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Evolution of Beauty: The Transformation of Beauty Throughout History


Beauty is a feature or quality of a person that gives a perceptual understanding of delight, significance, or fulfillment. Beauty is a subject that is premeditated as a component of aesthetics, sociology, social psychology, and culture. The ideal beauty is an individual who is well-liked or holds skin texture generally accredited to beauty in a particular society for flawlessness. The idea of beauty also entails the understanding that an individual is being in agreement and at peace with the natural environment, which in turn leads to thoughts of desirability and emotional welfare. Since beauty is personal, it is commonly said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. (Gary, 2007) In a deep sense, one can say beauty brings out an outstanding occurrence of optimistic manifestation regarding the significance of one’s way of life. The whole issue of beauty is what one view on a personal level.

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Main Body

The description of beauty and what is regarded as good-looking has changed over time. The way people view beauty varies with every culture. In the United States, fair skin was preferred especially during the period of slavery. Historically, fair skin was related to power because the prototype of beauty was associated with those in authority. In this way, the white people who were in power were considered beautiful. A white skin tone was taken as being correct and anything that was not white was regarded as inferior. The African American slaves who possessed a lighter skin tone were preferred over those who were darker. It did not matter their level of intelligence rather their color of the skin was what was considered in any decisions made. The African Americans who were completely dark were mistreated and did not receive any privileges in society. (Crow, 2000)

Beauty in the early days was used to refer to the person in terms of outside appearance and sexual attractiveness. Women in the early days were expected to keep themselves beautiful to look pleasant in the eyes of the male folk. In this way, she had to choose wisely on how to groom to be able to attract the opposite sex. With time, women were able to have the opportunity to spend time doing all sorts of beauty experiments with their bodies. In this period in time, came the era of cosmetics among other things that women were using. However, they were viewed as products that were only used by prostitutes and not ordinary women. As time went by, the cosmetic industry became popular and many women began using these products to look more beautiful. Teenage girls would use these products to look attractive to young boys. Older women used these products to disguise any traces of old age that may have appeared in their skin. (Burke, 2003)

In the early 20th century, women were struggling to achieve independence and to escape from the locks colonization. The traditional standard of beauty was still flourishing and in those days, women tried to achieve fair complexion and well-rounded bodies. In those early days, full-figured women were considered beautiful. When independence was achieved, women were free to vote and for the first time, women in the United States had the right to convey their opinions freely. The dressing changed to flappers and short skirts and dresses which gave them the potential to expose their bodies. Then the time for a long hairstyle that was considered most fashionable and beautiful among women in the United States came. Clothes were designed with materials such as chiffon, silk, and satin in a way that ensured the female body was seen well. Tall and slender was the main body that was referred to as beautiful while many women strived to achieve that. (Burke, 2003)

By the 1920s, cosmetic products were advertised in women’s magazines thus improving their popularity. In this way, the attitude of women towards these products changed gradually allowing them to feel free to use them. Beautiful models were used in advertising the products and in so many ways, this attracted more women into using the products. The film industry also came up within this period and beautiful women were taking up roles as actresses within the industry. This allowed women who felt they were ignored to show their prowess. The dislike of redheads was still happening in the 1920s just as it has been in modern society. Beauty was mandatory for any woman who wanted any form of a career within the film industry. The film industry also gave rise to the fashion industry since the two of them were closely related. Many models were able to acquire positions of advertising great products with the fashion industries at the time. (Brownmiller, 1999)

In the 1930s, women were wearing short skirts and dresses to show more flesh. Long skirts were still being worn in the 1920s because of the bulky menstrual products that women used before the invention of modern disposable hygiene products. Make-ups were worn by women to help them reveal they’re natural features thus enhancing their beauty. Women started to wear flatteners within this period, which were used to reduce the size of the bust, while waistlines were designed to be worn at the hips. The bobbed hairstyle became popular and beauty shops grew where women would go to have their hair made. The practice of permanent weaving became popular and American women could spend thousands of dollars on styles like a perm. Women were also exposing their legs at this age since legs were considered beautiful and this became very popular. The women also wore clothes that were open at the backs just like the way people wear while sunbathing. (Flexner, 1996)

By the 1940s, women were wearing the standard look of practical and masculine. These were clothing with padded shoulders as well as knee-length hemlines. It was also during this period that the materials for making stockings became scarce and hence it led to the emergence of female trousers. In the late 1940s, other designs were coming up of padded hips and billowing skirts, which we’re using more fabric than most women clothing did. The young women also had a new look of clothing within this period in the United States. They were wearing taut sweaters, sharp bras and rounded skirts with tight trousers. There was great importance put on traditionalism and self-presentation on the part of the women. The African American women were mostly expected to appear as white as possible by ensuring that their hair was straightened while at the same time lightening their skin tone. They were also expected to ensure that their clothing was spectacular with great conformity to the white women. (Rhodes, 2006)

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In the 1960s, beauty was associated with wealth giving women a sense of status within the society. Within this period, women clothing was advancing to the mini skirts which were invented for the women to show more legs and flesh. It was also during this period that cosmetic surgery became rampant especially in the modeling sector and fashion industry. Women would mostly secure surgeries for removal of back teeth and lower ribs. In the 70s, came the idea of long hair, flared trousers and hot pants that became very popular. The platform shoes also became so common and many women had to struggle to keep up with them. In the 1980s, the female shape of curves was considered but all the same, a thin body was considered as beautiful. (Wood, n.d.)

