History of Beauty Contests and the Ideal Female Measurements of the 1950s

History of Beauty Contests and the Ideal Female Measurements of the 1950s
This entry is part 11 of 32 in the series CheeseCake Pinup Magazine - 1953

This is an article delves into the fascinating history of beauty contests and ideal female measurements. The journey into the past reveals a significant transformation in what was considered the epitome of female beauty, particularly spotlighting the 1950s—a decade renowned for its distinctive beauty ideals.

The transformation in the ideal female form from the 1920s to the 1950s offers a fascinating glimpse into the broader cultural shifts that occurred over these three decades. The first Miss America, crowned in 1921, epitomized the beauty standards of the post-World War I era. Standing at 5 feet 1 inch, weighing 108 pounds, with measurements of 30 inches bust, 25 inches waist, and 32 inches hips, her physique mirrored the flapper era’s fashion and societal norms. This period celebrated a more androgynous figure, reflecting the roaring twenties’ liberation movements, where women sought greater independence and challenged traditional roles. The flapper fashion echoed this shift, with looser, more streamlined silhouettes that deemphasized the waist and bust, allowing women to discard the restrictive corsets of previous generations.

However, by the time Evelyn Ay was crowned Miss America in 1954, the ideal female form had undergone a significant transformation, indicative of the 1950s’ cultural ethos. Evelyn Ay’s statuesque figure of 5’8″ and 132 pounds, with measurements of 37-24-36, represented a stark departure from the 1920s’ beauty ideal. This change was reflective of the post-World War II era, which heralded a return to traditional gender roles and emphasized a more voluptuous and distinctly feminine figure. The 1950s fashion celebrated curves, with cinched waists and full skirts epitomizing the decade’s style, further popularized by Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. This era’s beauty standards underscored a societal shift towards prosperity, domesticity, and the celebration of overt femininity, contrasting sharply with the 1920s’ celebration of youthful rebellion and androgyny.

The evolution from the 1920s flapper to the 1950s bombshell is not merely a change in fashion or beauty standards but reflects deeper societal transformations. The 1920s’ ideal emerged in a time of significant social upheaval, as women gained the right to vote and began to challenge traditional confines. In contrast, the 1950s’ ideal coincided with a period of relative stability and economic growth, where the focus shifted towards family life and domesticity in the post-war boom. These decades illustrate how beauty contests, far from being mere celebrations of physical appearance, serve as windows into the prevailing cultural attitudes, economic conditions, and social norms of their times. The dramatic shift in the ideal female measurements from the 1920s to the 1950s underscores how societal preferences and conceptions of beauty evolve in tandem with changing cultural landscapes.

The Mrs. America pageant, first held in 1938, further exemplified these changing beauty norms. From its early years until 1953, the contest was held in Asbury Park, NJ, before moving to Ellinor Village, Florida, in 1954. Mrs. America 1954, Mrs. Erna Snyder, presented yet another facet of the era’s beauty ideals with her measurements of 5’4″, 115 lbs, and 34-23-34.

Ideal 1950s Pinup Measurements:

Lastly, the detailed chart and accompanying picture at the end of this post are aimed to demonstrate the ideal female measurements of the 1950s, emphasizing proportion over specific measurements (as decided by Vincent Trotta, a Miss Universe judge). According to Trotta, the ideal woman, regardless of her height, should possess proportional measurements.

The “perfectly proportioned” 5’4 woman of 1953 measured:

  • shoulder slope 20 degrees
  • neck 14 and 3/4
  • 35.5 bust
  • 22.5 waist
  • 36 inch hips
  • 22 inch thighs
  • 12 inch calfs
  • 15 inch knees
  • 8.5 inch ankles

The intriguing history of beauty competitions, though complex, offers a window into the shifting landscapes of beauty standards and societal expectations. It prompts us to reflect on how these historical standards compare to today’s ideals and encourages a broader conversation about the nature of beauty and its measurement.

This exploration is not just about comparing ourselves to a bygone ideal but understanding the cultural and historical contexts that shape our perceptions of beauty.

How do you measure up to the 1950s female beauty standard?

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