What Beauty Icons From Each Decade Looked Like During the Last 100 Years
Trends in clothing, makeup, and music change every year. This process can be influenced by both cultural changes and scientific discoveries. The heroines of today’s article became icons of their eras, they were looked up to, imitated, and admired. But there were those who doubted their success. However, time proved that they rightfully occupied a special place in popular culture, and they will remain a source of inspiration in the future.
At Bright Side, we are sure that trends tend to come and go, but these women will always remain timeless icons.
At the beginning of the last century, the hourglass figure was the ideal of beauty. At that time, Gibson, an illustrator of popular magazines, was looking for the ideal woman whose looks he could use in his postcards. And he found actress Camille Clifford. Her figure, with her tiny 18-inch waist, became the standard of female beauty.
Her images and photographs were widely used in fashion magazines, and women tried to imitate her and wore uncomfortable corsets. The career of the actress was short-lived, but she is forever immortalized in Gibson postcards.
In the 1920s, the fashion for curves gradually began to fade away. Women adopted a freer style: they began to wear short haircuts and bright makeup, and chose unusual outfits. The ideal of this time was the dancer, actress, and singer Josephine Baker, the illegitimate daughter of a musician and laundress. From the age of 13, she made a living by street dancing and gradually became very popular. Her exotic appearance and fluid movements captivated audiences, and she was dubbed the Black Venus.
Baker’s dancing had elements of hip hop, which much later developed into an independent style. Ernest Hemingway called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.” Picasso drew paintings of her. The actress was friends with Grace Kelly, who helped her with money. Josephine adopted 12 children of different races and continued to perform on stage until her death at 68 years old.
After the wild freedom of the ’20s, the following decade was marked by a softer feminine style. The ideal of beauty of that time was Greta Garbo, known for playing tragic characters, due to which she was believed to be a melancholic and even gloomy person. Her high arched eyebrows, pale flawless skin, and languid gaze still fascinate many people to this day. Critics and historians have said about her, “Of all the stars who have ever fired the imaginations of audiences, none has quite projected a magnetism and a mystique equal to Garbo.”
Naysayers didn’t believe that a successful silent film actress could work in sound. But Garbo’s first sound film brought her an Oscar nomination. After that, the actress became famous all over the world, which increased the attention she got from the media, making her feel uncomfortable. She never married, had no children, stopped acting in films at the age of 35, and confessed to her biographer: “I was tired of Hollywood. I really wanted to live another life.”
In this decade, the silhouette of a woman wearing a suit, either with a skirt or with trousers, became popular. Moreover, the length of the skirt became shorter and ended just below the knee. In the late 1940s, Dior released the New Look collection with puffy skirts and tight jackets. Eyebrows became a little wider and more natural-looking. Rita Hayworth, the beauty icon of that time who was coined by the press as “The Love Goddess,” had eyebrows just like this.
But at the dawn of her career, she was rarely invited to play in movies because her last name was Cansino, and she had a Mediterranean appearance. So, the actress had to change her name to Hayworth, dye her hair red, and have electrolysis to raise her hairline. Hayworth confessed that she was the complete opposite of the bright and seductive heroines she played. It’s hard to believe that the iconic hair flip scene shown in The Shawshank Redemption was performed by a shy and insecure girl.
In the 1950s, a curvy hourglass figure became trendy again. First breast augmentation surgeries began to gain popularity. Along with the sensual actress Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot became the new beauty icon. In 1956, the movie And God Created Woman was released, which made the 22-year-old actress a symbol of emancipation, boldness, and freedom. It’s interesting that, as a child, Brigitte had to follow strict behavioral standards.
All this instilled a rebellious spirit in the girl, which she reflected in her bright roles. Her hairstyle in the comedy Babette Goes to War was wildly popular and was named after the main character. Eyeliner wings, ballet flats, and carefree summer dresses, all these elements of style are still relevant. Even now, the actress boldly expresses her position and forbids anyone from making a biopic about her life, saying, “Wait until I’m dead before you make a movie about my life, otherwise sparks will fly.”
In the 1960s, Twiggy’s ultra-slimness came into fashion. However, it was also this decade when the inimitable and sensual Sophia Loren became an icon of female beauty. In the mid-60s, her most famous movies Marriage Italian Style and The Fall of the Roman Empire were released.
