Italian Renaissance (c. 1400 – 1700)
Renaissance Italy was an extremely Catholic, patriarchal society. Women were meant to embody virtue and were often separated from men both in public and at home. A woman’s value was linked to her relationship with men, whether it was God, her father, or her husband.
The quality of both a wife’s behaviour and looks were thought to reflect her husband’s status. Beauty in Renaissance Italy meant a rounded body, including full hips and large breasts. Pale skin, strawberry blonde hair, and high foreheads were all thought of as the height of physical beauty.
“Choose neither a woman nor linen by candlelight.” ― Italian Proverb
Victorian England (c. 1837 – 1901)
The Victorian era of England lasted the length of Queen Victoria’s reign. She was the most influential figure of the era, a young queen who became a young wife and mother. Domesticity, family, and motherhood were highly valued in Victorian society, because these values were embodied by Queen Victoria herself.
The style of the time reflected women’s motherly position in society. Women wore corsets to cinch their waists as tightly as possible, creating an hourglass figure. These corsets physically restrained women’s range of motion, flaunting their separation from physical labour. Women also wore their hair long as a symbol of femininity.
“She wore tight corsets to give her a teeny waist – I helped her lace them up – but they had the effect of causing her to faint. Mom called it the vapors and said it was a sign of her high breeding and delicate nature. I thought it was a sign that the corset made it hard to breathe.” ― Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses
See other: Ideal Female Body Types Throughout History