Don't Strive To Be Perfect: Why Beauty Standards Are Meaningless

This article focuses on describing beauty standards around the Globe.

Don't Strive To Be Perfect: Why Beauty Standards Are Meaningless

People of all ages are concerned about their appearance. They try to «fit» their natural look into existing standards, often resorting to various procedures and, sometimes painful deprivations, in order to achieve imaginary perfection. To achieve the goal, they limit themselves to food, exhaust their bodies with redundant exercising. People have resorted to different tricks and hacks to improve their faces and bodies at different times and eras. However, each era had its own beauty standards. Let us look over the variety of human prejudices at different times and in different countries, usually reaching the point of absurdity, in order to understand that fashion is changeable, and any «shortcomings» can become raisins and even advantages if you know how to present yourself correctly and how to be confident.

The ideal of beauty in Ancient Egypt was considered a tall, slender brunette with a small chest and wide shoulders; not thin, with a muscular body, narrow hips, and long legs. Ancient frescoes depict women with smooth skin without a single hair. Egyptians used waxing hair removal, masks and incense or whitewash to give the skin a light yellow tint. Another feature of Ancient Egypt was neoteny — the preservation of childhood traits in adult women. Almond-shaped eyes, straight nose, large lips were considered as a beauty standard. Egyptians dyed their eyebrows, eyelashes, and lips with iris juice, making their cheeks blush. Hair was styled in a high hairstyle.

In ancient Rome, a portly figure with curvaceous forms, especially prominent hips, was considered the ideal of female beauty. Facial features were supposed to be large. A hump on the nose was considered a sign of aristocracy. The figures (bodies) of women «were created for childbirth». Blonde hair was perceived as an ideal, and due to the fact that nature rarely gave such a gift to the Romans, women bleached their hair. Their hair was wiped with a sponge dipped in goat milk oil and beech ash. Then the hair was bleached in the sun. Against dry skin, wrinkles, and freckles, Roman women actively used dairy products.

Beauty in ancient Greece was a real cult and obsession. It was then that the concept of «golden ratio» appeared — certain parameters or the ratio of quantities that underlie the harmony of nature and man. The woman was considered beautiful with a height of 164 cm and proportions of 86-69-93. Women of tall stature, with aspen hoists, wide hips, a flat and toned belly, and slender legs were appreciated in Greek society. It was also considered beautiful to have blonde or red hair, blue eyes, a straight nose, and a high forehead. Aphrodite of Milo, who was considered the ideal of beauty, fell under such a description. The Greeks attached great importance to the symmetry and proportionality of the face. Hair was gathered in a low bun tied with a ribbon at the back of the head. Modern stylists call this hairstyle an «antique knot». In the culture of Greece, there was a concept for the designation of beauty — kalokagathos. This means a combination of beauty and external virtues. Among the Ancient Greeks, a person endowed with beauty cannot be bad, evil, since the gods reward only worthy people with external attractiveness.

It is impossible not to mention the idea of ​​beauty in ancient China. Fragile, graceful women with small legs, thin long fingers, and small breasts were considered lovely. For this, from an early age, the chest of Chinese women was tightened with a canvas bandage. This was harmful to their health. The skin had to be pale, the forehead to be high, the eyebrows to be thin, and the lips to be rounded. Part of the hair above the forehead was shaved off to make the face look elongated. The parents deformed the girls' feet by tying them with bandages so that the feet were small. This was considered a sign of beauty and attractiveness. All of the girls' fingers were broken except for the thumb. Then they were bandaged until 4 broken toes pressed close to the sole. After that, the rise to the heel was bandaged, the foot at the end began to resemble a hoof. These legs were called «lotus» legs. Thus, the foot no longer grew in length. It was almost impossible to walk in such a fiscal state. Women often had to be carried by men. It was not customary to take off your shoes in the presence of a man. Chinese women endured this torture for fear of remaining unmarried. It is important to mention the rich makeup of Chinese women: whitewash was abundantly applied to the face, the eyebrows were drawn in the shape of an arc, the teeth were covered with a golden mixture, the lips and cheeks were painted in bright red shades. Such makeup constrained facial expressions since a woman was not supposed to show emotions. Chinese ladies painted their fingernails in red and put on special devices for fingers so as not to break them. Single women braided their hair in a braid, and married women did a bun. The widows shaved their heads baldly which expressed indifference.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the concept of female beauty began to change. In the Middle Ages, the church had a great influence on peoples' appearance, dictating its own rules. The hair should be carefully hidden under the headdress, the chest had to be small, the arms and the lips to be thin. The womens' breasts were bandaged to achieve the ideal. More attention began to be paid to hairstyles and headdresses. Makeup was frowned upon by the church. The image of the Virgin Mary becomes the ideal. Pregnancy has become fashionable. Even when the woman was not waiting for a child, she wore a dress draped over her belly.

The Renaissance is bringing back close attention to the body and beauty of the face, which were perceived as a gift from God. In female beauty, large breasts and wide hips began to be appreciated. Artists began to depict a nude female body.

In the Baroque era, fashion trends were dictated by France. The fashion for curvy shapes has been preserved, however, with an emphasized thin waist and a swan neck. Corsets, which made the waist thin and raised the chest, came into fashion. Women wore puffy skirts with rings, wigs, but rarely washed their bodies. The smell of a dirty body was relieved by powerful perfumery.

In the Rococo era, the beauty trends change again. Lush forms are replaced by fragility, lightness, and grace. The ideal of a porcelain doll with contrasting waist and hips was in vogue. In order to meet the new standard, women wore puffy skirts. The neckline has increased, stockings and beautiful underwear have become fashionable. Special velcros to hide defects caused by smallpox disease have become popular.

In the XIX century fashion was unstable. The ideals of the figure changed as quickly as the clothing styles. At that time, Victorian England had a strong influence on beauty standards. Men's vests and shirts have moved into the women's wardrobe. Women stopped wearing tight corsets. Dresses could open the chest. Sloping shoulders started to be considered beautiful, the fashion for a thin waist was preserved. Hair was dyed with lead or silver nitrate. Curls and bangs also became popular. Ribbons and flowers were braided in the womens' hair.

In the XX century, the concept of beauty rarely changes. This was influenced by wars, technological progress, and also the wave of feminism. In the 1920s, women strove for a masculine appearance and a boyish figure: flat breasts, low waist, short haircuts. In the 40s, curvaceous forms were appreciated. In the 60s, the figure of the «perfect woman» was supposed to resemble the figure of a teenager. In the 80s and 90s, the sports figure came into vogue. During this period, high growth, thinness, white skin was valued. Nowadays, a flat stomach, a toned figure, and a tendency towards natural beauty are considered beautiful.

In conclusion, it must be said that, unfortunately, beauty standards are still of concern to modern men and women. Nature did not seek to create people similar to each other, therefore each person is born unique and special. In addition, the feeling and understanding of beauty are also different for each person. The secret of real beauty is self- confidence and exclusivity, as well as the inner light that appears due to this. This exactly should become the general standard of beauty in all countries and at all times.


Text by
Maryana Selezneva