How has the Ideal Beauty standard for women changed in Hollywood by the decade
Posted on June 03 2015
The history of Western film in a good barometer of beauty standards from decade to decade. We’ve ricocheted from girlish innocence in the early 1990s to 1970s high cheek-boned love, all the way to the gorgeous yet approachable Jennifer Lawrences. The ideal face shape, eyes, hair, eye brows all have been mirrored and dictated by stars throughout the years, and they are an effective lens to see just how the “perfect” face, body and personality have developed over time.
Early cinema: huge eyes, little lips and innocence
Lillian and her sister Dorothy Gish were the queens of silent, black and white films in America. With huge eyes accented by kohl, tiny demure lips, ladylike curls and intensely innocent expressions, they were the incarnations of perfect, restrained femininity. Their bodies were tiny, frail and draped in wisps of lace.
The 1920s: The Flapper
Clara Bow was the first IT girl, the incarnation of the flapper phenomenon of 1920s USA. She winked, twirled, and charmed her way through films with her distinctive bob, dramatic drawn on eyebrows, round face and bold lips. Her body was juvenile- tiny breasts with rounded arms and thighs.
The 1930s: Voluptuous and Blonde
Harlow started the love for white blonde locks, tiny drawn on eye brows and that famous cupid’s bow pucker and beauty spot. Body wise, she was tall and voluptuous but still more feminine than athletic.
The 1940s: Big hair, tall and leggy
Rita Hayworth was the epitome of innocent sexiness of the 40s- shiny hair, perfect glossed lips and natural eyes and eyebrows. The harsh blonde up-dos of the 30s had given way to girl-next-door locks, and a general return to down-home American beauty instead of harsh sophistication. She was healthy, long-legged, and curvy.
The 1950s: Petite, blonde and delicate
Hitchcock’s ice blondes were the taste of the 50s- impeccably groomed, unapproachable women with tiny waists, delicate wrists and serenely oval, cheek-boned faces. Kim Novak and the tiny brunette Audrey Hepburn carried the day too, but Grace Kelly was the incarnation of the dream: petite, blue-eyed, and graceful rather than energetic.
The 1960s: Major curves ahead
The 60s brought a few broadenings in the ideal of beauty: Faye Dunaway still carried the torch for the icy blondes, but Sophia Loren’s vulpine Italian face and explosive silhouette made curves high-octane on the big screen. Wide eyes, huge lips and exaggeration in all areas, from hips to breasts, were the big themes.
The 1970s: Pale and natural
Diane Keaton became the icon in the 1970s cinema- whippet thin and fresh faces with an overall air of lanky grace. She was the incarnation of the time.
The 1980s: the Blonde bombshell
Kim Basinger was the top actress of the 80s as well as an incarnation of all its aesthetic values: big lips, huge flops of blonde hair, thinned eyebrows, a rectangular face and a beachy, lean body. Heather Locklear and Christy Brinkley were other icons of the age, but Basinger looked the part the most.
The 1990s: Cute and grungy
Even though the 90s was still very much about Baywatch types, Winona Ryder- petite, huge eyes, black-haired, strong chinned and heavy eyebrowed- was the actress of the time. She was elfin and delicate, which fit the grunge aesthetic but also took us back to the Gish sisters with a serious heavy edge.
The 2000s: Athletic and direct
Berry was the ultimate actress of the 2000s: athletic and lean, with a bold crop rather than long loose waves, a direct and commanding expression, delicate cheekbones and a heart-shaped face. She is also one of the first African-American cinema A-listers, which meant a serious shift in our perceptions of beauty on the big screen.
The 2010s: ?
We only half way through the 2010s and do not have a hindsight yet to see what was really making us flip in this decade. Is it Emma Stone and the ginger look? Kristen Stewart with her huge eyes and lanky limbs? Or Lupita Nyongo with her elegance and that amazing face? What do you think?