The Kardashian family is, arguably, the collective royalty of social media—and the onslaught of butt workouts, waist trainers, and detox teas promising to score you Kim and Khloé’s genetic hip-to-waist ratio is proof of just how potent their influence has been. Though curvy figures like theirs are in vogue now, they haven’t always been the “to-die-for” body type. In fact, it’s easy to forget how much beauty standards have changed over time.
For the last few decades, the “ideal” female body has continuously changed—like fashion trends—to reflect pop culture. And, although chasing this changing beauty standard is totally fruitless, many women still feel like they need to look a certain way to feel beautiful.
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To draw attention to just how ridiculous that is, Cassey Ho, the fitness diva behind Blogilates, recently took to Instagram to serve up a reality check. In two photoshopped photos of herself, Ho morphs her body (with the help of some sort of editing app) to fit the ideal body standard of today and that of various times through history. “If I had the ‘perfect’ body throughout history, this is what I’d look like,” she wrote alongside the photos.
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She continued by breaking down exactly how society’s aesthetic ideals have changed over the decades, starting with the 2010s era (aka right now). “Big butts, wide hips, tiny waists, and full lips are in,” she wrote. “There is a huge surge in plastic surgery for butt implants thanks to Instagram models posting ‘belfies.’ Even cosmetic surgery doctors have become Instagram-famous for reshaping women. Between 2012–2014, butt implants and injections rise by 58 percent.”
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Take it back a decade (to the mid ’90s and 2000s) and, “big boobs, flat stomachs, and thighs gaps” were in, Ho noted. “In 2010, breast augmentation is the highest performed cosmetic surgery in the United States,” she wrote.
The ’90s, on the other hand, were all about being “thin,” and “having angular bone structure,” wrote Ho. Hop back a few more decades, and you’ll notice the ’50s were the age of the hourglass shape. “Elizabeth Taylor’s 36-21-36 measurements were the ideal,” she wrote. “Women were advertised weight gaining pills to fill themselves out.”
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Rewind to the ’20s and, “appearing boyish, androgynous and youthful, with minimal breasts, and a straight figure” was the trend. During this time, women were choosing to hide their curves by “binding their chests with strips of cloth to create that straight figure suitable for flapper dresses.” Finally, if you go as far back as the Italian Renaissance, Ho points out that, “looking full with a rounded stomach, large hips, and an ample bosom” was the status quo. “Being well fed was a sign of wealth and status,” she wrote. “Only the poor were thin.”
While what is considered attractive has changed considerably over time, one thing has remained the same: the pressure for women to fit the mold. But by breaking things down, Ho hopes that women will realize that the pressure to conform is often unrealistic, not to mention unhealthy.
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This is true, not only in relation to the decade you live in but also where you live. As we’ve previously reported, the “perfect body” ideal is actually different all around the world. While Chinese women feel pressure to be stick thin, those in Venezuela and Columbia are celebrated for their curves and even prefer a body type that would be in the “overweight” BMI range.
The takeaway: Trying to fit an idealistic aesthetic is a lose-lose situation for women. (Check out these inspiring women who are redefining body standards.)
As Ho puts it: “Why do we treat our bodies like we treat fashion? ‘Boobs are out! Butts are in!’ Well, the reality is, manufacturing our bodies is a lot more dangerous than manufacturing clothes. Stop throwing your body out like it’s fast fashion.” (Related: Where the Body-Positivity Movement Stands and Where It Needs to Go)
At the end of the day, regardless of what your body might look like, it’s far more important to practice healthy habits and take care of the skin you’re in. “Please treat your body with love & respect and do not succumb to the beauty standard,” says Ho. “Embrace your body because it is YOUR own perfect body.”
No matter the time or place, self-love is always ~in~.
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