The Victorian Female Figure

10 Aug

In 1893, Beauty and Hygiene for Women and Girls describes three models of female beauty, ‘the beauty of Juno, of Venus and of Psyche’, to which the majority of women’s bodies conform:

[t]he daughters of Juno are “full” bodied women on the whole well-formed…Their hips are wide almost to massiveness the bust being full and inclining even to embarrassing opulence. “Fine” women is the term which best describes them. Daughters of Venus give one the impression of identity. Rather than below than above the middle height, their figures give one the impression best described as being “well-balanced.” Their hips are full and broad, the bust well-developed and prominent, the waist being slightly more indicated than in the previous type. “A well built woman” is an excellent description of this type. Lastly, we have the daughters of Psyche. To this class most young girls belong, and many remain with figures of such a type. A woman who is described as having a “girlish” figure is of this class. She is usually rather above middle height; has narrow hips, scarcely wider than a man’s; and a less prominent, though often well-developed bust; her waist may be either less or more indicated than a woman of the “Venus” type, as the case may be. She is generally called “graceful,” “slim,” and “willowy.”

The last class of women described in Beauty and Hygiene, the daughters of Psyche are described as having the most sought after figure:

[a] slender, well-proportioned figure is the desire of most women; and, indeed, as one writer has recently said, “most of the modern fashions are adapted for slim women rather than stout.” Who does not heartily pity one of her sex who labours under the discomfort and disadvantages of superfluous stoutness?

 

Copyright © 2011 Victoria Fairclough

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