Although we can all agree that physical beauty is a question of proportions and harmony, we also have to agree that the standards of beauty are influenced by cultural preferences and history. Through the years those standards have changed considerably and they will change some more as time goes on.
In the antic world, Cleopatra was considered the most beautiful women and her dedication to personal care was proverbial. She had the time, she had the means, the inclination and also the needed help. The emphasis was in the smoothness of the skin, the shine of the hair and the heavy contour of the dark eyes. Her beauty secretes are being revived today and she is still emulated by millions.
The Middle Ages were times of austerity influenced by an unforgiving Church that put its priority on devotion and sacrifice, condemning beauty as frivolous vanity. The norm becomes the image of the Byzantine icon, the pale and pious face.
The Renascence brought back the smile, the full figure and the love for life. The fragile beauty of Botticelli’s Venus and the mysterious Mona Lisa of Leonardo, as well as the burly woman of Rubens all lived happily in the same era of liberated spirits.
The Baroque was the era of excess and superfluous: costumes and hairdos were elaborated and unpractical, the use of perfumes made up for a lack of basic hygiene and the many courtesans of France had there day of glory powdering their way to the hearts of powerful man.
Romanticism refined once again the image; the body got slimmer, the skin more transparent and the nudity was replaced by veils, umbrellas and big hats supposed to add to the mystery of a flirtatious personality.
The industrial revolution changed the standards once more as women entered the work force; portraying herself as an equal, the new woman gave up mystery and opted for more practical clothing and hairdos. Her allure become energetic as her style got simpler and more effective.
In modern times, changes are more rapid than ever; in less than a century we saw the woman go from the sophisticated diva of the 30’s to the overly liberated hippy of the 60’s with her long unruly hair pined by a flower and her loose, unstructured skirt blown by the winds of permissiveness.
With feminism on the rise, we saw the skirts get provocatively shorter and some restrictive garments abandoned altogether. It did not take long until the modern women reinvented herself once again in the 90’s as she entered the professional corporate world and politics. In an effort to balance family duties and carrier expectancy, the emphasis became health rather than just decorative beauty.
Looking at old pictures of history books we find some trends totally ridiculous, others plain silly and, at this moment, we do not suspect that in a few short years, friends and family will judge us with a critical eye, as norms will keep on changing.
Whatever new standards will be imposed by future fashion, one thing will never change; the pursuit of beauty will always go on.
Author of the new book "The Road to Beauty" Gabriella D'Anton is interested in all aspects of the fascinating "persuit of happiness" through beauty and Self improvment