I just love a good flashback montage*, don’t you?

(*Due to the fact I majored in french and creative writing in college, and not filmography, by “montage” I mean “collection of photographs with snarky captions attached” rather than “collection of film clips set to kicky music”.)

For a person who dedicates all her free time to reading and writing about fitness and healthy body image, I find it really interesting to look back at the transformation of body image standards over the last century.

When it comes to beauty pageants, everyone has their own opinion. To slightly misquote Mitch Hedberg and take his joke completely out of context, “you either love them or you hate them. Or you think they’re okay”. But they’ve been a big part of American mainstream culture for the last 100 years and they do a great job of documenting the basic beauty trends and standards of each time period.

So let’s take a look shall we? Beauty and body image throughout the years flashback montage (with commentary made up by me):

To the confusion of her friends, Gladys always swore by her jet black nylons and sweater dress on beach days. Her flair for dressing for winter in 90 degree heat without breaking a noticeable sweat ended up winning her the title.

To the confusion of her friends, Gladys always swore by her jet black nylons and sweater dress on beach days. Her flair for dressing for winter in 90 degree heat without breaking a noticeable sweat ended up winning her the title.

 

Frances wondered if she should have rescheduled her photo shoot for a less humid day. In the end, her confidence in the face of fly-aways won her the hearts of the judges.

Frances wondered if she should have rescheduled her photo shoot for a less humid day. In the end, her confidence in the face of fly-aways won her the hearts of the judges.

 

While Dolores was a natural at lining up, her lack of direction was always most apparent when the photographer would say, "now everyone turn to the right"

While Dolores was a natural at lining up, her lack of direction was always most apparent when the photographer said, “now everyone turn to the right”

 

"See that, Miss Maryland?" Asked Miss Iowa "No," said Miss Maryland without breaking her smile. "I'm blind as a bat, but boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses"

“See that, Miss Maryland?” Asked Miss Iowa
“No,” said Miss Maryland without breaking her smile. “I’m blind as a bat, but boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”

 

Susan and Tammy just smelled it. Donna just dealt it.

Susan and Tammy just smelled it. Donna just dealt it.

 

The group on left were all terribly embarrassed when they all showed up in the same bikini, hair style, facial expression, shade of tan, and body type.

The group on the left were all terribly embarrassed when they all showed up in the same outfit.

 

Ashleighee Neveah Miley Cyrus Heaven Eden Smith was horrified when, at the age of 3 and a half, the judges asked her if she was 27.

Ashleighee Nevaeh Miley Cyrus Heaven Eden Smith was horrified when, at the age of 3 and a half, the judges asked her if she was actually 27.

 

Personally, I would like to see a pageant that doesn’t allow any beauty helpers. I think contestants should be asked to roll out of bed at 6am and march straight down that stage donning both their PJs and a whopping dose of confidence before quickly running home to shower, change and get to work by 8. Now that woman deserves a crown.

Pageants: love ’em? hate ’em? think they’re ok?

Body image: Overall, our definition of beauty has evolved from a softer frame to a more muscular, leaner figure- is this a good, positive change or are we losing sight of the natural roundness of the female form?

Should makeup and spray tans and hair styling be allowed?

63 Thoughts on “Beauty and Body Image Throughout The Years: A Flashback Montage of Sorts

  1. OMG sooooooooo funny! I’m bent over laughing, tears running down my face! Love the P.J. idea!!!
    carlotta recently posted…The Real Meaning of PeaceMy Profile

  2. Love the snarky comments! There is no way in hell I would ever allow my daughters near anything even slightly resembling Toddlers & Tiaras. I can’t even fathom covering my daughters’ natural beauty with layers of make-up that have to be chipped away with a chisel afterwards. I think we’ll stick with sports as our primary confidence & self-esteem building activities. I’m not saying that all pageants are bad, but there is something wrong with the way our society places so much emphasis on physical appearance instead of the beauty within. I also think we should celebrate all shapes & sizes. The majority of women aren’t physically capable of attaining the ultra lean body type that’s so prevalent in media & entertainment today.
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Sturdy Girl Sports Bra GiveawayMy Profile

    • If you won’t say pageants are bad I will. My mother wanted us to have our daughter get into modeling. She is not even 2 yet. I told her I would not subject my daughter to that, thank you. I’m good with building confidence with sports and education. Beauty has its place but we as a society are starting to take it to the extreme.
      Tom T. recently posted…Finding MotivationMy Profile

