By Afsana Rahman ’18
From the beginning of time, beauty has been a term that has been thrown around repeatedly and without warrant. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” “Beauty is not in the face; it is in the light of the heart.” “Beauty is about being the best possible version of yourself, in and out.” With all these different definitions of beauty, the term itself becomes very subjective. In order to really understand our obsession with the idea of beauty and its meaning, we have to look at our standards of beauty throughout time.
During the Victorian Era of beauty, pale meant you were of the aristocracy. If you had tanned skin, that probably meant you were a laborer and spent your days outside working. In order to receive a paler complexion, people would use titanium paint to give themselves a fully white face. The term “blue blood” developed during this time to describe aristocracy because the people were so pale, you could see the almost-blue veins on their face. A beauty “must” during this time that has continued on is the appearance of a small waist. The most popular method to achieve this look is tight corsets. Old-fashioned corsets required one or more people to tighten the laces in the back while the person wearing it tried to squeeze their stomach in. Modern corsets are not as difficult to put on, but still place a lot of pressure on the ribs and vital organs such as the stomach and kidneys.
Fast forward to the 1920’s when bob haircuts and thin eyebrows were all the rage. After the First World War, women were seen more able to work and have more freedom leading to the creation of womens trousers and shorter skirts. These clothes made it easier to move around used less cloth which started due to the rationing that took part during the war. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the idea of becoming like the stars became prominent. More actresses were seen on TV with their “perfect look” and this led to a lot of women starting to wear more makeup, leave their hair longer, and strive to achieve the perfect body.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, the idea of a perfect beauty continued to fluctuate. With the commercial popularity of stars such as Marilyn Monroe, the idea of a curvy and feminine body became more appealing. However, in the late 1950’s, women were expected to look immaculate and not really show evidence of curves with button down sweaters and long shapeless dresses.
Although looks and beauty standards have been constantly changing, the idea of wanting to be like the “perfect prettier ones” is an ideology that has stuck. We, as humans, continue to long for the perfect bodies and skin of models and the people in our magazines. A lot of the time, there is photoshop involved, but that does not stop us from loathing ourselves because of our lack of “beauty” like those around us. In order to truly see ourselves and each other as all beautiful, we have to acknowledge that it is not the standards of the times or the trends that make us beautiful, but who we are and what makes us whole and what keeps us different.