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Fat was Beautiful throughout History. What Happened?



“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.” - Francis Bacon. 

Step back to explore a fascinating journey through the ages, where perceptions of beauty were as diverse as the cultures that embraced them. Have you ever wondered why a fuller figure was considered the epitome of beauty for most of history? In this blog, we discover the intriguing tale of how society throughout the ages revered and celebrated what we might today consider as "fat."

Join us on this historical journey, where beauty standards were not confined to a single mold. We'll ponder the central question: What changed the perception of beauty, and how did our notions evolve into the ideals we grapple with today? Let's explore the pages of history and discover how beauty has been a dynamic reflection of cultural values and societal shifts.


Ancient Beauty Ideals 

Plumpness wasn't just accepted in the ancient corridors of history—it was celebrated as a symbol of prosperity, health, and fertility across various cultures, leaving a distinct mark on art and literature.


Ancient Egypt

Fuller figures were linked with wealth and fertility in the land of pharaohs. Artworks like the Venus of Willendorf showcased voluptuous figures, emphasizing the importance of abundance. Hieroglyphs and murals depicted robust individuals, portraying prosperity and health.


Ancient Greece

Greek sculptures from the classical era celebrated the human form in its entirety. Figures like the Venus de Milo highlighted the beauty of a fuller physique. Greek literature, including "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," portrayed heroes with strong, robust bodies as symbols of courage and vitality.


Ancient Rome

Roman art, notably frescoes and mosaics, often depicted individuals with a fuller frame. The idealized statue of the goddess Venus, the Capitoline Venus, showcased a well-rounded and feminine form. Roman literature, including the poetry of Ovid, celebrated curves and portrayed beauty in a more inclusive light.


Mesopotamia

In Mesopotamian art and reliefs, larger bodies were frequently depicted, symbolizing prosperity and abundance. The Code of Hammurabi, a significant legal code, reflects the importance of a healthy and robust population.


Renaissance Splendor: Celebrating the Well-Rounded Form

The Renaissance, a cultural rebirth spanning the 14th to the 17th century, ushered in a profound transformation in artistic and intellectual pursuits. The Renaissance era celebrated the beauty of well-rounded figures, viewing them as incarnations of vitality and grace.


Artistic Masterpieces:

During this period, renowned artists found inspiration in the fuller bodies. Titian, a prominent Renaissance painter, captured the essence of sensuality in his iconic works, such as "Venus of Urbino." This masterpiece portrayed a reclining nude with soft curves, challenging conventional notions of beauty. Similarly, Peter Paul Rubens, a Flemish high-profile painter, embraced the magnificence of the fuller form in paintings like "The Three Graces" and "Venus at a Mirror."


Cultural Influences:

The Renaissance wasn't just a period of artistic flourish; it marked a shift in societal attitudes toward beauty. The influential treatise "On the Beauty of Women" by Agnolo Firenzuola celebrated a more rounded physique, asserting that plumpness signified good health and abundant living.


Symbolism in Art and Literature:

Renaissance thinkers drew on classical ideals, often associating a robust physique with symbols of fertility and prosperity. The concept of the "Rubenesque" figure, inspired by Peter Paul Rubens' depictions, became synonymous with a healthy and attractive body. Literary works, such as Shakespearean sonnets praising the "summer's lease hath all too short a date," romanticized the charm of a curvy form.


Legacy of Renaissance Beauty:

The impact of the Renaissance's celebration of fuller bodies reverberates through art and cultural perceptions today. The masterpieces of this era continue to captivate audiences, challenging contemporary notions of beauty and fostering a broader appreciation for diverse physical forms.



Victorian Era: Change in Views

The Victorian era, spanning the 19th century, brought a distinct shift in beauty standards. In contrast to the Renaissance's celebration of well-rounded figures, Victorian elegance was associated with a more restrained yet appreciative view of body shapes.


Fashion and Femininity: Rise of Corsets

The Victorian era witnessed the rise of corsets as a defining element of fashion and a symbol of societal ideals. Corsets and tight-fitting undergarments became synonymous with the hourglass figure coveted during this period.

Women were expected to achieve a tiny waist, emphasizing an idealized figure that combined a delicate waistline with a fuller bust and hips. The rise of corsets reflected fashion trends and conveyed a sense of modesty and control, aligning with Victorian notions of refinement and elegance. While corsets provided a means to attain the desired silhouette, their use also sparked debates about health and comfort. This garment, celebrated and critiqued, became an iconic emblem of the Victorian era, encapsulating the complex relationship between orthodox expectations and evolving perceptions of beauty.


Portraits of Beauty:

The portrayal of the time reflected the prevailing aesthetic. Artists like Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough painted women with a softness and delicacy that conveyed a sense of femininity and grace that appreciated the curves of the female form.


Diet and Victorian Standards:

While there was an overall preference for a more restrained figure, extreme thinness was not necessarily the beauty ideal. The emphasis was on a controlled, sophisticated appearance. Dietary practices of the time included prescribed regimens, but these were more about maintaining an appearance of health and refinement rather than extreme thinness.

