6 Old Beauty Standards You Won’t Believe Were The Norm

You would think that, like fashion trends, beauty standards would recycle. But unlike the comeback of wide leg trousers or body glitter, beauty standards are a lot more rigid. It’s a lot less about what you can take on and take off, it’s an approach to beauty that a fashion magazine can’t alter.

So that’s why a lot of today’s beauty standards–thin bodies, tanned skin–seem really hard to shake off… that’s because they haven’t budged in decades. But earlier in the 20th century, having a thin, tan body was the opposite of hot. In fact, it was worthy of ridicule and disdain. Yeah, seriously. There were ads encouraging women to gain weight. But that’s not all. There were other beauty standards from back in the day that preyed on women’s insecurities. Check out six of them that might surprise you.

Pubes? Yeah, That's Cool

Yeah, pubes weren't seen as some gross, unfeminine thing until the last 30 years or so. Back in prono mags in the 60s and 70s you'd definitely find full on bush. That's a big change from the porn you see these days. But beyond porn, it's just generally seen as unsightly for women to have pubic hair even though it is the most natural thing in the world. Ugh!

Photo source: Pinterest

Dimples Were The Hottest Thing You Could Have

Not to say that dimples aren't nice and all, but the fact that there was a dimple machine invented in the 1930s definitely proves that this was a big beauty standard for most of the 20th century. Our general opinion about dimples now seems to be "oh, they're cute" but if you had dimples in the '40s...automatic babe.

Photo source: Pinterest

The Pastier The Skin, The Better

Listen, being pale still has a lot of advantages in our society thanks to a little thing called racism and its BFF colorism. With that said, you wouldn't hear as many (white) women back in the 1920s boo hooing about having pale skin as I do every time summer rolls around. These women would cringe at the idea of self-tanner.

Photo source: Pinterest


Sure, some people these days still loathe their freckles but not nearly as much as in the 1900s. People did whatever they could to get rid of the damn things, including attempts to bleach them with lemon juice. Yikes.

Photo source: Pinterest

Don't Be Skinny!

Way before the 1900s, having a little bit of meat on your bones was seen as a sign of health in many cultures. By the time the 20th century rolled around, a little meat was cool...to a point. Being voluptuous was the opposite of skinny. So they weren't exactly encouraging women to be overweight...just have a bigger rack. Ads really love feeding into insecurities, don't they?

Photo source: Pinterest

What's Thigh Gap?

Okay, seriously, having a thigh gap is just a super recent obsession. These two ladies pictured? Yeah, they won a beauty contest in the 1920s. No thigh gap detected. Seriously, did anyone really care that much about thigh gap before a couple of years ago?

Photo source: Pinterest

Do any of these beauty standards surprise you? Do you think any need to make a comeback? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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  • jenny

    Freckle to me are still hideous

  • disqus_aIOr2AEVrK

    I would just like to point out that while “thin” is considered desirable “skinny” actually means scrawny and is not what the beauty standards dictate (“skinny” would mean unshapely, no breasts/bum). I feel like recently people have been misusing the word skinny making it a synonym to thin while it actually holds a pejorative connotation.

  • Bella

    Lol small thigh gaps and being thin is best. Honestly no idea how they thought that was beautiful in the 1940’s. I mean cellulite, short legs, fat knees, un shapely legs. Unattractive.

  • ddddlovato

    The comment about being pale still has an advantage is completely unnecessary

    • lulz

      How so? White privilege still exists. You sound like a diet racist.