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Developing Ideals Of Beauty Essay

1414 words - 6 pages

The ideal of beauty is defined as an amalgamation of qualities that delight the sight or other senses. More narrowly defined, beauty can be described as an assessment of attractiveness subjective to cultural standards (Alam & Dover). Beauty is said to be seen through the eye of the beholder, varying drastically across centuries and cultures. There is no specific origin of the development of the idea of beauty, but it has been noted that ideals of beauty emerged during the ancient times of the Egyptians and the Romans. As societies developed from their previously nomadic ways, a drastic culture change occurred. Civilizations expanded their focus from survival and developed social constructs such as class stratification and religious deities as well as complex forms of communication through developments in language and later in writing.
From ancient times to the middle ages, beauty developed into an ideal only attainable for those of the wealthiest classes. Ancient Egyptian women implemented kohl to enhance their lashes and used copper and lead ores to create the world’s first cosmetics (Stolnitz). In ancient Rome, berries were used as lip stains and urine was used to fade away freckles, which were at the time often considered as unappealing blemishes marring perfectly pale skin (Stolnitz). For centuries, beauty has been seen as a form of power, and not even dire living conditions could deter those set on practicing their culture’s mandated beautification endeavors. Examples of this include the Kalahari Bushmen of Southern Africa applying animal fat to moisturize their skin during famines and the 18th century French nobility powdering their wigs with flour which lead to food shortages and riots (Stolnitz).
In the past, beauty was measured by the Greeks through numerical symmetry and proportion. Classical three-dimensional sculptures developed as representations of the ideal human form using proportionally immutable ratios between various bodily appendages. Facial beauty was even more stringently measured, for parallels and distances required an exactness that was far from achievable for the average person (Gangestad & Scheyd). As time progressed, various cultures focused on distinct features which would parallel wealth and social standing. During the Renaissance of the 15th century, European noblewomen would pluck their hairlines to give the illusion of a higher forehead and dye their hair blonde to maintain the overall fairness of their appearance (Stolnitz). Powders and wigs were heavily favored between the 16th and 18th centuries to maintain seemingly perfect skin and hair to give off radiant appearances of beauty (Stolnitz). The 19th century Victorian Era advocated more modesty which translated to beauty standards with the obvious lack of cosmetics used during that time period (Stolnitz). The 20th century was rampant with changes in beauty standards, going back to heavy usage of makeup and developing a beauty obsession that continues to this...

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