I have often heard that only recently slim women were considered as more attractive in western society. It is referenced a few time in this Slashdot thread: Government Should Ban Skinny Models To Curb Anorexia, Say Researchers. There is also this webpage by the some municipality that wants to show that the new trend started in the 1900's while in the 1890's:

Actress Lillian Russell at 200 lbs. or 91 kg. is the most celebrated beauty of the time. Wikipedia Image of Lillian Russel

They of course don't have any reliable source and I don't consider 90kg as 'that' fat (she may be 6'6"). So anyway, is there any evidence that before the 1900's, or for some specific time, fat was considered as the norm of beauty?

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    To be honest, I think this question is why to broad as it stands right now since different cultures have different standards of beauty as noted by @coleopterist If this was narrowed down a bit it could be a good question.
    – rjzii
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 16:15
  • @rob it is already narrowed down to Western society (I've removed coleopterit's pseudo answer).
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 9:14
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    @Sklivvz Even then I think the point still stands since within Western societies there are a number of different cultures and subcultures. Even class differences could account for differences ideals of beauty.
    – rjzii
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 16:05
  • Seems the there's at least now a cross-cultural preference for lean. Seems to have been in Ancient Rome and Egypt as well, going by certain art pieces. That said the question is vague. Women can be large absolutely or only proportionately. Other answers suggest a cycle. There's also false information to contend with. Apparently Marilyn Monroe had the same measurements as Elizabeth Hurley, the remarks of the latter not withstanding, she wasn't plus sized.
    – R. Romero
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


Examples from the past

There's plenty of examples, but I think the most famous ones are the sculptures of mother goddesses from our distant past:

Mother GoddessSource: Wikipedia

Closer to home, you need to look no further than Botticelli. His Venus is way plumper than today's top models:

Venere BotticelliSource: Wikipedia

Why is it so?

One known factor correlating male mating preferences with female body size is hunger, as hungrier man prefer plumper women. This is likely an evolutionary adaptation:

Using this revised methodology, we found that operationalized intra-individual resource scarcity affects preferences for body weight: 30 hungry male participants preferred figures with a higher body weight and rated as more attractive heavier figures than 31 satiated male participants. Hungrier men were also less likely to be influenced by cues for body shape, supporting extant cross-cultural studies on female physical attractiveness.

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    I like this analysis but I think the answer is still only partial and needs a lot more examples and documentation. So +1 but plenty of room for other responses.
    – matt_black
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 15:14
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    The mother goddess shows only what has been the view of a 'fertile woman'. Not necessarily 'beautiful woman'. Venus' body is not skinny, but hardly fat.
    – Boris
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 19:24
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    @Sklivvz: just because media want to make us think that anorexic women are beautiful that does not make it true... I would classify Botticelli's Venus as a normal person (in terms of weight, that is). It is Angelina Jolie who is underweight.
    – nico
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 17:06
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    @Sklivvz: not saying she's ugly, but I definitely prefer Venus :)
    – nico
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 17:30
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    His Venus is way plumper than today's top models – I have not found a single male yet who considers top models particularly attractive → follow-up question.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 9:21

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