There’s no doubt beauty standards have evolved over time. During the Renaissance, women were expected to have full figures that today might be considered overweight. This difference in beauty standards has to do with status. During the Renaissance, Europe had stricter class systems than it does now. With these class systems, and little possibility of movement, people fought each other not for power but for basic resources like food. Higher-class women had access to enough food to become overweight, so beauty standards were molded to find larger, and often wealthier, bodies more attractive.
Over time, access to calorie-rich food became more equitable, making an overweight physique, once considered exclusive to the upper class, less dependent on social standing. Additionally, access to the internet has brought all pockets of the world together, unifying different cultures’ beauty standards.
During the Renaissance, upper class women benefited from beauty standards, but who benefits from beauty standards today? It is partially the fitness industry, convincing people to spend money on diets and workouts to obtain the lean body that we see on billboards and in magazines. Modern beauty standards also benefit the fashion and entertainment industries who flaunt the conventional beauty of their models, singers and actresses to attract insecure consumers.
When Marilyn Monroe joined the film industry during the 1950s, she radically changed the standard of beauty in society. By today’s measurements, Monroe’s dress size is around a 6-8. In the 1950s, this size equated to a 12. Monroe was considered “plus size” even during her time period, but the change in the number attached to Monroe’s dress size indicates a change in beauty standards that values thinness even more than it did before Monroe became famous.
The constant shift in beauty standards is a clear demonstration of the current flaws in our society. As consumers, we see clothing displayed on conventionally attractive models as appealing, prompting us to buy the clothes.
Beauty standards are shifting again. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was one of the first that chose to embrace the body diversity, featuring models with diverse races, body shapes, and identities. With #ChooseBeautiful, the company empowered women to see a variety of body types as beautiful.
More and more fashion designers are choosing to include a variety of body types in their advertising. While the days of Victoria’s Secret Runway Shows are not going to stop any time soon, plus-size runway models are on the rise. The general public is realizing the negative effects of unreachable and limiting beauty standards, and the fashion industry is slowly following suit, touting the idea that everyone’s body is beautiful.
Around the time of last year’s Victoria’s Secret Runway Show in November, sisters Alyse and Lexi Scaffidi created an Anti-Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to show off the beauty of women who don’t conform perfectly to modern beauty standards. The sisters run the “bitesized” franchise, according to the Huffington Post, which “promotes the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all version of beauty.” Alyse told the Huffington Post that “recreating the anti-VS Fashion Show was our chance to make 21 girls’ dreams of being a runway angel come true, and in the process, we hope to inspire body confidence amongst other women. It’s not about celebrating obesity or anorexia, it’s about breaking away from a stereotypical look of what is beautiful and celebrating who you are as a person.”
The fashion industry has been slow to change, but change is happening nonetheless. As usual, social media is leading the charge. Following the success of the #MeToo movement, the #becauseit’sMYbody movement debuted on Twitter. This movement, created by a plus sized model, calls for more body inclusion in modeling.
The fashion industry should take a cue from the #becauseit’sMYbody movement and catch up to expanding beauty standards. Currently, the fashion industry touts a limited beauty standard that promotes insecurity and poor self-image in female consumers. The fashion industry has a chance to improve by accepting that body perfection doesn’t exist, and that a variety of bodies should be considered beautiful.