History of the Female Body Image

In the modern day and age, not only are females subjected to inappropriate and unsolicited comments about their bodies, but it also seems to be the only conversation worth having in the variety of media targeted at women - we’re looking at you, women’s magazines.

This, of course, leads to body image issues that many girls and women face throughout their lives. As soon as puberty hits, it seems the sexualisation of females and their bodies remains to be the most important issue. The female body is a topic that the world has argued about for centuries; from curvy to supermodel thin, the ‘ideal’ female body is an ever-changing concept.

Ancient Greece

Despite the focus of women’s bodies being less than that of the male body in Ancient Greece, many statues made around this time feature full-bodied women - including a variety of statues depicting the goddess Aphrodite. Wide hips, pale limbs, red hair and white-lead makeup were favoured throughout Ancient Greece. Aphrodite of Cnidus is thought to be the first vital nude female sculpture from classical Greece, as it displayed the beauty standards of the Greeks.

Victorian England

Despite the great strides that women of this era made, including Queen Victoria as not only a young queen but a young mother and wife, it is clear that in the Victorian era the female body was objectified and idealised. This is reflective of the corset fashion trend during this time; ensuring the tightly cinched waist, which restricted motion. Women often kept their hair long during Victorian England, as this was also a sign of beauty and femininity during this time. While their waists were cinched, Victorian women still displayed fuller bodies much like the Greeks.

Age of Hollywood

During the 1930-1950s, the female form experienced many changes. While the 1920s featured the flapper, with a flatter chest and a streamline petite figure, the 1930s reintroduced the waist. It focused on curves and a small comeback to the ideal female body. The 1940s said goodbye to the softer presence that the 30s brought, and instead aimed for a military type stance for the female body, including broader shoulders and long legs. With the arrival of the 1950s came the hourglass; the female body image that closely resembles Jessica Rabbit’s body proportions. Curves are in, with a large chest and behind, combined with a smaller waist.


Beginning in the 80s and running through to the early 2000s, the introduction of a healthier female body image arrives. Women are taller, with toned and healthy bodies thanks to the introduction of aerobics and jogging. This quickly changes, as supermodels become the ideal female body image and begin to lose weight. Bring forth the supermodel-thin body image for women. This involves the female body being less toned and healthy, and becoming thinner and more withdrawn, which provides the notion that this body image is unattainable to many.

The Now

With positive body image becoming a popular notion, it is important to recognise that women, with bodies that are all shapes and sizes, do not require an ideal body image. With role models like Michelle Obama and Beyoncé, as well as the increase in plus size models, the focus of the ideal woman’s body is more about being happy with your body - and being healthy overall.