For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Aug 14 2017
by Nicole Molinari

A History of Beauty Ideals for Female College Students

By Nicole Molinari - Aug 14 2017

Beauty is something that is ever changing. As our world becomes more modernized and accepting of various people and their bodies, there are always trends that people like to follow. Young female college students tend to take a particular interest in beauty, because we feel confident when we feel beautiful. It's interesting to think that what is considered beautiful today may not have been deemed acceptable by upper class women decades ago, and the opposite stands true — there are some trends from the 1900s that have us shaking our heads and wondering where on earth the appeal came from. Let's take a look at some of these trends just to see how far we've come.

Welcome to the Roaring Twenties

This was when beauty standards truly began to fluctuate. With WWI finally coming to a close, women rebelled against what was considered beautiful in the Victorian Era. Curves were unfashionable, short hair was preferred and focusing on natural features (a.k.a. limited use of makeup) was encouraged. This sudden change of the female nature stemmed from a desire for freedom and the ability to work jobs like men did. These girls were casual about their appearance, and were referred to as "flappers."


If you're looking to bring a little 20's vibes into your life, you can get the look by wearing this Great Gatsby inspired headband.

1930s: The Great Depression

Considered the era of makeup, the thirties took a drastic turn from the roaring twenties — this decade was all about drama. We're talking glitter, loads of makeup, nail polish, hair product, etc. Soft curves were desirable, and females made a departure from their athletic preferences to enhance their natural feminine features. Check out this makeup guide if you want to liven up your makeup routine with a throwback to the thirties.

1940s: World War II

Women took fashion more casually, as it was influenced by the onset of the second world war. More feminine hairstyles were popular again and makeup applications were much less dramatic. The ultimate goal was a "girl-next-door" kind of look. Women became cautious of what they ate and began to take healthier approaches to living by exercising more. Having a small waist was also very desirable at this point in time. Why not do something funky with your hair? Follow this hair guide for multiple ways you can style your hair to bring the forties back to life.

The Fabulous Fifties

This decade was a cry for more women to get in touch with their feminine sides. With more makeup available than ever before, women applied their makeup in thicker layers, looking to create a dramatic effect. Key features were making your eyes bolder with mascara and giving your lips a pop of colour. Popular starlet Marilyn Monroe influenced the widespread desire for hourglass figures among females. Hair was usually kept shorter, typically falling to just below the shoulders.


Get in touch with your more feminine side by wearing dresses with cute prints to accentuate your curves!       

1960s: And So The Rebellion Begins

At the dawn of feminism, women were eager to express their freedom and independence. In terms of body types, there were two key preferences: very youthful and thin, or very feminine and curvy. It was common to line your eyes with eyeliner and fake lashes to make them bold, whereas the lips got less emphasis with lighter colours. Here's a tutorial on how to do your makeup 1960s style.

Welcome to the Seventies: The "Me" Decade

Women were eager to prove that they were equal to men, thus bra burning began in the late sixties, and wearing pants became more common. Tanned skin was gorgeous and fake tans were socially acceptable ways of keeping your skin golden. Being naturally skinny was "in" along with rosy cheeks. Disco also became very popular in this era, which is why people sported loud prints and colors so often.

Break in the seventies with some chic and comfy pants. Completely acceptable for lounging around the house and seeing friends.

The Bullish Eighties

Here we see health and fitness start to kick in more. With the popularity of supermodels on the rise, women were expected to stay fit and toned, but not too toned, for fear of being overly muscular. Many women tried to feel "sexy" during this decade, however a rise in eating disorders occurred. In terms of clothing, girls went for the "all-American girl" look, sporting bright prints and colours that weren't too flattering on the body.

If you're looking to sport some bright colours on an eighties night with your girls, bright colours and off the shoulder shirts are just what you're looking for.

1990s: Where the Digital Age Begins

There were two idealized figures in this age: athletic and curvy, and super thin and youthful. This decade birthed popularity to crop tops and belly button piercings. Facial skin was expected to be matte and flawless with defined eyebrows and painted lips. Here's a makeup tutorial on how to achieve a look from the nineties.

2000s: A New Millennium

Sexual liberation is a key theme from this decade. Women were still expected to be youthful and express themselves freely, but expressing your sensuality is a newfound mainstream theme in this era. This is seen in many pop stars wearing lingerie type costumes out in public or onstage. Women's bodies were expected to be curvy and slender, or skinny. Layering was also a big trend in the 2000s. Try layering up a low cut v neck over a tank top for a cute look, or roll up the ends of your jeans to make them similar to capris.


North America has gone on a health kick as of recent, and many girls are embracing their healthy bodies as they are. However, a common trend is to have a flat stomach with large breasts, a large butt and a thigh gap. Unfortunately, not all women come by this trend through natural means, with many resorting to cosmetic surgery to attain their desired looks.

Isn't it crazy to see how much standards have changed over time? Whenever you're feeling self-conscious about your body, look back on standards from the 1900s and remember that different things were considered beautiful back then — you don't have to satisfy today's beauty standards. Please remember, these standards are not meant to be satisfied; rather, they are meant to give you an idea of popular trends. Moreso, remember that the only thing standing in the way of your confidence about your looks is YOU! Always be sure to give yourself a healthy dosage of self love before turning to other ideas of what you should look like. 

Lead Image Credit: lightstargod via Pixabay

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Nicole Molinari - Wilfrid Laurier University

Nicole is a sophomore at Wilfrid Laurier University who is pursuing a major in business administration and a minor in writing. She loves working part time as a lifeguard, and in her spare time she enjoys reading and making memories with friends. A victim of late night syndrome, she knows she needs more sleep but wouldn't want to live her life any other way.

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