Back in the days of the Renaissance, beauty looked something like this:

In Imperial China, it was a bit more like this:

And now, in our present day, it’s turned to this:


Confused? So am I.

In the Renaissance days, a woman with a full figure, curly hair, small breasts and pale skin was considered attractive. They took milk baths to soften and whiten their skin, but there was little make-up use, no tanning—it could be said that the only paint used was oil on canvas.

True, the women depicted in paintings of the era still featured women that were probably “too good to be true.” But a lot of this was due to the fact that artists played up the “positive” aspects of their model’s appearance. The Renaissance was an era of rediscovering humanity, and it showed in the art and fashion of the age, including a more realistic body type. But even then, the poor people who couldn’t always afford to eat well didn’t fit this picture of modern loveliness; they were skinny, ragged and sun-burnt with lank greasy hair.
In ancient China, black teeth, tiny feet and moon-white skin were considered attractive. Women had their feet bound from birth so tightly that their toes were folded under (they were forced to walk that way their entire lives) and bled themselves so that they would be pale.

The Chinese were then and still are a decidedly conformist society—anyone who did not keep to these standards probably suffered social disgrace. Our culture hails these acts as “barbaric” and “dreadful” and “dehumanizing.” Hypocrites!
Now we starve ourselves until our ribs show (how is it attractive to look like a walking skeleton?) and when the strain of not eating becomes too much, we turn to body-and-mind-destroying drugs. We straighten and dye the daylights (literally and figuratively) out of our hair, then use inordinate amounts of conditioner to undo the drying effects of these treatments. We spend thousands of dollars on tanning beds that cause skin cancer and promote premature wrinkles, then spend even more money on anti-aging cream. (And while we’re on the subject, who invented shaving, and why are we supposed to do it everywhere?)
Who invented these trends? Who changed them? And even more so—who has the authority to impose them?
God never sets a standard for physical beauty, but He does tell us to take care of our bodies. Do any of these above fashion trends sound like they fit this qualification? I hope the answer is obvious. There’s nothing wrong with a little mascara, a dusting of blush, or a dab of lip gloss. But when we base our lifestyles, budgets, manner of dress, and body image around an arbitrary cultural “ideal”—that’s a danger signal. No human being gets to tell you how to be attractive, because God has already created you that way (“For I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”)

Yes, we live in a fallen world where we all have to fight with acne, dry skin and obesity. But if we all struggle with it…then who are we to say that “beautiful” is not having it?
No one is allowed to set the standards for beauty, and regardless of which standard we’re talking about, no one is capable of attaining the picture of it. Come on, half of you reading this are probably teenagers—you don’t like being told what to do! Don’t let the snobs of high fashion dictate your actions. They’re not the boss of you!

– Robyn Wilde

Coming next month: “Natural Artifice”


1 Comment

  1. Laura M. said,

    November 2, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Amen!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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