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How Body Trends Have Influenced Plastic Surgery Over The Past 100 Years

Over the last century not only have we seen the fashion and beauty industry impact the way a woman chooses to look, but it has also influenced her body shape too. But what about the women who didn’t fit into a specific body type or were unhappy with their body shape? Whereas some came to accept who they were and be happy with what they were born with others sought different means to change their body shape, aiding them to feel comfortable with their bodies by altering them aesthetically or surgically.

We take a look at the last century of the ever-changing fashions of the female form and the impact the media role has played in influencing how a woman’s body looks. We also look at how it has encouraged surgeons to develop new techniques in the plastic surgery field to help women who are unhappy with their looks change their bodies physically and find confidence and happiness.

Portrait of a 1920s 'flapper' girl

The 1920s ‘flapper’ girl

1920s: The Flapper Girl Era

The 1920s saw the revolutionary look of the flapper girls who said goodbye to their restricting corsets, long hair and bulging bosoms. It was arguably the most revolutionary change in fashion for women opting for comfort over constriction.

As influenced by Hollywood siren Mary Pickford, flat chests and shorties ruled as she was only 5′ tall. Waists were a thing of the past with dress styles hanging long with no tailoring. Although the waist was now non existent the focus was now on the legs with hemlines shorter than previously seen.

The 1920s saw the rise of the silver screen celebrity and in an effort to gain more roles, actors and actresses such as Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson had surgical work done on the ears, noses and faces in order to look more desirable when magnified on screen. At this time plastic surgery was still in it’s early development and only available to the elite rich.

1930s: Return of the Waist

Hollywood starlet Jean Harlow brought the return of the female waist during the 1930’s and curves make a small comeback. Longer hemlines are also re-introduced. The flat chested look also makes way for the small bust making it’s way back into fashion. Undergarments were being created to help women achieve the curvy look.

Line of female dancers

Line of female dancers

1940s and 1950s: It’s all about the Curves

In the 1940s curves were back in fashion. Busts got torpedoed with the introduction of the bullet bra, framed by broad shoulders. The Hollywood sirens of the time were Lauren Bacall and Katherine Hepburn who were both 5′ 8″ which introduced the fashion of height and more women turning to higher heeled shoes to gain those precious extra inches. 1946 saw the publishing of the first scientific journal specifically targeted for plastic surgeons.

In the 1950s the introduction of the hourglass figure was made desirable by Elizabeth Taylor. Hip and booty padding were sold as accessories to your everyday attire to help women achieve the curves they desired, accentuated by circle skirts and sweetheart necklines. Adverts at the time encouraged women to gain weight to fill out their curves and the Playboy magazine and Barbie dolls were also created in this decade which echoed the tiny waisted, big busted ideal of the time.

Warner’s Concentrate Girdle ‘Pear’ advert from 1968

1960s and 1970s: Twiggy and Bra Burning

The swinging 60s gave way to a new revolution of thinking. Women now wore mini skirts and being less covered up had become not only fashionable, but more acceptable. Twiggy was the model of the hour with her boyish petite shape. Adverts like ‘this is no shape for a girl (next to a pear)’ appeared in the media and women were openly prescribed amphetamines to aid in weight loss. Women felt free with their bodies, even demonstrating by burning their bras.

1962 brought about the first successful silicone breast implant procedure being performed, opening a door to women who were previously left feeling self conscious about their flat chests with the option to enhance it surgically. Although saline implants were later introduced and considered a safer option, further developments in technology means that silicone still reigns supreme. In 1969 a plastic surgeon went on to win a Nobel prize.

The 1970s continued with the emphasis on a slimmer, longer and leaner dancing queen physique and cigarettes were advertised as being able to aid in weight loss and it became fashionable to smoke.

The 1970s also saw the conception of the ‘no carb’ Atkins diet, which is still popular today. In 1974, doctors Aprad and Giorgio Fischer from Rome, Italy were heralded as developing the blunt tunnelling technique from which modern day Liposuction evolved. Women whose only previous option was to lose weight by dieting now had the option to have it surgically removed.

