The ever-changing ideal of female beauty
History remembers dozens of women with unearthly beauty, proclaimed as an ideal of their time. And although they all wore the crown of a "queen", compared to one other these beauties are very different. In parallel with human evolution, social values evolve and change, too, which naturally leads to changes in the ideals, including the once of beauty. What the ideals used to be over the years?
Prehistoric female figurines with asymmetrical rounded proportions, symbolizing the feminine nature, fertility and success make us assume that the ideal of beauty in the dawn of human evolution was precisely in sumptuous forms. That was because the woman's ability to accumulate fat was seen as a key factor for survival in harsh conditions. The more rounded her body was the more fertile it was considered, as well.
In ancient Egypt the ideal of beauty was associated with perfectly symmetrical facial features, surrounded by raven black hair (often braided), body sculpted as statue, emphasized expression of the eyes, raspberry lips and milky white skin. Egyptians were the first to use makeup. They used to blend lead or copper with natural ingredients and blackened their eyelashes and upper eyelids with the mixture. The lower eyelids they painted in green color and their lips in red. Typical representatives of this era are Nefertiti (the wife of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, whose name literally means "The coming beauty"), and of course, Cleopatra.
Ancient Greece and Rome
The model of beauty and appearance was inspired by the societies of Ancient Egypt. Besides emphasizing the eyes and the lips, however, pale skin was considered a symbol of pure blood and aristocracy. All sorts of methods, including urine for freckles’ bleaching, were used to achieve pale skin.
Rounded bodies were considered the most attractive and sexy in the Renaissance (15th century). Striving for white skin and bloody red lips continued, so many women deliberately caused themselves bloodletting to pale. High forehead and blond hair were also considered signs of extreme beauty and upper class. For that reason, people used to pluck their eyebrows and eyelashes, and wore their hair tied. Saffron, onion flakes, as well as long exposure to the sun have been used for hair bleaching.
A century later, the English Queen Elizabeth set the next ideal of beauty, enforcing a return of the natural features - pale skin and red hair. The effect was achieved with a lot of white powder (lead-based, which was poisonous) and a wig.
A struggle of opposites
With regard to the ideal of beauty, especially to the proportions of the body, 17th and 18th centuries were absolutely opposite. While in the 17th century it was the so called "woman of Rubens’s type" with very rounded shapes; luscious breast; ruddy round face, surrounded by crimps; thick eyebrows; double chin and puffy shoulders, during the 18th century a sharp turn to fine aesthetic appearance was made.
Corset became a mandatory part of clothing, as a tool of achieving a thin waist (which led to a boom of women with internal injuries and even broken bones). The bust remained visible, but not vulgarly. Women spent hours to turn their hair into a complicated composition of curls, accessories, jewelry ...
At the end of the 18th century, the cult of extravagance was swept out by the reluctance of the masses to comply with the ideals imposed by the upper class, and established their own models. Namely, a return to modest and natural beauty without makeup. Well, women of the aristocracy used to apply a little color to their faces to differ from common people. Hair turned into a shapeless mass of curls and ringlets. In the 19th century, women favored fixed on the crown with the help of oil hairstyles, ending in twisted and coiled braids or long side curls. The cult of the slim waist remained, and the ankles were added to it, too.
The woman of the 19th century left in the past all imposed ideals, only to create a lot of new and protean transformations that are still live today. The perfect body was slender and athletic, with long legs, thin waist and tall stature. Hair was formed in dynamic short hairstyles - curly, with volume, straight. The heavy makeup returned, the eyebrows were shaped and emphasized, the lips were sensually colourful. In the 40s, the hairstyles became more feminine, while tanned skin turned into a symbol of beauty and upper class for the first time.
With the advent of show business in the 50s and 60s, all these managed to establish themselves permanently in society for a certain period of time, and the innovations and standards, seen in world-class celebrities (Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Madonna) also turned into ideal of beauty.
Nowadays, the ideal of beauty is almost entirely dependent on modern technologies and cosmetic products. A widespread withdrawal of natural beauty at the expense of artificial forms took place in the last two decades. With the advent of plastic surgery more and more young women acquire perfectly sculpted body of a Barbie doll with silicone breasts, sensual lips, raised cheeks, eyelids ...In the same time, they undergo exhausting and unhealthy diets, which borders on, and sometimes really lead to, anorexic proportions. All this in the name of beauty... And what about the notion that true beauty is invisible to the eyes?
If you are nostalgic for the past time or you want to go forward in time - made a collage with your own photo. The models are painted by the stylist Antonia Yordanova, and the scenery by the scenographer Antonia Popova.