      • Thanks for being brave enough to write what I didn’t Tom! Completely agree that our society is pushing our ideas of beauty to the extreme and putting too much emphasis on physical beauty (which is entirely in the eye of the beholder!) and not ENOUGH emphasis on values and education. My little girls are absolutely BEAUTIFUL (of course, I’m biased), but all I really want is for them to lead happy, healthy lives. And to kick butt in the classroom and on/in the field, track, pool…
        Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Sturdy Girl Sports Bra GiveawayMy Profile

    • THIS: “but there is something wrong with the way our society places so much emphasis on physical appearance instead of the beauty within. I also think we should celebrate all shapes & sizes.” this is my biggest problem with pageants- not that they exist, but that everyone looks. exactly. the. same.

  3. Hahahahhaba per usual, you have me cracking up. Loved this. I’m not a fan of beauty pageants. AT ALL. My mom won’t even let me watch toddlers and tiaras at home because its sucks disgrace of a show. So I guess you know how I feel about that… :)
    Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…My faith in humanity has been restoredMy Profile

  4. I do love Frances’ fly away hair for the win!
    Truthfully, growing up I loved watching miss teen usa. But now, I wouldn’t even waste five minutes watching a beauty pageant!
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted…Struggling – weekend recapMy Profile

    • when i was little i watched too! now i cant even. and i actually did a bit of research and “frances” who’s real name was ruth actually ended up miss america that year, flyaways and all :)

  5. Haha this is awesome! They should definitely require pageant contestants to show up without makeup!
    Kelly @ KellyRunsforFood recently posted…Healthier Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter CookiesMy Profile

  6. Love it…as usual!!! It’s truly amazing how body image has changed over the years. I think way back in the day, society’s view of body image was actually healthier than it is today. The women were more “real” back then. Today it’s more a façade — tanned, lots of make-up, super toned bodies — that’s just not the norm.

    I’m totally not a fan of beauty pageants, especially at such young ages. What do they teach these kids!?!
    Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat recently posted…An Age Crisis!?!My Profile

    • i feel the same way- the part about the young kids in beauty pageants that bugs me is all the fake tans, and fake teeth and fake hair that they push on kids as young as toddlers. if kids want to compete for talent or what have you, thats great. but then it seems to become a competition of who’s parents have the most money to pay for costumes and it just gets ugly.

  7. It’s interesting to me that beauty and healthy looking used to be more closely aligned. When I watch the pageants now, or God forbid Toddlers & Tiaras, I feel really bad for the beautiful women who have to conform to this artificial standard of beauty. Regardless of that though – hilarious post as usual. Even more ammo for you to make the switch :)
    Natalie@fit.fun.femme. recently posted…Target Practice – Take Me to the Beach!My Profile

    • aw thanks :) and thats just it- i wish they all didnt look like clones of each other- same teeth, same smile, same shade of tan, same body type… it’s not beauty when everyone looks the same, its boring.

  8. And this is why I love you. :) I have mixed feelings about pageants…I mean, I guess kudos to the women who participate in them, because to them, it is a hobby and something that they enjoy just as I enjoy running or you enjoy Bar Method. At the same time, I’m not a huge fan of judging people by outward appearances.

    About body image, I don’t think either is better than the other–everyone is different, everyone’s body is different, and instead of judging everyone, we should all just be best friends and laugh and play and forget about who has abs and who doesn’t. :)
    Beth @ Mangoes and Miles recently posted…Things I’m Afraid of in YellowstoneMy Profile

    • this is my favorite thing ever: “everyone’s body is different, and instead of judging everyone, we should all just be best friends and laugh and play and forget about who has abs and who doesn’t.” amen.

  9. Montages! Love it! I don’t really know the true definition so this will suffice for me! Haha boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses! So ridiculous. :)
    Like most topics, as a boring individual, I don’t sway one way over another regarding beauty pageants. It’s a fine line between real and fake these days and it’s unfortunate that younger women are being subjected to these images that are being portrayed as ‘real’. People who cannot distinguish what’s real and what’s fake is what makes body images a really tough subject. Cute post girly, per usual! <3
    Meghan @ fitnesscrEATures recently posted…How to Enjoy a Weekend…My Profile

    • thanks love! i dont feel super strongly either one way or the other, i think to each her own and pageants are a positive thing in some people’s lives. i get that. i do, however, love the pageants from the 1920s when those broads would just throw on whatever with their crazy beach hair and have a day of it. they look fab.

