for themselves. Continuing onto the Hollywood era, beautiful curves and voluptuous breasts made their way back. Taking a turn in the 60s, it went back to a thin, frail, pale “twiggy” look.
Nowadays, it is hard to set a definition, given the modern opportunity of plastic surgery, which has been proved to be unnecessary as body standards are extremely dynamic. Why change your body permanently, if there’s a chance your original body will be seen as perfect just a year after? It is important to keep in mind that comparing yourself to others does more harm than good, as everyone is built differently. Love yourself! If you are ever upset about not having a “perfect body” remember that perfection is always changing and transforming!