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The Perfect Woman Throughout History


Women have been used in advertising as early as the 1890s. Ever since the 1890s, the image of being thin has been the ideal image for women all over the United States for over a century. At the start of the 1900s, thinness was in style. During this time there was a growing amount of interest of women in athletic and physician field that began to perceive body weight as a science. This science was of calorie counting and of keeping track of weight through constant weigh-ins. At this time the physically perfect woman was 5'4" tall and weighed 140 lbs. By the 1920s, around the time of World War I, the flapper image became very popular. The flapper image was still very thin but the image presented women with a younger, more boyish style instead of a sophisticated, feminine image. Flappers had short hair, flattened breasts and small waists that emphasized the target look of the flapper. In the 1930s, the image of the small waist and flattened breasts was diminishing. The idea of fuller breasts and a slender waist was body image that many women were trying to achieve.

Shortly after World War II, women’s magazines started to promote to “New Look” of Christian Dior. The “New Look” required women to have a thin waist. To achieve this look of having a thin waist woman needed corsets, girdles, and diets to achieve the “New Look.” Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the image of fuller breasts and a thin waist was deemed most attractive so women were wearing girdles and push-up bras to increase their breast line. The 1960s introduced a model that did not have to keep up with exercising and diets to stay thin or wear any necessary garments to achieve her look. This model was known as Twiggy. Twiggy was the skinniest model that had ever been seen, weighing in at 89 pounds and standing 5’6” tall. At this time, Twiggy set a standard that most models could not achieve. In a book entitled Models by Michael Gross references to a British model of the 1960s, Gillian Bobroff. In trying to achieve the look that Twiggy set forward, Bobroff exclaims “"It was dreadful.... [Twiggy] started a trend, and you had to be just the same. I ... started killing myself, taking a million slimming pills. I never ate. I had bulimia. It was a nightmare, trying to keep up."

Coming into the 1970s even though the image of larger, more healthy looking women were coming about while the models that were being used in advertising were still told to still keep their same thin look. As the advertising world of women headed towards the 1980s and 1990s, the extent of feminine looks and achievement expanded. It started to include new age variables, ethnicities and accomplishments. Conversely, the advertising world still used the model of beauty as young, thin, white and flawless. Still in the 1990s the perfect, ideal body was very slim and large breasted. With the advancement of technology by the 1990s, the young girls were becoming more bombarded with the images that were being shown on television and on internet websites. It seems as though the woman’s body throughout time has been broken into little segments to promote different products and solutions to fix imperfections. Today it seems that the advertising world is promoting their products to young girls using thin models because young girls are at a point in their lives where they are very influential.