How has body image changed over the years?

How body image has changed over time

In my last post I talked about a positive body image and what we parents can do to help our children (and ourselves.) While researching this topic I was surprised to see how the way we view the perfect body shape has changed over the years.

If you lived during the 1950’s then you might have come across an advert like this.

 1950's advert for body image too skinny
1950’s advert

Or this

1950's advert shows different body image of today
How to put on weight!

Being thin was not considered a good body shape and there were people (men in white coats!) who could show you how to change it using pills. How different to today when you are more likely to see adverts and programmes about weight loss not weight gain.

How has body image changed over the years?

Body image and the perfect shape a woman, in particular, should be, has always been a topic talked about in the media and dinner parties. That is nothing new. What has changed is how we (and the fashion industry/the media) perceive the perfect body shape. This has changed quite dramatically over the years.

In theĀ 1900s-1910s it was the Gibson Girl that dominated the images of how a woman should look. Slender and tall but with boobs and hips.

historical body image from early 1900's
1900 – 1910 image of the perfect body shape

Then came the 1920’s and the Flapper girls. Still slender but with more boyish figures and short hair.

role models for 1920's different body image to today
1920’s flapper girls

During and after the War, the fashions emphasized broader shoulders and women were encouraged to flaunt a more womanly shape.

role models during the war different body image to today
War time fashion

Then the 50’s came and the female body had to be curvy and womanly with many actresses leading the way as role models.

1950's women showing a fuller figure and different body image to today
1950’s fashion

And then it all went downhill.

Twiggy - role model for the 60's and the body image many women aspire to
1960’s ideal woman

Social media and body image

Whenever we read the paper or watch television we will see something negative about body image and our children today. Parents today are concerned, quite rightly, that our children bombarded with images of the perfect body, will find it difficult to see what is attainable and what isn’t. They are also concerned that having a different body shape to the ideal might lead to eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

Our children are on their phones a great deal ( I consider it their third hand!). They see images of their friends and celebrities posing and pouting posted on a regular basis. There are also an increasing number of apps available which help to change a person’s face and body shape altogether. A friend of mine is using the photoshop app (which makes you look younger) before she posts her pictures. She looks amazing in her photos but you might be disappointed if you saw her in real life!

The ‘Child of our time’ programme which aired on the BBC recently, had some interesting insight into children of today

“teens message an average of 400 communications a day. Out of the 25 children on the programme, the girls spent around four hours a day on their phones, twice as much as their male counterparts.”

So what can we do about it?

There is some good news. The BBC programme highlighted that although teenagers obsess over their appearance, most grow out of this. They also explained that even though the statistics show a high percentage user rate of phones and tablets, when our children have more in their lives (like a job and family) they will not have the time. Unlike now! In our day it was thought that television would ruin our health and chances of success but that didn’t happen. You may not have realised (until you see those old polaroids) but we too were obsessed with our appearance and wanted to fit in. It’s natural and a part of growing up.

I’m not blaming Twiggy but the 60’s was the start of celebrating thinness in women (without the aid of a corset!). This is the reason we should be worried. Not because our children are on their phones all the time but because the image of what is considered beautiful now (in the fashion industry and media) is not a reality for most people. There has been more of a movement to celebrate women’s real bodies again and I hope this continues and expands. We have to look after our bodies but also appreciate what we have and how amazing our bodies are, no matter what the shape. There will be something, no matter how small, that makes us special and beautiful. Our job is to find it, talk about it with our children and girlfriends and celebrate it. Let me know what yours is. I’d love to know!

How has body image changed over the years?
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How has body image changed over the years?
Our views about body image and the perfect body shape have changed over time. These changes are illustrated here and the question is asked whether it is problem for our generation today.
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