In the Victorian era, elegance and modesty took center stage, leading to a more nuanced view of beauty. The era's impact on shaping beauty standards is a testament to the complex interplay of societal values, fashion trends, and artistic expressions.


Early 20th Century: Shifting Beauty Paradigms

The early 20th century marked a significant departure from the fuller figures celebrated in previous eras, as changing societal dynamics influenced a new perception of beauty. The aftermath of World War I and the advent of the "Roaring Twenties" saw a seismic shift in fashion ideals and cultural norms.


Flapper Chic:

The iconic flapper style emerged, characterized by a boyish silhouette that rejected the corseted hourglass figure. Flappers embraced a more slender and androgynous look, challenging traditional notions of femininity. This shift was not only a fashion statement but also a reflection of the changing roles of women in society.


Cinematic Influences:

The burgeoning film industry played a pivotal role in shaping beauty standards. Hollywood stars like Clara Bow and Louise Brooks epitomized the trend, showcasing the appeal of a more streamlined figure. The influence of cinema reached far and wide, impacting fashion, beauty, and many aspirations.


Fitness and Health Trends:

As the century progressed, a burgeoning interest in fitness and health gained momentum. The concept of a toned and athletic physique gained popularity, further distancing itself from the curvy figures of earlier centuries.


Evolving Ideals:

The societal upheavals and cultural shifts of the time left an indelible mark on beauty standards, setting the stage for the diverse and ever-changing ideals that would follow in the decades to come.



Post-World War II and Hollywood Influence:

Post-World War II, the mid-20th century brought a unique confluence of factors that reshaped beauty standards, prominently influenced by Hollywood's golden era.


Hourglass Returns:

In the aftermath of wartime austerity, there was a nostalgic return to more feminine and curvaceous contours. The hourglass figure, characterized by a defined waist and fuller bust, regained popularity. This marked a departure from the leaner aesthetic of the preceding decades.


Hollywood's Leading Ladies:

The influence of Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn played a pivotal role in shaping beauty ideals. Monroe's voluptuous figure and Hepburn's graceful elegance set new standards. Their cinematic presence influenced fashion and reflected a desire for glamor and sophistication.


Commercialization of Beauty:

The post-war era saw the rise of consumer culture, with increased access to beauty products and fashion trends. Advertisements and media further propagated the idealized images portrayed by Hollywood, creating a global impact on beauty standards.

This era marked a return to celebrating feminine curves while simultaneously amplifying the influence of entertainment media on societal perceptions of beauty. The Hollywood-driven aesthetic became a defining feature of the mid-20th century, leaving an enduring imprint on the evolving landscape of beauty standards.


Contemporary Beauty Standards

In the contemporary era, beauty standards have evolved into a diverse tapestry, embracing various body shapes, sizes, and appearances. The 21st century has seen a significant departure from rigid, uniform ideals, with a growing emphasis on inclusivity and authenticity.


Body Positivity Movement:

The rise of the body positivity movement has played a pivotal role in challenging traditional beauty norms. Advocates promote self-love, acceptance, and the celebration of bodies in all their variations. Social media platforms have become powerful tools for individuals to share unfiltered, real representations of themselves, fostering a more inclusive definition of beauty.


Diversity in Fashion and Media:

Fashion brands and media outlets have increasingly embraced variations, featuring models and personalities from various ethnicities, sizes, genders, and abilities. This shift reflects a conscious effort to represent and celebrate the multifaceted nature of beauty.


Health and Wellness Focus:

Contemporary beauty ideals also place a premium on health and well-being. There's a growing emphasis on fitness, mental health, and holistic self-care. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle is often prioritized over conforming to specific body shapes.


Technology and Influencer Culture:

The digital age has democratized beauty standards, allowing individuals to curate their own narratives. With their authenticity and relatability, social media influencers have become influential voices in shaping beauty perceptions. The democratization of beauty through user-generated content has diversified the definition of what is considered attractive.


Challenges and Progress:

Despite these positive strides, challenges persist. Unrealistic beauty standards perpetuated by edited images, filters, and societal pressures still exist. However, ongoing conversations about mental health, self-acceptance, and the importance of genuine representation continue to drive progress.

Contemporary beauty standards reflect a dynamic and ever-changing landscape, acknowledging and celebrating the uniqueness of every individual. The emphasis is shifting towards embracing individuality, fostering a culture where everyone can find beauty in themselves, irrespective of norms or ideals.


Conclusion

A profound narrative emerges in tracing the evolution of beauty standards throughout history, from the ancient celebrations of plumpness to the contemporary emphasis on diversity and individuality. As we navigate the deep historical discussion, it becomes evident that no singular standard prevails. 

Beauty isn't about how someone looks, body shape, or skin tone. It's about how real and unique their souls are as an individual. True beauty comes from a person's authenticity, kindness, love, care for others, and how they appreciate other's beauty!


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