  10. this post made me laugh! Is it bad that with the 100 degree heat we’re getting in these parts lately my hair looks suspiciously similar to photo #2?? 😉
    Jenn recently posted…Foods you should or maybe shouldn’t eat if you visit QuebecMy Profile

  11. Love this! Seriously, your ability to discuss a serious topic in the midst of a hilarious post is all sorts of awesome.
    I generally avoid beauty pageants. Toddlers and Tiaras freaks me out so I never watch it, although I will admit to watching Miss Universe once in a while. I’m unsure about how I feel about the evolving ‘ideal shape’ for women though. While I think that encouraging the more muscular frame is better than encouraging the 90’s Kate Moss heroin-chic thing, it still forces women to work against their natural body shape and try to adhere to standards that someone else set for them. Ideally, we would all be comfortable with ourselves and the media would encourage and support a whole range of body types, but that seems near-impossible in our society, at least right now. But are we losing sight of the natural, shapely female form? Absolutely – we make it so difficult to just enjoy our bodies the way they’re supposed to be.
    Sam @ Better With Sprinkles recently posted…Feeding and Eating Disorders: The DSM-V.My Profile

    • YES! i could not agree more with all of this. my issue is not with the beauty pageants themselves, its with the sameness. you only really see one body type represented on that stage. And I think that it is a positive thing that strong figures are up there, but that’s also the only figure thats up there. the women of the 1920s were no less unhealthy, per se, than the ones we’re seeing today. granted its not healthy to have no muscle tone, but its also not healthy to over-do it at the gym and take who-knows-what sorts of supplements to stay so lean. so, for me its a toss up.

  12. I don’t mind watching pageants because I like looking at pretty dresses, but I actually think they’re kind of dumb. I just don’t get why it’s okay to reward skinny, pretty people with money just for being, well, skinny and pretty.

    Or maybe I’m just bitter and jealous because no one ever gives me money. Whomp whomp.
    Carly @ Snack Therapy recently posted…Time to ConfessMy Profile

    • Likewise, its always hard to make a point about pageants that doesnt come off like: “well, if i was that skinny and that pretty id probably be entered myself” :)

  13. I actually just saw the picture of Miss Philadelphia online yesterday, so this post is super convenient! It’s crazy how much more skin shows now than in the early 1900’s, and how much more makeup is allowed, etc. I agree with you, I think they should show up just rolled out of bed and whoever projects the most confidence wins!
    Alyssa @ Road to RD recently posted…Jumping On the BandwagonMy Profile

  14. The last picture is just scary! I don’t agree with child pageants and I don’t care for the adult ones either. They exploit women for their looks.
    And i agree, it would be really interesting to see how they all stand up in their totally natural state. I don’t think it would be quite as “pretty”.
    makingthymeforhealth recently posted…Travel Tuesdays: Seville, SpainMy Profile

  15. HA. I’m dying. Love the commentary :)
    Sarah @ Sweet Miles recently posted…Signs The Dog Rules Your HouseMy Profile

  16. Per usual, you’re awesome with writing this – but it’s also SO interesting to me how body image through the years has changed clearly a lot.
    I don’t mind watching beauty pageants, although sometimes I find myself a tad triggered by them although that’s not their fault, just my brain wanting to stir up some trouble.
    And child pageants – ahhh, so much debate here. Since parents are very overprotective about what they are doing for their kids.
    Lisa recently posted…Smiles LatelyMy Profile

    • yeah i have no issue with pageants themselves, i just wish when it came to child pageants, spray tans and fake teeth and fake hair and all that was discouraged. i wish it was more about the child’s talent and personality, not who’s parents have the most money to pay for the best outfits.

  17. I definitely agree with the right out of bed look! True beauty should be the highlight of pageants not how orange a girl can look from spray tans! I don’t mind watching beauty pageants except for the fact the models are all a size 0. It’s kind of a misleading take on the average woman. And I hate child pageants with a passion. Those girls should be wearing makeup which makes them look like a clown because they stole it from their mom’s makeup kit. No spray tans or whitening caps on their teeth. uck!

    • my thoughts exactly on child pageants! and i wish adult beauty pageants included different sized models- they can all have pretty faces and all that, but a little variety would make it more interesting over all.

