Beauty standards fluctuate, but throughout history, the hourglass figure has consistently been coveted and revered. Characterized by wide hips, an ample bustline and a narrow waist, the hourglass figure symbolizes femininity and sexuality. Throughout the centuries, the shape has had constant appeal, but three recent eras in particular were essential to developing the hourglass figure as the ultimate standard for sex appeal.
1880s: Victorian Femininity
Corsetry has been in existence since the Renaissance, but corsetry to attain an hourglass figure didn’t reach peak popularity until the Victorian era. Women wore tightly-laced corsets with steel and whalebone stays to compress their middles and create a “wasp waist” effect. Their dresses exaggerated the ultra-feminine shape with wide shoulder lines and voluminous skirts.
Although legendary, the Victorian figure has led to some unfortunate misperceptions of corsetry, such as that it is inherently damaging. While some women did suffer injuries from lacing too tightly, modern corsetry has progressed significantly.
1950s: The “New Look” and Va-Va-Voom Style
The hourglass became less prominent starting in the 1920s, when the flapper era ushered in an age of boxier, more androgynous silhouettes. This trend continued until the end of World War II, when Christian Dior’s so-called “New Look” blew up the runway with an ultra-feminine silhouette. Most iconically, this collection is remembered for the “Bar” suit, which featured a very small waist offset by a tailored top and wide skirt. The hourglass was officially back, and remained the pinnacle of beauty aspirations through the early sixties.
The fifties were a peak era for the hourglass silhouette, which was epitomized in the form of screen goddess Marilyn Monroe and pin-up girls like Bettie Page, plus the popular pin-up illustrations of artists like Gil Elvgren. During the 60s, Mod culture shook up the fashion world and the pendulum swung back to straighter silhouettes.
2010s: Contemporary Curves
Nick Minaj, Kim Kardashian, Beyonce: these are the iconic women of our era. Aside from each being totally fabulous in her own way, they have another trait in common: their voluptuous curves. The 2010s are undoubtedly the era in which women of all sizes have shaken off their body insecurities and declared that their curves are beautiful and sexy. Instead of covering up their shapes, many women are openly flaunting their femininity by using waist trainers to exaggerate their curves. If you’re one of them, Instacurve has a huge range of products that can help, from waist cinchers to full body shapers.