Is the Idea of the ‘Perfect Body’ a Trend?

Beauty trends seem innocent enough, but those fads can become something else entirely when trends include women’s bodies.


Hannah Martin

A woman looking in a mirror, surrounded by weight loss headlines. ‘Perfect body’ trends have changed over the decades and are shaped by the media and society.

      Tiktoker Cassey Ho made a minute-long video overviewing the past century of the beauty standards. In the video, she morphed her own body as she explained what inspired each decade. At the end of the video, she said this- “Treating your body like a fast fashion trend is so out of style.” But what are these trends, and how does the shape of the ‘perfect body’ change over time? 


How does a trend form?

      With social media leading the newest trends at lightning speed, it makes one wonder- before Tiktok, Instagram, and Twitter, how did these trends form? The answer is celebrities. Similar to today, celebrities shape a lot of popular trends, and it can have an immense impact on what is ‘in’ or ‘out’ of fashion. And although these trends didn’t move as fast as they do today, they still had an impact on the entire industry. 

Starting in the 1910’s it was ‘The Gibson Girl’, which is described as a “Soft, round body, with a small, (corseted,) waist,” by Greatist magazine. This trend was popularized by famous model, Evelyn Nesbit. 

However, just ten years later, came the roaring 20’s, and with the coming of a new decade, came a new ‘perfect body’- the flapper. Popularized by Margret Gormen, the first Miss. America, the flapper had almost boyish features. A slim, short, rectangle shaped body, and a small bust and hip area, a complete 180 from the curvy gibson girl. In ads, some women were encouraged to smoke to lose weight. That’s how impactful a ‘simple trend’ can be. 

After the roaring twenties came to a close, and the stock market crashed, along with the hemlines. Long, fitted dresses were in fashion, with a fitted body to go along with it. The 1930’s also saw a new bra-cup sizing, which gave way to a small bustline, and a bread diet.  

But, as the thirties faded away, so did the soft silhouette. World war two started, and that broad shouldered, military woman was in fashion. Bullet bras, ‘victory red’ lipstick, and a tall stature were also popular in this era. This ‘perfect body’ of the 40’s also reflected women’s role in the workforce as men went away to war.

 As the war ended, and the men returned home from war, the ‘perfect body’ changed yet again. This time, women were expected to have voluptuous curves, and if women didn’t, they were advised by ads to take weight gain pills. Those prescriptions changed to weight loss pills, however, as the 60’s began. “Models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton represented a new ideal: doll-faced, super slender, and petite,” (Greatitst 10). 

 This almost child-like look faded though, and in came the 70’s. The disco party girls of this decade were pressured to have a flat stomach and flat hips, and to smoke cigarettes to lose weight. In this decade, Beverly Johnson, black model, singer, and actress graced the cover of Vogue thanks to the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement of the 60’s. This era doesn’t last forever, though, and as the 70’s comes to a close, the beauty standard changes yet again.

Welcome to the 80’s, where tall, lanky models are the new standard, dominating not only the runway, but also music videos and the media. In this decade, fitness was encouraged, and for the first time in a long time, It was ‘attractive’ for women to have muscles. It might seem empowering, but being fit is just another thing to add to the laundry list of ideals women had to deal with. Now the 80’s are over, what’s next?

In the 90’s, ‘heroin chic’ reigned supreme, a complete turn around from the muscled women of the 80’s. The fashion was all unisex jeans and oversized sweaters, giving that androgynous look. 

In the early 2000’s, and in came airbrushed tans, visible abs, and low jeans. In that day and age, eating disorders in women were up 21% from 1999-2009.  Showing their curves, the 2010’s came in a flash. Subtlety has gone nonexistent, allowing those who have the ‘perfect body’ to flaunt it- but is that empowering, or just plain exhausting? 

How is the world affected by these trends?

Over time, the effects of these trends have been less than ideal. In the age of social media, come influencers, people who seem to have a perfect life, always traveling, partying, and ‘living the life.’ A recurring theme with these influencers is they all look the same- today’s ‘perfect body.’ But what adds up to hundreds of thousands of likes? One third of girls aged sixteen to twenty-one follow influencers according to Fohr, looking at those ‘perfect bodies’ every day, endlessly scrolling through social media. “One study reports that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are unhappy with their bodies,” Reported the National Organization for Women. And, in one study done by Harshit and Sudha Agrawal, it stated that out of the participants in the study, 99 percent edited their photo before posting it. Looks like the saying ‘everybody edits their photos’ wasn’t too far off after all. Looking at this pile of evidence, it’s safe to say that young girls minds’ are being affected by these social media trends- and not in a good way. 

What’s next?

Looking through these ever-changing trends, it’s obvious that it’s just harmful to women, their health, their self-esteem, and quite possibly their lives. It’s impossible to know what’s to become the next beauty standard. Although, maybe it’s best that this trend, this idea of a ‘perfect body,’ finally stops and lets the women of America rest. 

Do these standards exist in Robinson?

Taking this to the halls of Robinson, I talked to some students to get their opinions on these trends. “The media promotes skinny bodies more than (larger) bodies,” junior Ash Brooks said, and It seems his opinion is popular. Three fifths of students think that one body type is more valued than others, one student who wanted to remain unnamed said, “People are constantly posting their opinions online, and it’s a way for the world’s worst people to connect to the world’s worst people. Women’s bodies have always been a trend, and It’s honestly depressing.” Looking at the standard for women’s bodies throughout the ages, it’s plain to see- women’s bodies are treated like fast fashion for a long time.