  18. Ugh, Miss philadelphia is making my city look bad! Looks like she may have actually rolled out of bed haha. I think pageants are entertaining to watch for the comedic value. Brains do not always follow beauty and when they don’t, it makes for great youtube video moments.
    Her Happy Balance recently posted…Birthday Weekend Recap!My Profile

  19. Your captions are hilarious! Nay to pageants. Don’t think they help young women understand what it means to strive for “healthy”. That being said Drop Dead Gorgeous is probably my favorite movie 😉

  20. Hahaha! I love them. I competed in them and was even crowned Miss Diamond Bar in 2003. They are fun but I absolutely can see why people don’t like them. I watch them every year. 😉
    Tiffany recently posted…Motivation MondayMy Profile

    • Thats awesome! congrats :) when i was little i had a fascination with them. i would like to see more body types represented on the miss america stage, but i think that speaks more about our society as a whole than about pageants themselves.

  21. In my opinion…getting all dolled up like that is just far too much work/time, that i would rather be spending doing something else…but hey that’s just me :)
    Michelle @ 3cheaprunners recently posted…Summer Days!!My Profile

  22. Looking at these photos was really great. So fun! I used to do beauty pageants. No harm done… I don’t think. We didn’t have quite as much craziness as they do now, just makeup, dresses, hair curlers, and lots and lots of practice! It was fun though. :)
    Tiff recently posted…Muscle MattersMy Profile

    • see, THATS how child pageants should be. i had a fascination with them when i was younger. i think that today they’ve become too over the top with the fake tans/ teeth/ hair and all that. plus – judging from toddlers & tiaras- a lot of it seems to be about who’s parents have the most $$ to buy the best outfits and all of that.

  23. The second photo is how I look when I leave Colorado for somewhere humid. :) I watched pageants as a kid; I don’t think they skewed me any more than Barbie, magazines, etc., but they probably didn’t help. I’ll admit that I still like to see the evening gowns, though…mostly because I wish I had someplace to wear one!
    Cassie @ Rural Running Redhead recently posted…Weekend Fun and Tuesday Target PracticeMy Profile

    • I agree!! i dont have a problem with pageants themselves or think that they’re responsible for our standards of beauty, i think its more about society in general, and pageants are simply a way of showcasing that.

  24. Interesting discussion, Charlotte! I am indifferent to pageants although I hate the idea of rating beauty- isn’t it subjective? I do love the idea of contestants rocking up au naturel- anyone can look good with money, make-up and a good blow dry!
    Khushboo recently posted…Picnic in the Park: Hummus Devilled EggsMy Profile

  25. I don’t even have a daughter, but pigs would have to start flying before I allowed her to look like those precious girls on toddlers & tiara’s.
    jessielovestorun recently posted…WIAW: Poor QualityMy Profile

  26. Ha! Ms. Frizzy in the second picture actually won Mrs. America! Crazy how our sense of beauty changes over the decades. :)
    Tara recently posted…China Recap: Chengdu & JiuzhaigouMy Profile

  27. Hahahahahaha!!! This was wonderful. MITCH, IT’S ME, REBEKAH! I MISS THE EFF OUTTA YOU! How do you feel about frilly toothpicks? I’m for ’em!…It’s very interesting to see how much things like this have changed. Here’s a good youtube video on women’s body image – the evolution of the bikini – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDUlDXBgLH0. Very interesting. Btw, Frances and I have literally the same hair – frizz on top/curl at the bottom/wet dog/Diana Ross. I don’t have cable or any other means of watching beauty pageants, so I’ll just rely on you for updates. Thanks, girl.
    Rebekah @ fitnesscrEATures recently posted…I’ve Said it BeforeMy Profile

    • hahaha thats my hair too!! the top frizzes while the bottom does those ringlet curls and i WISH society still found that look charming. that girl won miss america that year! plus with boston being so humid i dont even try with my hair in the summer- i just put it up, still wet and go to work. (actually i did that all winter this year too, and just added a hat on top of all that.) ha ha ha.

  28. I honestly never gave much thought to pageants before! But since you asked…I guess I’m cool with people doing (literally) whatever they want, so long as it isn’t hurting anyone. Although, as I write that, I kind of wonder how many girls have unhealthy/harmful/disordered habits as a result of pageantry…

    NEED THAT CHEETAH BATHING SUIT ASAP OMG
    Alex @ Brain, Body, Because recently posted…Things Helping Me to Keep it TogetherMy Profile

    • hahahaha I KNOW- i need it too!! and i agree- to each his own. i just wish the child pageants would be more about talents and stuff rather than fake hair, fake tans, fake teeth and all that. (and yes all my research comes from toddlers & tiaras)

  29. I confess to laughing-out-loud when I read the captions on this post.
    Consider yourself hilarious, you’ve gained a new follower :)
    Mitchell recently posted…Breakfast AdventuresMy Profile

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