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The changing face of beauty

One only has to glance at the varying female ideals throughout the centuries to see how the definition of feminine beauty has changed and evolved numerously.

Citizens of Ancient Greece deemed perfect and regular proportions to be the key component of a truly beautiful female face – quirky beauty, such as that of Georgia May Jagger, would not have been appreciated. Subsequently, the women of Rubens’ affection possessed rotund faces, complete with double chins, the likes of which would repulse the majority of the modern-day fashion circuit. Similarly, the Victorians, who favoured only the most delicate of rosebud lips, would deplore of the sensually full pouts that became iconic in the 1950s – see Marilyn Monroe – and is still admired today – who can forget Scarlett Johansson in those delicious Dolce & Gabbana make-up campaigns?

So how do these various supreme standards of beauty occur? Certainly, it is naïve to believe that they exist via accident alone. Indeed, the behaviour of contemporary society has often determined the feminine beauty ideal of that time. During the 1960s, for example, society’s focus was on social protest in the face of idealism, thereby seemingly rendering the previous obsession with femininity – in all its voluptuous and euphoric glory – trivial. However, female beauty remained as important as ever; the only difference was that the ideal had now transformed into androgyny, as exemplified by Twiggy. Nowadays, society’s influence on beauty is palpable in the form of the new acceptability of age. Whereas high fashion campaigns were reserved previously for the under-25s, women of all ages are present – even dominant – in those of today. Open any fashion magazine this month and you will most likely a few of the following: Julianne Moore, 49, naked save for a handbag for Bulgari; Helena Christensen, 41, exhibiting her perfectly toned naked body for Reebok; Tilda Swinton, 49, appearing ethereally for Pringle. Furthermore, nowadays, grey hair is acceptable and even fashionable – see Chanel and blogger, Tavi, earlier this year.

As for the reason behind this new adoration of age, I’d suggest a combination of inevitable size-zero backlash – size-zero being notoriously the domain of impressionable teenaged models – as well as the recession, which has resulted in a fervour for pared-down chic in terms of both cut (clean tailoring) and palette (camel and monochrome, optionally with a single accent colour) – traditionally the style of a woman rather than a girl – as a homage to the new necessary trend of austerity.

Evidently, the ideal of physical feminine beauty is ever changing. Nonetheless, an attribute of ultimate female beauty that remains timeless is personality. Contrary to popular belief, Cleopatra was not physically beautiful, but her confidence and innate unapologetic sexuality rendered her an idolised sex symbol for centuries to come. Meanwhile, the strong and unique personality of Elizabeth I inspired desire from a plethora of male suitors as well as beauty trends amongst female contemporaries – red hair, plucked eyebrows, etc. These days, Beth Ditto – amongst others – graces magazine covers and launches fashion lines due to her prominent, alternative, and outspoken personality.

Therefore, as both history and modern society suggests, truly strong women determine feminine beauty themselves through their intrinsic confidence and distinct personalities; they refuse to be forgotten.

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Isabelle Dann

Isabelle Dann is the Lifestyle Editor at The Mancunion. Follow her tomfoolery @izzydann
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