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The Past 100 Years of Beauty and How it Affects You

By: Bethany Baird

My dad and I were catching a quick breakfast before heading into work. We were at the checkout counter in a local bakery waiting to pay our bill. The waitress walked up to the counter and stopped dead in her tracks. She looked me up and down and said, “You are freakishly tall!”

I stood there absolutely stunned.

I had no idea how to respond to that. I know that at 6’ 1” I’m on the taller side, but I’ve never been called “freakishly tall.”

I decided to just smile nicely and say, “Yeah . . . I am really tall . . .ha ha.” Awkward.

What Does Perfect Look Like?

When someone calls a girl freakish, it kind of makes her stop and think. And that’s exactly what it did to me.

I wanted to know what the ideal standard for beauty is. Do girls want to be tall, short, or average height? Do guys like blondes, brunettes, or red heads? What’s the best body type? On and on the questions scrolled in my head.

I searched the Internet for answers and found that some people prefer tall girls like me, while others think I’m “freakish.” Some people love my blonde hair and fair skin, while others prefer darker complexions. Some people prefer being toothpick thin, while others like being more curvy.

Clearly, beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder.

No girl will appear physically beautiful to every single person she comes in contact with. Everyone has different preferences, opinions, likes and dislikes.

When we live for the approval of others, we will always be dissatisfied. The crazy cycle of feeling good and feeling bad based on what others think about us will leave us exhausted and frustrated.

100 Years of Change

After doing some more in-depth research on beauty, I came across information that shocked me. I had no idea just how flakey the culture’s standards for beauty truly are.

Get this. Over the past 100 years, the ideal body for a woman has changed drastically at least ten times. Check it out:

1910: The Gibson Girl

The ideal body shape during this time period was known as the Gibson Girl. This “perfect” woman was tall with a large bust, large hips and a tiny waist. This body type was the most desired and women did whatever they could to fit the mold.

1920: The Flapper

Only ten years later the perfect shape had drastically changed. Corsets were no longer in. Small chests and minimal curves were. The new ideal was a short bob hairstyle, downplayed waist, and a boyish figure.

1930: May West

May West was the idol for womanhood at this time, and she looked nothing like a flapper. She emphasized her curves and dressed to show them off.

1940: Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth was very similar to an average American girl. The ideal standard was a girl with healthy skin, a slender body frame, and a carefree spirit.

1950: Marilyn Monroe

Long legs and a busty hourglass figure was the new rage. Skinny women even took weight gain supplements during this era to fill in their curves.

1960: Twiggy

Long legs and small frame was the ideal for the 60s. Twiggy’s name was a perfect description of the shape that was in style. A willowy woman with an adolescent physique was the new standard of beauty

1970: Farrah Fawcett

Ten years brought a major shift in the new standard for beauty. Tan skin, flowing hair, and a toned body was the new look. The athletic body and natural makeup was the ideal for a beautiful woman.

1980: Jane Fonda

The athletic body type gained speed and strong women were all the rage. Being thin was very popular, but being thin and strong was the ultimate.

1990: Kate Moss

Thin, thin, thin. That was everything. Unhealthily skinny was the new standard for beauty.

2000: The Victoria’s Secret Model

Tall girls with long legs and big busts were back in style. Tanned skin and flowing hair was a must as well, and rock hard abs were the new goal for women to aspire to.

100 Years of Insecurity

The standard for beauty over the past 100 years has changed drastically. That was strictly an overview of popular body types. That list didn’t even include the makeup styles, hair trends, or fashion preferences.

When I look over that list and see the drastic changes, I can’t help but get a little upset. Instead of women embracing their unique God-given shapes, sizes, and features, we have a long history of picking a mold and try to conform.

That is not how God created us, and it’s not how He intended for us to live. He created us completely unique from one another on purpose.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Ps. 139:13–14).

Imagine how content and secure we as girls would feel if we embraced our God-given designs. Instead of comparing ourselves, we would be free to thank God for the shape and features He chose for us to have.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Instead of trying to conform our bodies to the “perfect woman,” let’s instead embrace our God-given differences. God is so creative and made each one us to look special and unique. It’s time we ditched the culture’s “beauty ideas” and instead accepted God’s creativity.

