From curves to waifs: 100 years of the 'perfect' body

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    A Gibson Girl

    The “perfect” body: 100 years of our changing shape

    How the ideal male and female body type evolved over the last century.

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    In the 1800s, fashionable Victorian women were expected to be curvy. Tight-laced corsets squeezed women's bodies to give them the desired tiny waists.

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    Danish-born actress Camille Clifford, one of the 'Gibson Girls'. In the late 1800s and early 20th century, the Gibson Girl, with her long, upswept hair and hourglass figure was considered the ideal feminine beauty.

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    Escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was lean and muscular, the epitome of the ideal European male body at the turn of the 20th century.

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    A fashionable flapper woman posing with a cigarette holder. In the 1920s, women hid their curves in short, loose dresses. The female body type considered desirable at that time was more boyish and instead of wearing bust-heaving corsets, young women bound their chests with tight cloths.

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    Hey, skinny, your ribs are showing! That was the tagline in a popular mail-order catalog ad for workout gear from Italian-born bodybuilder Charles Atlas (born Angelo Siciliano). Atlas' muscular arms and chest represented the perfect body type for men in the 1940s and 1950s.

    Hulton Archive / Getty Images
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    Rosie the Riveter was a cultural icon during World War II. The bodacious Betty Grable pinup with with the long legs was one ideal, but during the 1940s, a beautiful female body was curvacious, although not exaggerated.

    Library of Congress
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    Marilyn Monroe defined the female body type of the 1950s: voluptuous and sexy.

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    Dude! By the early 1960s, the ideal beefy male body type gave way to the lean, athletic surfer look.

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    In the 1970s and 1980s, pumped-up, bulky men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone made other guys feel like 98-pound weaklings. It was a revival of the muscular male ideal: big biceps, big chest, six-pack abs.

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    British model Twiggy symbolized the perfect boyish, thin Western female body in the 1960s. Bye, bye curves. Hello, impossibly long legs.

    Terry O'neill / Getty Images
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    The stars of Dynasty, the 1980s TV series, represented the go-go years of big hair, big shoulders and big curves.

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    In the 1990s, 5'7", 100-pound model Kate Moss spawned the fat-free waif look. Critics blamed the fashion industry for pressuring young women to be matchstick thin and years later even Kate Moss conceded that she was too skinny.

    Paul Hurschmann / AP
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    Over the last decade, the perfect male body type has morphed slightly from the bulky Schwarzenegger look to a tighter, but still muscular build. This model in the Sean John Fall 2001 fashion shows off his ripped core.

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    Actress Jennifer Lawrence, whose body is slim, curvy and athletic, is often held up as an ideal body type for 2014.

    Matt Sayles / AP

The pressure to be thin seems to come from everywhere: fashion runways, magazines, even from within. But we’ve not always celebrated the exceptionally thin frame on women or ripped and bulky muscles on men. There was a time when a few extra pounds in all the right places was considered the ideal body type for women and a lean or lanky frame was the height of male attractiveness. 

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TODAY is exploring the issues we all face with body image on a daily basis, hoping to help you change the way you see yourself. Everyone from Naomi Campbell to Michelle Obama will weigh in. Follow the series at TODAY.com/LoveYourSelfie.

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