Marilyn Monroe

Beauty Ideals over the Decades: 1950’s

In the uncertain times following the end of World War II, tradition and conservative values made a big comeback. As men returned from battle reclaiming their jobs, women left their work-clothes behind and felt the need (fashion dictated) to be feminine again. After a long and costly war, sales were strengthened through advertisements illustrating what one should buy to become a better, happier and more desirable wife. It was a Mid-Century Conservative, and women were told that their primary goal was to catch a man and have a family. The effect was the creation of popular 50’s image of the glamorous woman at home, able to attend to all domestic chores without a hair out of place. Rule number one was that women were never supposed to leave the house looking sloppy. As a result, an extreme amount of time was spent living up to this ideal of beauty. The hourglass body type was highly desired, typified by the curvaceous movie stars of the time such as Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Corsets and girdles became the obligatory underwear of all well-dressed women. They were used to press, lift, pull, and support the body in all the right places to give a smooth, but dramatic figure. In spite of their discomfort, advertisements of these garments promised a better life. A typical 50’s silhouette had the “wasp’s waist”, full skirt or pencil skirt, three-quarter-sleeve tops and coats, full belted skirts, button-downs, and prim sweaters. Women were taught to dress to allure, but rarely showed a great deal of skin. The makeup-trend of the time was the “doe eye,” created with shadow on the lids, eyebrow pencil, mascara and heavy eyeliner, along with a flawless pale, peaches and cream complexion and intensely colored lips. Women’s hair suffered immense abuse, as it was teased, styled, sculpted and sprayed into a helmet of perfectly formed curls, waves and bouffants. It was usually kept short at just below the shoulders, worn in soft, curly, or wavy styles. Since straight styles were considered undesirable, rollers became a girl’s best friend.  The 50’s was the decade of the Pin-up, the era that gave us the launch of Playboy magazine and the idolization of the soft, coquettish woman with overt sexuality. The 50’s was about the extreme opposites of gender roles, with an emphasis on what the perfect woman or man should be. The cause and effect was an unattainable ideal created by the advertisement industry to entice people to buy more products. Comically, this unnatural attention to perfection still keeps a large amount of people nostalgic (for a better time), decades later.  Original article:

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