Sep 13, 2011

What is the definition of beauty ???

An eternal query since time itself.Everything has to be labeled.This kid is cute,his wife is gorgeous,her husband is yummy,this actor is sexy,that actress exudes hotness in all glory and what not !

We are obsessed with beauty,no matter,how much we say,I aint into all this ,Im simple and blah blah...but secretly we are.We always want to look good,we always stare at the mirror to see if we have become fairer or blemish free or pimple filled or dark,etc the list goes on.If you thought Im not self obsessed,wrong ! We are.So this got me researching online a bit about what was the ideal definition of beauty various cultures.

The western world is obsessed with tanned skin,brown skin.Look at the way they go these tanning parlours and get spray tans whic actually look abnormal.An american woman asked my mom long back,"How can I get colour like yours." To which My mom said," try applying coconut oil when going out and sit in the SUn.

PAle skin,like today,was considered to be a fad among higher class.Because tanned skin or dark skin meant,people who are farmers,people who had to slog to make a living.Hmmm........

We out here will go to any lengths to get fair or even paler and they want to have sun kissed colour like ours.The array of tanning oils I see in the market to get copperish tones or bronzer shades,My! they buy bottles of them,apply and go to the beach in swimwear ,ready to get baked in the sun.While we apply,fairness creams and face washes,milk and what not to get "whiter".

Present day concept of beauty - Size zero,Pouty lips,big eyes,hour glass figure,good ass(no ass is out of fashion),any colour hair but black,nude lipsticks,pink cheeks,big bust,long waist,etc.Before people were divided into 2 plain categories - fat or thin.Now you have waif -like,slender,thin,perfect,overweight,chubby,obese,morbidly obese,side fat,back fat,tummy fat, thigh fat,cellulite,cankles,the list goes on and on.

So I decided to check out topics here and thereand see what beauty meant back then and where we are going now.

The first thing I came across was this waist to hip ratio(WHR).This value is calculated by dividing the waist circumference by the hip circumference.Example: 63 cm of waist circumference by 90 cm of hip circumference whiche makes 0.7.It does not matter whether a person is fat or slender, the ideal relation should approximate 0.7.According to theory the middle figure with a WHR of 0.7 should be most attractive.

Then I kept the keyboard aside and went digging for my measuring tape and the result werent very appealing.Im a 0.8+,and this means I have no attractiveness.Boohoo ! In spite of their different weight classes the beauty icons Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Kate Moss, all had at least one thing in common - a WHR of about 0.7.

In the 18th century Im guessing,being fat was a status symbol. I mean a chubby person meant a girl from a rich background.I would have loved to be a part of that society,I would have been the Naomi Campbell of those times.

In the late 1400s,small breasts were ideal and today,dont ask...the size which a human skeleton cannot uphold, is the fad.

In the west,in 1920s,boylike figure was considered beautiful and then in the 1950s,a tiny waist came into fashion.I think in India a full figure has always been a sign of beauty until recent times.Thanks to KAreena Kapoor and Katrina KAif,who promote such stick like figures.

From the 16-th century a tight waist was stressed by the fashion. The corsage was invented and allowed the so-called "wasp's waist" by stringing the corsage tightly. It was followed by the corset, which remained in vogue till late 19-th century. The corsets came in to promote an hour glass figure.

I personally think that Sridevi in her hay days,Sonali bendre,Shilpa shetty,Zeenat Aman,they have good full figures.Indian literature has very rare description of what beauty was back then,they rather describe a woman with Large hips, thin waists, breasts of large size and globular in shape, and lotus petal eyes to be the ideal concept of beauty.The poets of South India give us some details like 'skin like gold', and 'the darkness of black full tresses', as well as the make up that produced 'black-rimmed eyes' and a 'mouth red as coral.The same colours appear in the cave paintings of sites like Ajanta.

A poem goes describing a beautiful woman as :

A face to rival the moon,

Eyes that make mockery of lotuses,

Complexion eclipsing gold's lustre,

Thick tresses that shame the black bee,

Breasts like elephant's swelling temples,

Heavy hips,

A voice enchanting and soft -

The adornment in maidens is natural

The Shringarashata of Bhartihari.

Corsetting back then literally damaged the woman 's body coz they restricted the organs within the frame of the corset.Breathing was impaired and I think it was ridiculous as women were forced to obsess over it to maintain the fashion standards of their times.The test is not a fair test as women did not simply lace immediately to a 16 inch waist, they trained the waist over a period of years.I had a 16 inch waist when I was 8 years old.Over 2 years a 22 inch waist can be gradually reduced to a handspan by gradual increments of the lacing. It would take about a year of not wearing a corset for the internal organs to settle back to the natural position. But back they would go.