He designed us. He loves us. He defines our beauty. He is our maker.

I would love to hear from you. What is one unique or special feature that God has given you? I’ll go first. I am really tall. I would say that’s a unique feature and I’ve learned to love it. Okay, now it’s your turn.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com | N02.8892100416

The Past 100 Years of Beauty and How it Affects You

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  • Kia

    I can definitely relate to you because I am also 6’1″ tall. And as a woman (I’m 23 btw) it’s hard sometimes because I also get those comments. But like you’ve I just learned to smile and take it as a compliment. It’s really hard when it comes to guys too because I feel as though my stature intimates them and the just prefer shorter girls. But none the less , I can’t change my height. I’ve learned to embrace my God given height because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Love your blog!

  • Elizabeth

    I really needed this today! Thank you! I’m 16 and over 5’10”. People have always imagined me 3 or 4 years older than I actually am. I also have super thick hair. And I’m not kidding. The lady who cuts it calls it a horse tail. Lol I’ve also been a little heavy over the years until a few years ago when I got convicted to change my way of life. Since then, I have almost reached my goal. Due to a back injury, it’s hard for me to exercise. But I am choosing to praise God for the extra height and hair. My grandma says I’ll appreciate them when I’m older. Haha I also will accept my physical trial, when I’m in pain, it draws me closer e r to God.

    • Jenna

      I have thick hair too. And my mom calls it a horse mane. I just turned 17. Sometimes I like my hair and other times I don’t. But I know God made me this way for His glory.

  • Kaitlyn Burdick

    Im 14 and 5’9. I’ve been called “freakishly tall”. I’ve been mistaken for an age 2-3 years older then me since I was 10. I was told by everyone “u dont need heels. Just wear flats.” But I finally decided that God made me tall and I’m going to proudly show that. People need to stop making comments on height. It doesn’t matter if I’m tall. And the “keep a brick on this ones head.” Is a little over the top…

  • Taytay

    I’m 5’1″ and for years I wanted to be taller. But in the past year or two, I’m learning to praise God and be grateful and truly happy for my short stature! He can use Romans 8:28 for everything, even physical looks!

    • Hannah G.

      Yup, 5’0″ here, 5’1″ on a good day 🙂 I still sometimes wish I was taller, and people guessing I’m 2 or 3 years younger than I am & those things where you have to line up by height are still some of my pet peeves. But I know God made just right!

      • Taytay

        Yeah I know! I’m not sure if it’s just my height or my looks too, but I’ve gotten people who think I’m younger than I am. But the funny thing is, when I was younger people thought I was older!

  • Moriah Mari

    One feature that makes me unique is my hair. I have a ton of it and it’s semi curly which means a lot of body. It took me a while to learn to work with and accept it (might still be working on that one:). Honestly, though we wouldn’t be who we are without all those things that make us unique! I know I’ve come to realize that my curly hair is perfect for me in the sense that I tend to be more professional in manner and conservative in nature but with a happy fun side. If I didn’t have this curly mop I wouldn’t look so carefree. 🙂 My heart would be that every girl could come to value and care for the beautifully unique way God has made her and that our culture would learn to do the same.

    • Quite Distinguished

      Yay for another curlylocks!! 🙂

  • SavedbyGrace

    Bethany, I share your “freakishly tall” issue:) I’m 5’9. I’m 18 now. At 14 I went from 5’4 to 5’9 in the blink of an eye. I’ve shared the same experience as u have with both guys and girls telling me how much of a giant I am:) There was a guy I use to like a lot who was like 5’6, he ended up telling me that I was too tall for his type of girl:) I also had a Starbucks barista tell me that I was “HUGE! Like.. the Tall huge!! How old are you?” I laughed telling her that I was 15 (at the time). She replied with a funny laugh “Well, I am 24 and only 5’4:)” It’s quite comical seeing all of your friends or elders measuring up under you:) I laugh at people who tell me I’m tall. I’m the tallest girl in my entire family and extended family. Everyone calls me the “Amazon Woman” 🙂 The only problem with being tall is there are a lot of guys shorter than I am:) At least the ones that I’d like:) Really great post Bethany! I enjoy reading these!:) They are soo uplifting!! It’s crazy though how the world of so called “Body, Hair, and Face Perfect” has gone down hill so rapidly! It scares me to think what kind of future our kids and their generation of young people will have to grow up in!! All I know is I’m glad I’m trusting God for my anchor in life!! xoxo!!

