Fashion and Cosmetics

The Day Dreamer by Charles Gibson, 1909 Today’s supermodels wouldn’t always have been considered beautiful. Standards of beauty have shifted radically over time. During the 1830s, a popular ideal of feminine beauty was the demure woman, with wasp-waist, rosebud mouth, wispy fingers, and tiny feet. After the Civil War, a popular ideal was of a woman who was curvaceous, big-hipped, and buxom. In the 1890s and early twentieth century, the aristocratic and sporty Gibson Girl was a popular ideal. The Gibson Girl was known as the century's first pin up.
The Day Dreamer by Charles Gibson, 1909
First sketched by Charles Dana Gibson in 1902, this imaginary woman was to represent the ideal woman. She became known as the liberated young woman with the characteristic upswept hairdo. Created using a combination of the Marcel wave and postiche, the Gibson Girl look was to last a quarter of a century. The hair style consisted of a soft pompadour, puffed for a cloud effect, rolled from temple to temple over a horsehair rat to give it the width that went well with a tiny waist. In the 1920s, a new ideal was the boyish, buoyant Flapper.
Not Worrying About Her Rights by Charles Gibson, 1909
Not Worrying About Her Rights
by Charles Gibson, 1909

Key Questions:

1. How would you explain changes in ideals of beauty changed over time?

2. At particular moments in American history, dress and appearance have become the subjects of contention. One might examine the debate that surrounded bloomers, beauty pageants, swimsuits and pants for women, and jeans and sandals.

3. How has social class and age been reflected in clothing?

4. How have the young used style as a form of protest?

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