Health and fitness issues hit around 1980s, which led to the birth of fashion like leotards, leggings and tracksuits. Careers became important for the women and thus they started to take on dress codes that men were wearing in workplaces as they achieved power of being career women. By the end of 1980s, underwear became outwear and this became popular in the fashion industry. This ideal went on to the 1990s, as women preferred a small body to larger body size. Tall and slim became fashionable and the women preferred to keep that look at all costs. Women were expected to be underweight in the modeling sector with slim young women expected to be sexually appealing to the public. These are the kind of models that were used in magazines and other advertising areas and it became apparent that a small thin body is the ideal beauty. (Gary, 2007)

There was an increase in the cosmetic surgery among many ordinary women in the United States. Thousands of women were undergoing plastic surgery, including breast lessening and breast implants, liposuction, wrinkle reduction, chin reduction, cheekbone augmentation and lip expansion. Plastic surgery became so popular that even young women were going for it to achieve the perfect beauty as portrayed by society. In the 90s, beauty was experienced in the way many women accepted the idea of body art. Women underwent tattoos and body piercing which was portrayed as a way of expressing oneself while at the same time it was considered as having power over their bodies. (Rhodes, 2006)

This view of society about beauty has had very critical impacts on women lives. Many women go into many diet and exercises in the extreme to achieve the perfect body which comes with serious consequences. These issues pose a threat on the health of many women while using dangerous methods to become beautiful. The growth of technology in the United States especially in the mass media has resulted in many women being obsessed with how they look. This is because through the media women are used to inflexible and standardized forms of beauty. Television, billboards and magazines among others portray beautiful women so often while at the same time giving the impression that beauty is ordinary and within reach. The standards of beauty in the modern society have become difficult to achieve while research shows the only 5 percent of women have acquired the ideal thinness of women. (Gary, 2007)

The issues of female beauty have been so extreme such that even attractive women look in the mirrors not because they are proud but rather out of insecurity. They are under immense pressure to keep their good looks. In the society today, women are judged depending on their physical beauty while the standards of beauty remain high and rigid. Research that has been conducted in recent years shows that individuals who earn much more are those who are attractive. Women have to constantly follow the developments in fashion, physical looks, food, dining, automobiles and real estate among other things, which is quite expensive. Women have to compare themselves to famous models and actresses in both looks and consumer preferences for them to maintain the physical beauty. These women have to maintain a financially stable life to help them remain beautiful as all the trends of fashion and other sectors demand. (Flexner, 1996)

Various categorization of beauty may be associated with aspects like emotional connectivity as well as body type. This is dependent on personal judgment or the views that are portrayed by the society. Female beauty has affected many areas of their lives including in terms of employment, society interaction, sexual preferences and marriage. Beautiful women are associated with intelligence, sense of humor, good facial features among others. This often denied other people with potential opportunity to express their potential just because they have not achieved the required standards. The society advocates for good looks, which is not good since each individual is unique in their way. The preferred female beauty has seen many women lose their self-esteem in the society making them not to be productive in any way. (Burke, 2003)

African American women are still struggling to be given their rightful position in the society as beautiful women. They have to undergo a lot of trouble even in getting a job because of their skin color. They have received fewer positions in the modeling industry as well as fashion industry because of the stereo type that white is beautiful. This is what many of them are still fighting for even in the modern society and it has created a lot of controversy in the society. The female beauty should be given equal preferences in the society because they are all beautiful. The African American women are forced to bleach their skin, which is very dangerous to their health for them to achieve the light skin tone. Many of the African American women who are light in color even in today’s society receive more preference than the darker women. (Crow, 2000)

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The women who have been able to achieve the ideal beauty can have many opportunities for success in life. Many women today are executives in companies and others own their own companies because they learnt to accept themselves and given themselves opportunity to work without any fear. The various transformation of beauty throughout history has also helped women have their presence felt in the society in various areas. This has given them tremendous potential to achieve a lot in life especially in terms of self-confidence. Today women are refusing to be seen as objects but rather valued for what they stand and believe in. Many have been able to break the chains of stereotypes and even the society accepts women with the various opportunities they can offer. This has changed the minds of young women who were poisoned with achieving the perfect body and they are now able to learn to live freely. (Brownmiller, 1999)


Over the years, the issue of beauty has changed diversely on how physical beauty is perceived especially in the Western Society. The fashion sectors and cosmetic surgery industries have advanced within this era with emphasis being put on the physical appearance. This is an issue that has an effect on women all over the world, whether they decide to incorporate it in their lives or not. Female beauty especially in fashion, cinema and advertising has grown tremendously throughout history. In the United States, physical beauty is very important and has been used in empowering women in so many ways. The media should ensure that women are not taken as objects to be shown around but rather give every woman the support they require. The society should not judge women for their beauty but for what they can offer. Every individual has his or her potential and it should not go to waste because of the stereotype of ideal female beauty. Word Count= 2423


Brownmiller, S. (1999). In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution, Dial Books

Burke, M.W. (2003). “Beauty and Evolution”. International Journal of Humanities and peace, vol.19

Crow, B.A. (2000) Radical Feminism: A Documentary Reader, New York University Press

Flexner, E. (1996). Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United states, Paperback Edition, Belknap Press

Gary. M. (2007). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Web.

Rhodes, G. (2006). “The evolutionary psychology of facial beauty”. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 199-226.

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Wood, L. (n.d.). Perception of Female Beauty. 2010. Web.

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