Perceptions surrounding beauty and body types not only vary by culture, but have greatly evolved over the span of time.

In a visually dynamic attempt to recreate this evolution, BuzzFeed Video showcased a diverse cast of models to depict over 3,000 years of women’s ideal body types by each society’s standard of beauty.

Here are the ideal types broken down by place in time:

Ancient Egypt (c. 1292 – 1069 B.C.)

beauty standards

In this era, the ideal women is described as:

  • Slender
  • Narrow Shoulders
  • High Waist
  • Symmetrical Face

In Ancient Egypt, women were encouraged in their independence and beauty. Ancient Egyptian society promoted a sex-positive environment where pre-marital sex was entirely acceptable and women could divorce their husbands without shame.

Ancient Greece (c. 500 – 300 B.C.)

beauty standards

This time featured women as:

  • Plump
  • Full-bodied
  • Light Skin

Ancient Greece worshiped the male form, going so far as to proclaim that women’s bodies were ‘disfigured’ versions of men. In this time period, men faced a much higher standard of beauty and perfection than women.

Han Dynasty (c. 206 B.C. – 220 A.D.)

beauty standards

In this time period, the ideal woman had:

  • Slim Waist
  • Pale Skin
  • Large Eyes
  • Small Feet

Small feet is one aspect of Chinese beauty that has continued for hundreds of years. During the Han Dynasty, Chinese culture favored slim women with long black hair, white teeth and red lips. Historically, the Chinese people have favored women with ultra-feminity.

Italian Renaissance (c. 1400 – 1700)

beauty standards

In this era, the ideal women is described with:

  • Ample Bosom
  • Rounded Stomach
  • Full Hips
  • Fair Skin

During the Italian Renaissance, it was the wife’s duty to reflect her husband’s status, both in behavior and outward appearance. A full body, light hair and light skin were all thought of as the superior indications of beauty.

Victorian England (c. 1837 – 1901)

beauty standards

This time featured beautiful women as:

  • Desirably Plump
  • Full-figured
  • Cinched-waist

Ahh, the era of the corset. In this time period, women cinched their waists with tight-fitting undergarments to give the perception of the desirable hourglass figure. This time period lasted through the reign of Queen Victoria, considered by many, as one of the most influential figures of the time.

Roaring Twenties (c. 1920s)

beauty standards

In this time period, the ideal woman had:

  • Flat Chest
  • Downplayed Waist
  • Short Bob Hairstyle
  • Boyish Figure

Beauty in the 1920s featured an androgynous look for women– they wore bras that flattened their chest and wore clothing that gave them a curve-less look. Women even shortened their hair, leaving behind the long-held belief that long hair signified beauty and desirability.

Golden Age Of Hollywood (c. 1930s – 1950s)

beauty standards

In this era, the ideal women is described with:

  • Curves
  • Hourglass Figure
  • Large Breasts
  • Slim Waist

The boyish figure trend didn’t last for long. Fast forward a decade and the hourglass figure is back. The classic example of this ideal woman’s body is Marilyn Monroe, the Golden Girl of Hollywood.

Swinging Sixties (c. 1960s)

beauty standards

This time period adored this female look:

  • Willowy
  • Thin
  • Long, slim Legs
  • Adolescent Physique

Peace, love and thin seemed to be the motto of 1960 ideal beauty for women. Swinging London, a term used to describe the flourishing fashion and cultural scene of London in the 1960s influenced women’s dress and style in America during the same period.

Supermodel Era (c. 1980s)

beauty standards

This era celebrated this body type:

  • Athletic
  • Svelte, but Curvy
  • Tall
  • Toned Arms

This time period brought about an exercise-crazed phenomenon. Workout videos were all the rage, encouraging women to be thin, but also fit. This era also saw an upswing in anorexia, thought by some experts to be caused by a compulsory obsession with exercise.

Heroin Chic (c. 1990s)

beauty standards

The ideal body type of this time:

  • Waifish
  • Extremely Thin
  • Translucent Skin
  • Androgynous

Homeless chic, anyone? The celebrated body of this type involved a woman who looked thin, frail and neglected. Model, Kate Moss was the heroine of this heroin decade–pale, withdrawn and thin.

Postmodern Beauty (c. 2000s – Today)

beauty standards

Ou current beauty standards of women include:

  • Flat Stomach
  • ‘Healthy’ Skinny
  • Large Breasts + Butt
  • Thigh Gap

Kim Kardashian, as unfortunate as it may be, is the poster woman for ideal beauty standards of the modern woman. Women are expected to be skinny, but not too skinny with large breasts and a big butt all while maintaining a flat stomach. Women are increasingly seeking plastic surgery ‘fixes’ to achieve this look.

*original post and all photos can be found here 

Bonus: Women’s Makeup Throughout History

So what do you think? What causes these dramatic shifts in beauty standards? A leading female historical figure or a famous model? The fashion industry or Hollywood?

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

You may also like...

As Seen In