The Perfect Woman Body Type Throughout History
The 2015 Body Ideal Is More Unattainable Than Ever
For the majority of the population, body ideals have been unrealistic since the end of the Italian Renaissance, when the fleshy, full, voluptuous-in-the-truest-sense-of-the-word figures that had been iconized as statues and in paintings were abandoned in favor of organ-constricting corsets that made movement a futile effort but gave impossibly-hourglass shapes. That being said, none of the body trends over the past few decades have felt as head-scratchingly inaccessible for the average woman lacking a trust fund-size budget for personal trainers, diet coaches and plastic surgeons as the current ideal: D-cup breasts, tiny waists, sculpted abs, big butts and thigh gaps inches-wide—all in one.
But let's go back—first, toJane Fonda's Workout. Released in 1982, it became the highest-selling video of all time and started a fitness craze for one major reason: Woman believed enough aerobics could lead to toned, athletic, strong bodies à la Cindy Crawford, who had just hit the scene. It was the time of the all-American girl next door—she ate healthily but wouldn't turn down a bowl of pasta; she stayed active but didn't mind skipping a gym class; she was hot, but maybe you could look like her.
Next came Kate Moss in the '90s. The model single-handedly ushered in the heroin-chic era, characterized by protruding hipbones, pale skin and zero curves. The ultra-thin look was a blessing for the women whose genetics gave them the kind of fast metabolisms and androgynous builds that required them to drink milkshakes to gain weight, and, in some strange way, it still felt attainable for the rest, because the secrets weren't secrets at all: don't eat much, don't workout, don't stop partying.
Then there wasBaywatch, the show that made Pamela Anderson synonymous with sex for the six years she played a bombshell lifeguard in a high-cut swimsuit. Like most Playmates of the '90s, she was bottle-blonde, bronzed to perfection and unnaturally busty. Breast implants were bigger (and more obvious, due to the silicone controversy and the fact that anatomical implants were still being tested) than ever; still, you could deride them and the blow-up doll blondes who got them, or you could move to Hollywood from your small hometown and become one.
The body of 2015, of the Instagram age—where every sponsored meal replacement bar, Pilates move and waist training session is broadcast to millions of followers who respond back with #BodyGoals—is somehow, despite all sharing and perceived openness, less cut-and-dry than ever. Because, we're coming to realize, no amount of squats and side-bends and leg lifts and vegan diets gives one person the trifecta of Kim Kardashian's ass, Beyoncé's whittled waist and Taylor Swift's thighs. So the question now is: Is everyone getting liposuction and cosmetic body sculpting without us?
According to Dr. Stephen J. Greenberg, a top plastic surgeon currently starring on Bravo'sSecrets and Wives, the answer seems to point toward yes. "Women are asking for larger, but more natural-looking breasts as well as enhanced buttocks, rounder hips and slimmer thighs," he says, adding that requests for Kardashian-esque butts are at an all-time high and that while some women may be born with a thigh gap, most require inner thigh laser lipo to remove exercise-resistant fat. "Using liposuction to shrink certain areas and liposuction combined with fat transfers to enhance others is definitely the new trend." As for waist trainers, they're likely not the reason celebrity waists are becoming more whittled than ever: "It's unrealistic to expect that these devices can fundamentally change body shape," says plastic surgeon Dr. David Hidalgo. Plus, "there are potentially damaging physiologic consequences, including restricted breathing from interference with normal movement of the diaphragm, pooling of blood in the legs which could encourage clots to form and interference with function of the gastrointestinal tract."
This cartoon-like hourglass figure (Jessica Rabbit certainly comes to mind) that is topping our feeds, covering glossy fashion magazines and changing the way we look at our own bodies in the mirror is about as unrealistic to achieve naturally as Kim Kardashian's reality show. So, we're looking to you, Jane Fonda (who has never looked better at 77) for what is proving to be a lifetime of looking and feeling great through healthy diet, consistent exercise, and, okay, maybe a little cosmetic help along the way.
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