Recent medical examinations of females corseted today in actual Victorian corsets show how the women had no energy and lacked breath when given lung tests. Once the corset was undone the women felt energised again. Corseting has existed for thousands of years. The first recorded corset came from Crete.

Ancient chinese considered extremely thin,almost sickly looking women beautiful with feet bound to appear tiny or baby like.OOuch !

But later they changed their concept to voluptous women looking beautiful.

Even In Japan,long faces ,thin eyes and protuding chins were considered beautiful in their ancient times and later on it too,changed to healthy buxom women.All this makes some question how there can be such different standards in society concerning women’s beauty. Women tend to find themselves in a trap that makes them eager to fit themselves into the mould of ‘the beautiful woman’—a standard set by the social trends of the time.

In different cultures, parts of the body may be purposefully exaggerated in the name of beauty, the effects of which might even seem grotesque to those of another culture. For example, various tribes throughout the world use different methods to lengthen necks, exaggerate mouths, ears and even the shape of the head.

Have you ever seen pictures of the Ancient Egyptians, with their painted faces? They look very striking, don’t they? Very classic. And that was the intent. It was extremely important to them that they looked and smelled good, because the old expression “cleanliness is next to Godliness” is that old – they believed it very strongly.

The Egyptians were very spiritual people, and believed their appearance was directly related to their level of spirituality. And so they needed to find ways to make themselves look at least presentable, if not fabulous.

Cosmetics the Ancient Egyptians used were eye makeup, face creams and body oils, as well as a wide array of perfumes and fragrances.

Well, it’s the old story of “necessity is the mother of invention”. Because there was so much emphasis on looking good, Egyptian women had to find a way to do it. And one of the things they came up with was something called mesdemet.

Mesdemet was made of copper and lead ore – not the safest thing to be constantly putting on your face, but it did the job. They applied green to their lower eyelids, then black or dark gray to their eyelashes and upper eyelids. And keeping with their spiritual beliefs, the dark colors were designed not only to enhance their appearance, but to ward off evil eyes.

Now how’s this for a combination: burnt almonds, oxidized copper, a couple of different-colored copper ores, lead, ash, and ochre. They called it kohl, and it came out as a dark-colored powder, which was applied with a small stick, on and around the eyes, in an almond shape. Then, to complement the fancy eye makeup, they applied a mixture of red clay and water to their lips and cheeks. And the nails weren’t left out, either. They used henna to dye them orange or yellow. Quite a colorful picture, don’t you think? But that’s exactly what they wanted back then – something like today, perhaps?

As time progressed, through invasions and migrations, cultures merged, and that had a profound effect on the value of cosmetics.The Greeks adopted this cosmetic knowledge and made it their own.But their use of cosmetics was predominantly for pleasing each other.Then the Romans came in and they too adopted these cosmetic practices for themselves to such an extent that a woman without makeup was,like food without salt.The Romans’ lifestyle definitely had no boundaries, and that included the source of their cosmetics. For example, they used fat from a sheep, mixed with blood, for nail polish.

Thats all I can search and write about.Its been interesting to know that trying to appear beautiful has been an oldest tradition of all.


  1. I have always believed that to be attractive, a woman should not be 'size-zero' Kareena was sometime back....And the attractiveness of a lady is in the way she behaves....the way she handles herself....such things make a lady beautiful to me than mere physical beauty...however, I would be telling lies if I say that physical beauty is not important :-)

  2. extensively covered this!

    your mother reply tot he lady - LOL. hope she didn't take it seriously & do it

    i remember the episode from Friends where Ross goes for a tan - the spray thing

    nice post, bit lengthy though :) or maybe it looks like that because of the layout &the scrolling down.

    clear skin is definitely a beauty thing

  3. First of all,Thank you Sujatha for complimenting the layout.I love girly ones but found this striking enought too.
    I actually knew only of britains and egyptians reinventing cosmetics and it was fun researching this stuff.
    Thank you Kanchen,A woman can be great in many things but be it man or woman,we look for physical attractiveness.

  4. I liked this one..interesting stuff to ponder on. Look how different cultures react differently. Made nice reading though it was a really long one!!

  5. was pretty long.Should have devidied into parts.:> But i didnt want to leave anything out.It took me a while to get through all the reads and then blog in my own way.Nonetheless,beauty and all the work we do to do get to it,is here to stay for eons,right ! Wonder what advancements will we see in the future.Zits may becoem a thing of the past,so will obesity.


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