The Evolution of Sex Appeal

The Evolution of Sex Appeal

How Fashion’s Definition of ‘Sexy’ Has  Changed over The Past Century



What is sexy? Well, it depends when you’re asking. The ideals of sex appeal have evolved a lot over the past century.

In the 1900s, it was a given that women would wear corsets under their dresses. The corsets played up the ideal hourglass figure, creating the impression of an S-shaped body. Stomachs were sucked in, making hips and breasts look bigger by comparison.

Things started to shift in the 1910s, as make-up grew in popularity among the Hollywood set. However, wearing make-up was still frowned upon by some, so many women would hide it and apply surreptitiously to play up their features, taking cues from the motion picture industry’s trend-setting starlets.

In the 1920s, bold make-up was not only acceptable but desirable. Pale skin was the go-to look, so many women used cosmetics to make their complexion look lighter.

But perhaps an even more dramatic change was that womanly curves were no longer ‘in’. Girls now eschewed the hourglass shape for a boyish figure, even binding their chests to play down their breasts.

The 1930s, though, saw fuller figures make a small comeback – but women’s sex appeal still had a masculine side. Women of the ’30s went for a stronger silhouette. Following the lead of Joan Crawford, ladies bought dresses and tops with shoulder pads sewn in, which they then juxtaposed with sultry red lips.

Shoulder pads continued to be popular into the 1940s. But the ideal figure began swinging back more toward the feminine when World War II ended, with higher hem lines meaning women were showing a bit more leg.

Then, in the late ’40s, that undergarment innovation brought the hourglass figure back in a big way, with celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly showing them off in very different lights in the 1950s. While Marilyn’s often revealing outfit choices were played up with pouty lips and sensual stares, Grace epitomized a more subtle sex appeal with her full skirts.

Then finally, in the 1960s, legs got their chance to come out and play, too, as mini skirts were all the rage. Bikinis also earned swift popularity, and women began showing more and more skin on and off the beach. Curves fell out of favor again with many people, as Twiggy’s super-slim figure inspired women to shed pounds.

In the 1970s, Farrah Fawcett became a sexual icon with her feathered locks. The ’70s also saw the sexual revolution in full swing, and women and men were both more open than ever about sexuality. In fact, one-night stands are what inspired Diane von Furstenberg to design the wrap dress in 1974.

Through the 1980s, the trend to show more skin continued. On the beach and at aerobics classes, women opted for swimsuits and leotards that cut high on the thigh to make legs look long and flaunt hips. Fit, toned bodies were considered the sexiest ones around. Therefore,  how to lose weight is a main trend at present. Many slimming products are popular. The safe one is slim patch.


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