It’s hard to believe, but she was reproached for having an unorthodox beauty, saying “I’ve never been a beautiful doll. In fact, when I started, people didn’t want to hire me because I wasn’t photogenic. People thought my mouth was too big, they wanted me to make my nose shorter, for me to have straighter teeth.” But Loren remained true to herself and earned the love of the public. Her motto is, “Beauty is not important. You have to be interesting, someone who is different from other people.”
The 1970s was the era of disco and decadence. Flared trousers, voluminous hair, thin eyebrows, glossy lips, and long eyelashes — everything was saturated with the spirit of independence and self-confidence. Singer and Academy Award-nominated actress Diana Ross was one of the brightest representatives of this decade, along with Cher, Debbie Harry, and Jane Birkin. Ross managed to combine the role of a mother of 5 and be among the most successful dance artists of all time.
In the 1980s, she dated Gene Simmons, the bass guitarist for the band Kiss, who used to be Cher’s boyfriend right before that. However, their relationship didn’t last long. The singer’s style had a huge impact on Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Beyoncé, and her songs were covered by Jennifer Lopez, Amy Winehouse, Janet Jackson, and Lady Gaga.
In the 1980s, athleticism became a new trend. The cult of a fit body was maintained on the runway, in movies, and on TV shows, and embodied by supermodels Linda Evangelista and Elle Macpherson, bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, and queen of aerobics Jane Fonda. Nevertheless, the minds and hearts of people were captured by another queen — the extraordinary and seductive Madonna Louise Ciccone. She showed us what careless beauty was and how a woman could look attractive without being too feminine.
Her style consisted of tops, a skirt with capri leggings, fishnet stockings, jewelry, and bleached hair. A role model for many women, Madonna once confessed that she was very lonely when she was a teenager, didn’t use makeup at all, and was an excellent student. Madonna is still a very influential musician. Britney Spears, Rihanna, and Katy Perry acknowledged Madonna’s influence on their work.
The 1990s became a transition period from athletic bodies to a more thin appearance. Androgynous, grunge style and a pale complexion rapidly gained popularity. Winona Ryder’s look became a real embodiment of the outgoing century. She was equally convincing in the role of a timid blonde in the film Edward Scissorhands, the vampire’s bride in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and an android in the sci-fi movie Alien Resurrection. Winona could show up in public wearing a jet black bob or a pixie cut.
Her half-rocker, half-androgynous look became iconic and continues to inspire us to this day. It’s interesting that Winona was teased for her looks by her classmates when she was a child. Her popularity gradually faded toward the end of the decade. The 1999 movie Girl, Interrupted didn’t return her to her former glory, but became a breakthrough movie for a future icon — Angelina Jolie, who played a supporting role.
With the beginning of the new century, the popularity of a skinny figure was gradually forgotten. Athletic looks triumphantly returned to fashion. Everyone started to demonstrate their 6-pack and chiseled washboard abs, wearing low-waisted jeans: including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. But the status of beauty icon was won by the tomb raider herself, Angelina Jolie. For this role, she trained in martial arts and boxing for 8 months.
The movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith became the final step in reinforcing the image of a woman who can stand up for herself. Angelina repeatedly won the status of the most beautiful actress in the world, leaving other celebrities far behind.
The 2010s — present
Kim Kardashian and Rihanna
In the 2010s, we could see a new renaissance of the 1910s: the hourglass figure and curves became popular again. Photo filters and plastic surgery became common things. Kim Kardashian is the face of a new era: tight dresses and bodysuits, duck face selfies, and contouring.
The reality show star brought wide hips back into fashion and proved, with her own example, that one should be proud of their own curves. She has been receiving awards as a style icon and shocking the public with her unusual outfits, which, although not very suitable for everyday wear, surely attract attention.
The current decade is marked by the trends of natural looks and freedom of choice. There are no more clear requirements for how a body should be to look attractive, or what makeup to wear to look fashionable and beautiful. This is a unique time when all sizes and shapes are in fashion.
Rihanna is the perfect embodiment of this trend. Not only does she sport a cool and laid-back street style combined with bold red carpet looks. All her looks are dominated by body positivity.
Each of her appearances in public attracts a lot of attention and is analyzed by fashion critics. Rihanna confessed that she would like to become the “black Madonna” because she managed to create her own style. Among other things, Rihanna launched her fashion brand of clothing and underwear, as well as a cosmetic line.
Which celebrity would you add to this list? Which of these women deserves the title of beauty icon, and which doesn’t? Share your opinion in the comments below.