This is Lillian Russell.
Actress, singer, and great American beauty.

Lillian Russell, circa 1900

Lillian Russell, circa 1900

Lillian Russell, circa 1897

Lillian Russell, circa 1897

Even in a tightly bound corset,
this be-jeweled and be-feathered darling of the stage might not make it past her first audition today, simply because she does not have the type of body that is currently in fashion.

And yet, at the time these photos were taken, she was considered to have the ideal feminine figure:
a softly-rounded face and plump arms,with full womanly hips, breasts and belly.

By the time Miss Russell died in 1922, her long upswept hair, elaborately constructed dresses,
and ample hourglass figure had fallen out of style.

 

 

Alice Joyce,1926

Alice Joyce,1926

This is Alice Joyce, American silent film star.

The rebellious young cigarette-smoking, cocktail-drinking, jazz-dancing “flappers” who came of age after WWI spawned a new style that became all the rage:
cropped hair, shorter skirts, no waistline, a flattened bust and narrow hips.
Alice Joyce models this new 20th Century look in a loosely structured shift that shows off her slender, girlish figure.

Larger adult women struggled to flatten their breasts and hips to imitate the not-yet-filled-out adolescent look of the new modern style.
Thin, young women, who previously wore padding, corsets and bustles to imitate a mature woman’s figure,
were the now at the height of fashion!

Needless to say, fashions come and go, and we have no control over what body type we have inherited!

A lean, lanky, small-busted woman of 1905 did not fit the ideal hourglass body of the time,
any more than a large and curvy woman today fits the modern waif-like ideal.

Let’s work toward a day when all body types are accepted and admired,
just the way they are!

The Library of Congress has a fabulous collection of Lillian Russell photos.
More background on Lillian Russell
More background on how the boyish figure of the Flappers became the enduring modern look for women.

UPDATE: here is a great Pinterest board featuring Lillian Russell photos and illustrations.