By Rikki Dubois

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That may be true in the way that every person is beautiful to someone, but ,by society’s standards, we do not all fit into the mold of what is beautiful. Or do we? Maybe we were just born at the wrong time. Or, maybe, we lived in the wrong part of the world.

During the 1860s, as part of the British Commonwealth, Canadian fashion followed the lead of the British Empire. Full-figured, heavy breasted women with wide hips were considered beautiful. These were childbearing women. Any man looking at a heavy woman would know that she would be able to carry a child to term and give birth to healthy babies. This woman was someone who could survive famine and support a family. This was beautiful. A thin woman with no meat on her bones was not desirable because she was thought to not be able to survive childbirth. Fashion dictated that in addition to having wide hips and heavy breasts, these women should have a narrow waist. In order to project this image, women of the British Empire would wear tight corsets.

The turn of the century led into the Roaring Twenties and the introduction of flappers. Living was free and daring. Gone were the days of long dresses and corsets. A woman’s figure had to be thin and boyish, with small breasts and narrow hips, in order to be considered beautiful. This was a new era and women were showing that they would no longer follow the ideologies of Victorian England. They wore bras that flattened their chests and started to show some leg.

Then the crash came. With visions of Sodom and Gomorrah, it seemed like the free and easy lifestyle of the ’20s caused the bitter depression of the ’30s. The thought was that this was god’s way of punishing women for being loose. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Hollywood started defining what was considered attractive. Shapely, voluptuous women were idealized. Every woman wanted to be Jean Harlow, Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. Since the 1920s freedoms and thin women was thought to have brought on god’s wrath, society went back to the full-figured woman of the Victorian era who was heavy breasted and had wide hips. The difference was that no corsets were worn and dresses went down to the knees. Mothers stayed at home and waited for fathers to return home from work. Women had supper on the table and a drink ready for their husbands when they got home. This was June Cleaver, the ideal woman.

The 1960s arrived and came with the Vietnam war. By this time, trends in the United States, including fashion, were reflected in Canada. Women wore blue jeans and miniskirts. Fashion model Twiggy, who best defined how to wear these items, changed the ideal body type to thin and tall.

After the disco period of free sex and drugs of the 1970s, the ’80s brought Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John. Women were told, “Let’s get physical” and in came aerobics. It was okay to be thin, but not to be flabby. A toned, muscular body was ideal.

The 1990s brought what was known as heroin chic—very thin, withdrawn and pale—as the desired body type. Anybody weighing more than 120 pounds was considered to be obese. This was a time when there was an epidemic of anorexia and bulimia nervosa. A woman could not be thin enough.

The turn of the century brought a confusion of what was considered to be an attractive body type.  The perfect body had big breasts and big butts, but a flat stomach. In order to reach that kind of perfection, some women turned to plastic surgery.

So, what is beautiful now? Since 2004, Dove has produced campaigns to show that every woman is beautiful. The idea is to build the self-esteem of young girls so they can become women who love themselves.

Look in the mirror. The person you see there has the perfect body type. And they are beautiful.


Article by Rikki Dubois, a transgendered writer from Winnipeg. Her book Muffy was Fluffy helps children understand what it means to be transgendered. Order it today from McNally Robinson.

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