  • Quite Distinguished

    Bethany, as a shorty (5’4), I appreciate having taller friends because they are easy to find in a crowd when we go places, and can help me reach things on the top shelf (why stores decide to put the “short/petite” sizes on the TOP shelf and the long/tall sizes on the bottom shelf is a mystery to me) 🙂

    My unique feature is my curly hair. Strangers have stopped me and asked “is that your REAL hair?” (nope, I just pretend it’s mine LOL), and sometimes when meeting people at church for the first time, they’ll tell me “Oh, I know you, I’ve seen your hair walk across the courtyard before.” 😀 I love my hair, but I don’t find it particulary exceptional, so it’s comical that people identify me by it.

    Can you imagine how boring the world would look if every woman actuall attained society’s beauty ideal? Beauty reminds me of a flower garden. We need the short, squatty chrysanthemums, the long, slender calla-lilies, and the delicate fuschias. Each type of plant has its own specific soil, climate, and nutrient needs–just like us. Amy Carmichael wanted to be blue-eyed, but later recognized that her dark eyes enabled her to blend better with the Indian people she ministered to. Thanks for reminding us of God’s loving creation of our unique traits.

    • Elizabeth Williams

      I love how you compare it to nature and the beautiful flowers, different shapes and sizes and characteristics 🙂

    • Haha…I have really curly hair, too, and everyone comments on it! But anyway, I really like your flower comparison! That’s a neat point. 🙂

  • Sarah

    Mmmm…thank you for sharing this!!! My fiancé and I were just talking about this very topic this morning!! It was fascinating reading through the styles over the last 100 years, and gave a lot of food for thought, and talking to my mom, about what she struggled with growing up, it totally matches the years….
    I’ve had quite a few physical ‘struggles’ inside and out over the years, and I’m so grateful God has brought me to be at peace and content with who He has made me, but right now, I’d have to say that I’m particularly grateful for God making me short, petite, and very curvaceous. He had a purpose making me like that, and I know it was for my husband-to-be. It’s a beautiful thing!!!

  • Kate

    I have two different color eyes (one green one and one brown one) and I always really wanted to just have beautiful blue eyes like my younger sister! I really didn’t like people pointing it out and staring at me but I came to accept that this is just the way I am. And even though sometimes I long to have blue eyes, I’ve learned that it’s really something I have learned to love about myself 🙂 P.S. To any young girls reading this, you are BEAUTIFUL just the way God made you, don’t ever change xoxo

    • Haley

      Oh my gosh Kate I have blue eyes and I sometimes long for your kind of eyes! I think they’re so pretty and unique 🙂

  • Rachel

    Great article! I have four younger sisters (two still quite young) and we all look rather different from each other. It has been a wonderful thing for us, honestly, as we’ve come to grips with who we are individually and encouraged each other in our unique beauty! I am tall (5’9” and receive the “freakishly tall” comments), slender with slight curves (especially now that my hubby and I are expecting our first child), very dark blue eyes, dark hair, and fair skin… I used to hate being pale, now I love it as I realized it makes my dark eyes stand out more (God knew what He was doing!). I’ve also learned to embrace my height (it really does come in handy at the store!). My next sister is more average height and struggled off and on with not feeling as attractive since she wasn’t as tall as me or our other adult sister (little did she know how I used to envy her more normal height!). She is so extremely pretty with her naturally auburn/blonde hair and lovely freckles! Another of my sisters is very tall (my height) and she struggles with weight gain… she has had very insensitive comments about how tiny she is that have led her to wonder if she is beautiful. It makes me so sad since she is drop-dead gorgeous! Why can’t people just see that beauty doesn’t always look the same? Freckles are beautiful and fair skin is beautiful and dark skin is beautiful. Slenderness is beautiful and so are curves (and everything in-between)!

    Thank you for sharing truth. God made us all purposefully exactly as we are. He doesn’t make mistakes, He makes beauty. <3


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