The evolution of sex appeal: From constricting corsets to barely-there bodysuits, how fashion’s definition of ‘sexy’ has changed over the past century
What is sexy? Well, it depends when you’re asking.
The ideals of sex appeal have evolved a lot over the past century, prizing women who are stick thin to voluptuous, powder pale to bronzed and tan, full-on feminine to slight and boyish.
But while the standards of sexiness certainly seem to have shifted a lot – with more and more skin being shown as decades have gone by – has what’s considered ‘hot’ really changed so much since the 1900s?
Sex appeal has certainly come a long way for women who actually like to breathe freely. In the 1900s, it was a given that women would wear boned corsets under their dresses, which were tied tight enough that a second person was needed to strap a woman in.
The corsets played up the ideal hourglass figure, creating the impression of an S-shaped body – which could be very sexy, even if the word itself was still too taboo to say in regular conversation. Stomachs were sucked in, making hips and breasts look bigger by comparison. The structure also served to improve a women’s posture, causing them stand up very straight and stick their chests out.
Also popular at the time was the look of the ‘Gibson Girl’, as illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson. Gibson Girl drawings featured exaggerated lines, amplifying the curvy effect created by corsets. They also had long, slender necks, which would be shown off with various updos.
Jazz age: In the 1920s, curves were out as women binded their breasts to get boyish figures; hemlines also went up with flapper styles