Every generation has beauty and fashion ideals. Whether you strive to embody the look of your era or you rail against it as unattainable, it cannot be denied that the societal construct of feminine beauty shifts over time, as well as geographical location and cultural persuasion. No one ever said it was easy being a woman!
The Gibson Girl popularized at the turn of the 20th century by American artist Charles Dana Gibson was the feminine ideal of the time. In many ways, the juxtaposing paradigms of slender and graceful physiques, paired with ample feminine assets (bosom and hips) to create an exaggerated hourglass shape have stuck with society, enjoying revival over and over again.
What, exactly, was the Gibson Girl look, and why was it so popular? Is it still considered a beauty ideal today? Here’s what you should know.
What was the Gibson Girl Look?
As noted above, the idealized Gibson Girl was characterized physically by a willowy waist offset by a curvy figure with wider hips and bosom. This look paired two separate feminine ideals of the time: the frail and slender damsel and her more robust and voluptuous counterpart. This combined look was indicative of the fashions of the time, including corsetry meant to narrow the waistline in order to create a strong, hourglass figure.
However, Gibson was selling more than just a particular image of feminine beauty – he was selling a lifestyle. The Gibson Girl was always dressed in the fashion of the day, and always appropriately attired for her activity, putting her squarely in the middle to upper-middle class. In other words, he was identifying images with a population with disposable income and pressure to marry well.
The Gibson Girl was well-appointed, fit and active, intelligent, independent, and confident. She was also interested in empowerment through education and work. However, the Gibson Girl was a product of her time, which included the idea of Republican Motherhood. All of the enlightened thinking behind this accomplished young lady was with the aim of becoming a suitable partner and a supportive mother.
The Gibson Girl is not to be confused with the “New Woman” ideal, which was a key construct of the women’s suffrage movement. The Gibson Girl was put on a pedestal, to be sure, and often elevated above the average man. But ultimately, she was on the prowl for a perfect mate and satisfaction in the home sphere.
Does the Gibson Girl Live On?
In many ways, the archetypal Gibson Girl gave way to the modern woman. The idea that women are equal to men and that we can have it all (job, family, etc.) saw it’s seeds in the Gibson Girl.
In addition, the ideals of feminine beauty captured by the statuesque, but curvy figure of the Gibson Girl have long characterized the landscape of American fashion. Women today still crave the perfect hourglass silhouette that can be found with the use of waist training corsets. Fortunately, we’ve left behind the idea that bettering ourselves is only a means to nabbing the perfect partner.
My name is Rachel, I am the owner of Glamorous Corset, a small business founded by me in 2010. Back In 2005, I was in a car accident that left me with a herniated disk. Much to my surprise I learned steel boned corsets were beneficial to several medical injuries including mine. I was always intrigued with corsetry, their history and their beautiful aesthetic. I love sharing knowledge about corsets, educating my wonderful readers and breaking the negative stigma related to corsetry. In combination with my years of research and personal experience I hope my articles are useful and can help anyone who has struggled with some of the same things I have. More about me…