'Perceptions of Body Image throughout History'

By aliki
  • Jan 1, 1500


    In Elizabethan times, the fashionable female body shape was like a bell: a huge lower half, small waist and flat chest. An armour-like corset made of iron was worn to flatten the chest for a breastless look. In England this was worn with a Spanish farthingale: a petticoat structure like a hooped cage which added volume and shape to skirts. The farthingale was later worn with a roll of material called a bum roll to add yet more width to the body! As you can imagine all of this was extremely heavy
  • Period: Jan 1, 1500 to

    Perceptions of Body Image throughout History

  • 1600's

    In the seventeenth century, corsets became more like the corsets we recognise today. They known as ‘stays’ and were more usually made with whalebone rather than iron. Petticoat hoops and rolls fell out of favour giving the lower half of the body a more natural shape.
  • 1700's

    In the 1700’s skirts were hooped again but the hoops were flat at the front and back to make a really wide shape from side to side. This was also achieved with a panier, a frame-work undergarment tied to the waist to support skirts at the sides. Women's ‘stays’ were tightly laced to draw the shoulders back and give a high, round bosom and upright posture. Very tight corsets sometimes caused a woman to have to retire to the fainting room!
  • 1800's

    In the early nineteenth century a more flowing and forgiving Greek-style silhouette was in fashion. This did not last long though and in Victorian times women pursued the ultimate hourglass shape. Women wore corsets to draw their waists in to unnaturally small sizes, which they emphasised with huge skirts. They wore crinolines to support their skirts. These were originally petticoats of stiffened material, which later evolved into hooped cages. As petticoats got bigger and bigger it became incre
  • 1900's

    In the early 1900s Edwardian corsetry was less harsh and with the introduction of the so called ‘health corset’ ladies no longer restricted a woman’s movements and breathing but a small waist was still the ideal. The health corset created a tiny waist when laced very tightly, but also pushed the bust forward and the hips back, creating an 'S' shape. Still not exactly what you would call comfortable!
  • 1910's

    In a relatively short space of time in the 50 years around the turn of the century there was a massive change in the way people expected a woman’s body to look. In the 20th century, with more participation in sports, women started to become more active and athletic. This new interest in physical fitness introduced a slender shape as the female ideal and helped push the corset out of style, ending the Edwardian ‘monobosom’ look and making way for the brassiere (or the bra as we know it today!)
  • 1920's

    The slim ideal was central in the 1920’s, when fashionable women known as ‘flappers’ struggled for a thin, boyish figure with little or no curves. Undergarments included camisoles, panties, teddies, and bras that flattened the breasts for a more masculine look. It was even common for a woman to bind her boobs to look flat-chested! As dancing became popular with young flappers, the garter belt was invented to keep stockings from falling down.
  • 1930's

    In the 1930's the women's sought a slightly curvier figure with a bigger bust but still wanted slim hips. Women of the 1930s brought the corset back, then called a ‘girdle’, which usually came with a bra and attached garters
  • 1940's and 1950's

    1940's and 1950's
    In the late 1940's with the return to a wealthier lifestyle after the war, curves were back in fashion! The return of the hourglass figure for women was influenced by a new girdle. Cinched waists (using waspies) and long, full skirts came back into style.
    In the 50’s women's undergarmentsbegan to emphasise the breasts instead of the waist. Bra cup sizing finally took on in Britain with 4 bra sizes A, B, C and D, (replacing previous descriptions like ‘junior’ and ‘medium’), allowing women of many
  • 1960's

    In the sixties, everything changed yet again. The mini-skirt took fashion world by storm which meant the end of full fifties petticoats and the curves that went them. Because the mini-skirt was so ‘mini’ stockings could no longer be worn and were replaced by tights or bare legs. The look of the decade was epitomised by the very thin model Twiggy, whom all the girls longed to emulate. Also this decade, the Barbie doll was born, with huge breasts, never-ending legs, non-existent hips, and teeny-ti
  • 1970's

    In the 70’s a slightly more natural shape came in as petticoats and girdles became completely outdated and the ‘hippy’ lifestyle came into fashion. However, for mainstream society the look made fashionable for women was small hips and waist, but large breasts – meaning a good bra was essential! At the end of the 1970's, it no longer became sufficient to be slim but it was fashionable to become toned as well thanks to the fitness fad expounded by media celebrities such as Jane Fonda, a trend stil
  • 1980's

    In the 80's it became popular for people to sculpt their bodies through ‘working out’. This was the ‘power’ decade when women were expected to diet and exercise to become thin and more muscular but still with curves in the ‘right places’. Madonna’s cone-shaped bra, the ultimate ‘power’ underwear, gained a place in lingerie history!
  • 1990's

    Weight loss becomes a multi-million pound industry. Kate Moss epitomises the tall, skinny ‘waif’ look. The other prevailing ideal is for women to be tall and slim but also with big boobs, a very rare body shape to occur naturally and extremely difficult to achieve. As well as diet and exercise, women still used lingerie to help get the body shape they sought, including corsets, body-shapers, control tights, push-up bras and magic knickers.
  • 2000 +

    2000 +
    For many women today, thinness is the ultimate body shape goal. Women resort to extreme and expensive measures including plastic surgery, gastric reductions and radical diets in their struggle to get skinny. However stars like Gok Wanare showing the nation that the right underwear, fashion and above all, the right attitude, are all you need to look gorgeous. Gok’s getting women to love their bodies just the way they are, with a little help from confidence-boosting controlwear that’s the latest s