1980s: Amazonian Physiques Reign Supreme

The 1980s was the decade of the ‘super model’. Amazonian 6′ tall models with perfect physiques and perfect skin were not only hailed as goddesses in the fashion world, but became celebrities commanding exuberant amounts of money just to get out of bed.

Supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford were everywhere you looked, even starring in music videos. Thanks mostly to fitness queen Jane Fonda, for those of us who were never going to achieve the Amazonian look immersed themselves in attaining a stronger more toned physique, and sportswear became a fashionable attire that could even be worn outside of the gym. Facial surgeries such as Nose Correction, Facelifts and Eyelid Surgery see an increase in requests due to it becoming more affordable and women wanting to stay looking younger for longer.

For plastic surgery in the 1980s, plastic surgeons and their advocates pushed to raise public awareness and improve the public perception of having plastic surgery. The increase in information given alongside the economic boom made plastic surgery more accessible to the mainstream public.

WonderBra’s 1994 ‘Hello Boys’ advert has been voted the most iconic advert image of all time

1990s: The Waif Look

The 1990s brought about the ‘heroin chic’ look which adorned the catwalks and fashion industry with Kate Moss being held as the supermodel of the day. Her small and slim framed androgynous look was all the rage during the 1990’s and a war on fat with the new ‘low fat diet’ was held as every women’s saviour on the war on fat!

Models became more and more dangerously thin during the 90’s, but although the waif look was considered desirable by some, others were all about breasts with the invention of the Wonderbra which was not only fully padded, but underwired and structured in a way that gave women who were flat chested enviable cleavages.

Plastic surgery really took off in the 90s, celebrities like Pamela Anderson, known for her sizeable Breast Implants, were making it less of a taboo to admit to having had plastic surgery and what’s more, she was making money from her ‘assets’ too. The Wonderbra showed women exactly what they could have after they removed their bra, led to more opting for implant surgery.

2000s: It’s All About the Abs

In 2000 a toned midriff area was all the rage. Britney Spears heralded the way for the crop top look and Gisele Bundchen was heralded as the supermodel who ended the ‘heroin / waif / chic’ look and was the first supermodel with a sizeable chest and curves to be seen gracing the catwalk and high end fashion magazines for years. Crowned as the ‘the most beautiful girl in the world’ by Rolling Stone magazine, toned bodies with curves were back in the spotlight.

Jennifer Lopez at the Academy Awards

J-Lo has been helping make the ‘larger’ figure become increasingly popular and fashionable

2010: The Booty Rules!

The last few years have seen a major return to curves. After the backlash of the ridiculous fashion that was the American size zero, women are now embracing their curves and even going so far as to ‘enhance’ them.

Celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian are accredited with making the ‘larger the better derriere’ look highly sought after. Not every woman is blessed with a sizeable derriere and there has been a steep incline of women seeking surgical means to enhance their booty. Buttock implants became the preferable option, although the Buttock Lift also gained in popularity.

2017: Booty and Lips

In the last few years social media has also had a major impact on how society perceives women’s bodies with it being more acceptable to show them off and to embrace and love your body no matter what size or shape you are. Social media influencers who are famous for, well not much really, are paving the way for current surgical trends. Never has an individual had such a huge impact on the industry than the Kardashian family.

Kylie Jenner is mostly responsible for the increase in younger women opting for lip fillers and lip implants, while her sister Kim Kardashian has made a hugely inflated derriere the most desired asset for most women. This has in turn seen an increase in women opting for fat transfer procedures where fat is removed by Liposuction from one area of the body and injected back into the buttocks area, a procedure that she herself has denied having.

The present day has seen the most accepting generation yet of women embracing all shapes and sizes and not having to feel the need to conform to any of them and with plastic surgery advancements developing continuously, women no longer need to feel plagued by insecurity about the area of the body they’re unhappy with.

Medically reviewed by

Amir Nakhdjevan Profile

Amir Nakhdjevani

Last Updated: September 15, 2017

Published On: September 15, 2017

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