It seems that there is no sole decider of the ingredients for the ‘perfect image’. The majority of society merely seems to idolise a particular image as the ‘ideal image’ . But, why does the ideal image fluctuate? It seems that as a whole, the public is very easily influenced by new popular fads and phases which ensue throughout history.
Looking back through history it is apparent to see that both men’s and women’s ideal appearance have significantly varied between periods and social cultures. This is evident by looking at the differences between popular icons at certain points throughout history. Popular celebrities acted as so called ‘image inspiration’ to the public- once one person copied, the majority followed. It is interesting to see just how quickly these trends came into fashion and how quickly they became outdated, replaced by a new shinier image flaunted by the next ‘it’ celeb. In the space of just ten years, between 1950 and 1960, women’s image reformed from the Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly inspired busty, voluptuous hourglass figure to the thin and androgynous look sported by Twiggy. (Below- Marilyn Monroe & Twiggy).
The contrast between the 50’s and 60’s idealised images shows a big jump, from full figured women to the more slight and slender frame. The new 60’s iconic image was essentially a complete reversal of the 50’s, voluptuous figures had effectively been replaced by a small framed, small chested, short haired, boyish looking style. It is interesting to see that there is such a big contrast between the style icons appearances within the space of just ten years. This highlights the fickleness of the public, media, and also the modelling world, as all aspects possess the ‘out with the old, in with the new’ attitude.
Within our present society, the ideal body image centres around the whole ‘is it healthy debate?’. Therefore people of who are deemed to be at a normal, healthy weight and size are left well alone. Recently it has been more evident that the more curvy, voluptuous figures have also been accepted by society, as long as the ‘plus size’ is seen as healthy. The acceptance of the plus size lady is illustrated through the creation of a “normal sized” Barbie. The new realistically proportioned Barbie has been created due to the thought that the tall, slender Barbie of the past may negatively influence young girls into thinking that this is a realistic goal of appearance. After all, if we are criticising skinny models for negatively influencing younger generations, how can we risk the toys that they play with growing up having the same effect. (The picture below shows both the old and newly created Barbie.)
Interestingly, the evolution of the male body can also be portrayed through action figures. The evolution of the GI Joe figures (displayed in the below picture) shows how the perceptions of how the males ideal body has changed over time. Also, both Action figures and Barbies show how we are influencing the younger generations to view themselves, as these figures display societies view of the ideal image.
Interestingly, it is not only different time periods that have idealised certain images and fashions, it is apparent that different countries also have different preferences when it comes to the perfect image. This is illustrated in a fantastic post on Buzzfeed in which a photograph of a woman was photo shopped in over 25 countries in order to examine Global Research Standards. It is fascinating to see what different nationalities idealise as perfect and also to see how much certain countries changed in comparison to others.
Despite many comments arguing that the poor quality of the photo shopping takes away from the concept of the project, I feel that this is still a great representation of how different cultures have different perceptions of the perfect image. To achieve beauty countries such as Ukraine, Romania and Vietnam found the more natural look most appealing. Whereas it seems, the more developed the nation the more they changed the woman’s appearance, for example, the USA- as both of the two photo shops are drastically different from the original.
Overall, there are different perceptions of the perfect image throughout history and across the world. This is portrayed in numerous aspects of life including popular models throughout history, different tastes across the world and also the portrayal of objects as simple as children’s action figures. This post clearly demonstrates how very different peoples visions of perfection can actually be and that realistically there is ultimately no single definition of perfection.