BEAUTY has always preoccupied women.
But over the past two centuries, as women
have gained more rights, the association of
self-worth and appearance has intensified.
being principally concerned with good works to now
being concerned with good looks as a measure of their
self-worth,” says Joan Jacobs Brumberg, author of “The
and “Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa.”
Brumberg attributes the
transformation in girls’
behaviors to changes in
technology, the coming
of mirrors, modern
hygiene, the rise of
ideals of beauty “have
over the past
centuries,” she says.
This timeline traces
many of the body
trends leading up to
Black magazines like Ebony
preach the advantages of lighter
Training bras and girdles become
Marilyn Monroe epitomizes
shifting beauty standards, with a
change in focus from weight to
1959: Phentermine (Phen), an
appetite suppressant that
increases the body’s metabolism,
is approved by the Federal Drug
Administration to help speed weight loss.
Skirt hems rise and pants become acceptable for
Dieting becomes popular. Weight Watchers is founded
in 1963, recruits 500,000 members and grosses $5.5
million in revenues.
Doctors prescribe amphetamines to
women seeking weight loss.
1963: “The Feminine Mystique” by
Betty Friedan ignites the modern
American women’s movement.
1965: The average fashion model
weighs eight percent less than the average American
The National Organization for
Women, advocating women’s
rights, is founded in America.
1967: British fashion model
Twiggy arrives in America
weighing 91 pounds on a
5-foot-7-inch frame, triggering a
shift in average sizes for fashion
The toned look becomes popular, contrasting the
former thin ideal. The trend continues into the 1980s
with exercise tapes promoting fitness.
1971: The First serious look at images of females in
advertising found four stereotypes:
woman’s place is in the home
women do not make important decisions or do
women are dependent on men and need their
men regard women as sex objects
1973: “Our Bodies,
Ourselves,” is published by
the Boston Women’s Health
women to take charge of their
bodies and their health.
Fenfluarmine (Fen), which
suppresses appetite by
lowering levels of the brain
chemical serotonin, is
approved by the FDA.
1977: Liquid-protein diets
are banned temporarily after three deaths are reported
during the decade.
Jane Fonda’s “Workout Book” epitomizes the fitness
Liposuction is imported from France and approved in
America. Twenty deaths are reported during its first six
years in America.
1981:”Fat is a Feminist
Issue,” by Susie Orbach
tied up with gender and
1983: Singer Karen
Carpenter dies at age 32 from
anorexia nervosa, bringing
eating disorders to America’s
Radiance, a magazine for larger
women, is started.
1987: The average model
weighs 23 percent less than the
average American woman.
Five million American women suffer from eating
1991: “The Beauty Myth: How
Images of Beauty are Used Against
Women,” by Naomi Wolf, is a
1995: The U.S. Centers for
Disease Control estimates 11 million
women have eating disorders.
1996: The diet drug Redux is approved by the FDA
as an appetite suppressant for obese individuals.
1997: Diet drugs Redux and fenfluramine are
voluntarily taken off the market at the request of the
FDA, citing studies reporting heart valve disorders.
Mode, a glossy fashion magazine for women “size 12
and above”, wins Ad Week’s Start-up of the Year award
for business performance and innovation.
1999: Cellansene, a herbal remedy made of
gingko, biloba, sweet clover and grapeseed extracts,
claimed to reduce cellulite, comes to America from