November 14, 2012

Shape of a Century

I've been thinking a great deal about my own changing shape as a result of these final days of pregnancy and noticed some similarities to the above iconic line drawings.

I'm currently teaching a class on the history of advertising in America and we just wrapped a unit on the glamour industries who marketed beauty and fashion to women in the twentieth century. As an introduction to the unit (during which we read Joan Jacobs Brumberg and Kathy Peiss) I went over some iconic decade-specific trends in clothing that, according to Brumberg encouraged women to prioritize (or turn into "projects"/works in progress) specific parts of their bodies based on what was emphasized as most desirable. It was interesting to take students from the "trends" of the Gilded Age all the way through the emergence of bikinis and bare midriffs.

One of my favorite aspects of the subjects I teach is that process of defamiliarization, during which the masked ideological curriculum embedded into the mundane or the taken-for-granted can be revealed through a process of historiography. To expose that ideological power can be amplified via perceived innocuousness and has purpose as well as influence is as challenging as it is rewarding. We talked about the Gibson Girl, the flapper, military influences on clothing, the New Look, mini skirts, and more. So when I came upon this infographic from the UK brand, Marisota, I had fun comparing their abbreviated history of how notions of beauty have shifted with fashion and popular culture to my own visual lecture presentation. You can see it Marisota's infographic well as their accompanying narrative after the jump.

Decades of beautiful female forms show the evolution of culture's definition of the 'perfect' woman

The quest to be beautiful can be helped and hindered by many things, but when it comes to body shapes, could women be more attractive depending on the decade they are in? With the chance to see the changing perception of perfection played out on screen, women can now pinpoint when it was high-fashion to be elfin, glamorous to be curvalicious, and divine to be straight up and down.

Marisota, the online fashion retailer that specialises in clothing to make women of all shapes and sizes look fabulous, has created a range of images illustrating the evolution of the ideal female body shape from the 1920s right through to its predictions for 2020. The larger size womenswear specialist is here to show women of all shapes when their personal build may have been considered the most stunning, and what the future has in store for their figures.

Illustrated by images of the iconic women who inspired a decade - or two, in the case of one particular supermodel - the feature reveals the characteristics on each decade's wishlist, and what women did to get them!

In Marisota's journey through the looking-glasses of a century, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and a host of other beauties accompany the British public to display the motivation that has seen women go boyish, big-busted and almost fade away in the name of beauty!  

Caroline Evans, Brand Director at Marisota said of the company's latest release: "The last hundred years has shaped the ideal woman in many weird and wonderful ways, and we think this trip through the decades is a fascinating way to take it all in. We would all like to know when our particular body shape was in, and what we can expect in the future.

"There are some decades we hopefully won't revisit in terms of body shapes," she added, "but the forecast for the next ten years certainly looks positive in terms of fabulous curves and fuller figures!"

1 comment:

thatdamngreendress said...

I think the once perceived tyranny of fashion has definitely mellowed to allow for more personality and individuality in dress, and in the process has become more open to a diversity of shapes.  It's too bad the retail world is less adaptable.  Granted that recent attempts by the fashion industry to hire 'healthier' models is probably more lip service than anything else, at least it shows societal expectations are changing.

I love the hitchcock/car ad comparison too...!


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