Was the 90s Body Ideal Less Punishing?

Mikki just sent us a link to this photo on Tiny Tomato. We have Courtney issues, but were still intrigued by this picture because of how it reminds us that the 90s body ideal was kind of soft, ususally encased in forgiving cotton fabrics, and the faces could have blemishes and be enshrouded in messy hair. Sort of the antithesis, of, like:


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7 responses to “Was the 90s Body Ideal Less Punishing?

  1. It’s kind of shocking to look back at pictures of “waif” models from the 90s, and how soft they look compared to some of the models walking down the runway today.

  2. I’m starting to wonder how much of the current “perfection” is a result of advances in technology. You can see all the blemishes – pimples, cellulite- in HD much more.

  3. Meghan

    While I do remember obsessing over my body in the 90s because I was still, after all, a teenage girl, and you know, there was the Kate Moss aesthetic and those creepy CK ads to contend with, I agree that the standard for “ordinary” teenage girls, at least to me, in retrospect, seemed to be much more attainable and less severe. Thong underwear were not yet the norm, and mani/pedis were not a thing tweens did in their free time on the weekend. Highlights were the chunky kind someone haphazardly painted into your hair and were either blond, red, black, or whatever colors manic panic offered. Mini skirts, tapered pants (before they became “skinny jeans,”) excessive eyeliner, big hair, pointy shoes, heels, and most impractical, unflattering, and uncomfortable clothing and accessories were “so 80s,” and it seemed so definite we would never revisit the atrocious stylings of that decade ever again! Not to mention, plastic surgery was still mostly the domain of the uber-rich, uber-famous, and uber-fucked up (think Lisa Rinna’s lips on Melrose, the cat lady’s face, and Pam’s boobs!) and if you did hear about anyone you even remotely knew getting “work done” it was invariably a nosejob or an old lady facelift. Noone’s bff was saving up for boobs, at least in my circle of associates! I feel so lucky to have been a teen in the 90s where everyone really did just wear jeans, t shirts, macro or a-line skirts, flat shoes (sneakers or boots, and if one had to wear something girly it was a practical, chunky maryjane.) We did know all the supermodel’s names from House of Style and that George Michael video, but we didn’t in anyway expect to be one of them. Maaaaybe we fantasized about rocking a body like the considerably more realistically built model Liv Tyler in those annoying Aerosmith videos, but really, we knew the 90’s version of Alicia Silverstone was a much more practical ideal at best. I felt proud to be a teenager and had no interest whatsoever in looking like a grown up lady or a glamour queen like Tyra up there! Plus if you were into punk, or its watered-down repackaged for purchase at your local mall incarnation “alternative,” which in the end seemed to filter down and inform even the most generic and least counter culture crowd’s style, you were comfortable throwing out all the rules about teen or any other type of fashion and worship at the alter of the aforementioned Courtney or Kathleen Hanna, Kat Bjelland, the Deal sisters, Bjork and all the other ladies who were way too cool and creative to worry about conventional fashion standards of the day!

  4. While I see what your saying, and I agree to an extent, I don’t think you’re really comparing apples to apples here. Hole was a popular band in the mainstream, but their aesthetic was still punk rock. If you compared a picture of them to, say, Paramore (the most current popular rock band I could think of with a female lead), you would see a lot more similarities.

    Look, here is a picture! http://dietrichthrall.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/paramore.jpg

    Anyway, this is one of those things that’s only better in retrospect. Having graduated middle school in 1996 and working with teen girls now, I can say that beauty ideals then gave me just as much pain then as they give the kids today. I always had a bigger belly then those on women in the media, and thus felt really uncomfortable with the belly shirt trend. So, maybe things have gotten worse, but it’s not like the 90’s were some kind of golden age for positive body image portrayals.

    However, in keeping with your blog, I do think it was, overall, a much better time to be a teen girl. But that’s a whole other discussion.

  5. Those of us who were teenage girls in the 90s had it very easy compared to todays female teens, imo. Sure we had issues of our own. But they pale in comparison to the massive pressure put on todays girls.

    We didn’t have to look good in HD. We didn’t have to worry about unflattering footage of us making it to YouTube. Our ‘role models’ weren’t the Pussycat Dolls or Girls Gone Wild. And most of the female musicians we listened to were self-made and out to be heard; not pre-fabricated lip synchers seen to be sold.

    On top of it all, in the 90s there were plenty of messages being sent to men encouraging them to respect women. And that REALLY seems to be lacking today.

    I was shocked when a few months back Tavi Gevinson mentioned guys in her film class cheering on the attempted rape scene in Rear Window… without reprocussion. When I was her age that kinda crap = social suicide and detention at the least.

  6. It’s true that, despite a much easier-to-attain aesthetic, I still felt totally oppressed by body ideals in the 90s. (I meant it when I said there are poems.) –Kara

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