For as long as history can remember, different bodies have dipped in and out of fashion the same way that clothes do. Desirable body types have always existed and changed almost overnight, making it impossible to keep up.
Desirable body types have changed by the decade. The 1900s favored voluptuous figures, tiny waists accentuated with tight corsets. The 1920s saw the slim physique come into fashion, no longer calling for curves. The hourglass figure, popularized by Marilyn Monroe, came into fashion in the 1950s to 1960s, pushing women to try to achieve larger busts with help of surgery. Twiggy brought the thin figure to light around the 1970s, which was only taken even further in the 90s.
Arguably, the 90s was the most damaging and harmful decade for young women worldwide. Models such as Kate Moss popularized the “heroin chic” look - pale, emaciated and exhausted. There was a major glamorisation of unhealthy lifestyles - drugs, smoking, unhealthy eating habits. Her “waif” figure was highly sought after, glamorized in magazines and television, which was the main form of media at the time. Damaging principals were subliminally fed to consumers through this media.
Kate Moss had the most notoriously damaging phrase in the 90s: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”.
Body shaming was a huge issue during this time. Pear-shaped figures were undesirable and fat was the worst thing that a woman could be. There was little, if any, positive representation of plus sized women in the media. Everything on a woman had to be small, as if to take up as little space as possible.
The media has always preyed on the insecurities of young impressionable women and girls. Now, we have social media to add to the mix which has only fuelled the pressures that the 90s helped to kickstart.
Not only does social media randomly decide to create new insecurities (such as “hip dips”) but it fools people into believing that the new body standards are naturally attainable - when in reality, lots are photoshopped and the result of expensive surgery. As of 2020, there were 3.6 billion social media users, all at risk of being subject to negative content and shaming of body types.
The most recent body trend is the Kim K inspired, curvy yet slim, figure. It almost looks like the 1950s revival of the Marilyn Monroe figure, but the focus is typically an extremely slim waist and flat stomach.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having work done but often celebrities show off their bodies online under the guise of it all being either natural or achievable with dieting and exercise. In actuality, a good diet and keeping fit can help but a lot of models have had cosmetic procedures done, typically stomach tightening procedures, Brazillian Butt Lifts (BBLs) and boob jobs.
Despite having surgery done, who knows how long the BBL ‘snatched’ body trend will last? Society has seen a revival in 90s and 2000s fashion. How long before the bodies of that time come back as a trend too? Models with surgery-achieved curvy bodies will no longer be the beauty ideal of a skinny flat figure.
“One can’t make the unfashionable error of getting rid of your limbs right before they come back into style”, says The Cut. With body shapes dipping in and out of fashion, it’s hard to know what the media wants and if it’ll stay that way.
Everyone in the 90s who plucked their eyebrows to be pencil thin will now be struggling to feather them into soap brows to fit current trends. With bodies, it gets taken to a much bigger extreme.
Here lies one of the most problematic parts of society: constant nit-picking of bodies, changing what’s desirable and what’s undesirable so nobody can keep up. With social media to now contend with, it is easy for young people to fall into the trap of desperately trying to keep up with what body shapes are trending.
Tumblr glamorized the “thigh gap”. This is a triangle between the legs, ensuring thighs do not touch. Glamorisation of eating disorders online made it so that young girls believed that if they worked hard enough, they could achieve the highly sought after thigh gap. In actuality, it is genetic - some may naturally have this gap whereas others may struggle. For many, it is impossible for it to be achieved.
The ideal body type is changing from decade to decade. But there is hope.
The Daily Mail predicts that 2022 will see the return of healthy and natural bodies. This will mean no glamorisation of unhealthy lifestyles, instead giving your body the food it needs to fuel itself and making peace with your natural build instead of trying to alter it into what Instagram models look like.
There is far more diversity in body types nowadays - though society still has its favorites, there is room for every body to have its moment. The media still looks to corrupt impressionable minds with toxicity but there are safe spaces online where every body type can be accepted and loved.
Body positivity is a movement that focuses on acceptance for all body types and sizes. It looks to bring an end to being shamed for the alleged failure of not having the perfect body type. It mainly focuses on ending fat-shaming, helping people to accept themselves and ultimately love their bodies.
Another movement, body neutrality, focuses on looking at what your body can do for you. Rather than focusing on aesthetics and physical appearance, it recognises its abilities and non-physical characteristics. It has a neutral look - people don’t have to love their bodies, especially if they’re not ready to, but instead they can be happy and appreciative of what their body can do. It focuses on intuitive eating and food being fuel, rather than being something to restrict to change appearances.
Movements like these are hopeful and indicative of a new view on bodies. It paves the way for bodies to be loved, not criticized and judged for not fitting whatever body type is trending at the time. Straying away from the negativity and toxicity of body image in the 90s is important, ensuring people can learn to love their bodies. Keeping up with trends is exhausting, especially when they make you hate your body, and there’s no time for that in 2022.
1. How the 'ideal' woman's body shape has changed throughout history | CNN
2. Are the '90s responsible for our filter-obsessed generation?
3. BEAUTY IDEAL OVER THE DECADES part 4 : THE 90's - IDEALIST STYLE
4. Are the '90s responsible for our filter-obsessed generation?
5. Incomplete History of Body Trendiness
6. 9 Things That Were Body Parts But Are Now Fashion Trends – SatisFashion Uganda
7. How the 'perfect body' has changed throughout the decades | Daily Mail Online
8. Body Positivity vs. Body Neutrality
Written by Katy Sutton