From flat to curvy, how the ideal bum has changed over the years

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IT’S the cheeky challenge that everyone has got, er, behind. Museums across the world have been posting pictures of their statues, paintings and objects to find the Best Museum Bum.

The social media hit was started by the Yorkshire Museum in York, last month in a bid to entertain visitors during lockdown.

But if displays of various derrieres have shown anything, it’s that the ideal booty has changed significantly.

Rumpologist Sam Amos explains: “Bottoms throughout the ages have changed depending on what qualities a society wants to communicate at the time. And, strangely, this tends to be dictated by how we are doing financially.

“When there’s financial stability women tend to be happy within themselves and it shows in the shape of their bottom, which is generally flat and square.

“When we fall on hard times — for example during recessions — women tend to focus on balance and symmetry, which means a full, round butt is desirable.”

As far back as Ancient Greece, artists were obsessed with creating the perfect bum, often showing goddesses such as Aphrodite in the nude.

Philosopher Aristole wrote that the sphere was “the perfect, first, most beautiful form” — so it is perhaps no surprise that classical bottoms were round and symmetrical.

Here we take a rear view of what made — and makes — the perfect butt.

1800s: In the Victorian era a tiny waist and bigger hips were de rigueur, enhanced by the trend for corsets. Never mind that they risked fainting, damaging their bones and crushing their organs if it meant getting the perfect protruding bottom.

Fast forward to the 1920s and there was an about-turn, with flatter, more athletic butts desirable.

1950s: With film star Marilyn Monroe as the poster girl for the decade, women yearned for a voluptuous bum like the movie goddess.

Post-war rationing ended and women embraced their sexy side, with dresses that pulled in at the waist and drew the eye to the bottom.

Wide hips were celebrated for fertility, and the resulting baby boom shows how much that attribute was valued after the war.

1960s: Fashion set the pace for the new bum ideal, with petite pixies such as Brit model Twiggy leading the way. Feminine curves were out and flat bottoms were in, to better pull off the decade’s androgynous chic.

Drainpipe jeans and capri pants, popularised by movie legend Audrey Hepburn, wouldn’t contain a large bottom. No one wanted their bum to look big in these.

1970s: Long legs and a small, pert bottom were the order of the day. Think Farrah Fawcett from TV’s Charlie’s Angels.

Sam Amos adds: “The girl next door look was really popular and a heart- shaped bottom became fashionable. Women with this kind of bum were seen as being tough but sensitive, and men loved that combination.”

1980s: It was the decade of the Green Goddess, fitness guru Diana Moran, and the start of the supermodel era with Cindy Crawford catwalking into our lives. The emphasis was on fitness.

The Athena Tennis Girl poster embodied our lust for an athletic backside. Aerobics classes focusing on legs, bums and tums sprang up everywhere.

1990s: The arrival of Girl Power icons the Spice Girls meant putting in the hard work at the gym to achieve those grabbable, but toned, glutes.

And at cosmetic surgeries, women were requesting liposuction to remove fat from their bums and thighs. Dr Riccardo Frati, of Frati Cosmetic Surgery, said: “People wanted to remove the excess, localised fat without creating nice curves.”

2000s: Pop princess Kylie Minogue launched the Millennium by Spinning Around in a pair of teeny gold lame hot pants, and a new era for butts dawned.

There was a fascination with the “underbum”, the part above the thighs that became acceptable to flaunt.

Then US singer Jennifer Lopez got us thinking that bigger might just be better.

2010s: J-Lo’s successor in the butt stakes was, of course, Kim Kardashian, with her ample, gravity-defying behind.

As round as a basketball, the new bum shape was just as bouncy, and our growing attachment to Instagram meant we could swipe through endless pictures of women showing off theirs.

No amount of squats could achieve this cartoon-like figure, not that we didn’t try. In gyms, we started lifting weights and, if all else failed, we turned to surgery.

The Brazilian Butt Lift became a thing, taking fat from another part of the body to boost bottoms. By the end of the decade, surgeons were warning of the dangers of having such surgery abroad after a number of deaths.

2020s: It’s time to be body positive, thank goodness. We’re embracing our natural shapes, whether that’s flat, small, round or large. We know perfection on Instagram is often created by good light, good make-up and filters.

TV’s Love Island contestants might show us up in their barely there bikinis, but we’re also embracing plus-size models and stars who are proud of their curves, like the pop star Lizzo.

Sun Fashion Editor Clemmie Fieldsend says: “Fashion is finally listening to women’s bodies and has embraced different figures. Round or heart-shaped bums can be celebrated and enhanced with waisted frocks, while high-waisted trousers give your bum a fuller look.

“And there is hope for flat bums, these days jeans have clever stitching to contour your posterior to give the appearance of a rounder, peachy one.”

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