Are You “Beautiful?”

New York City PSA for girls aged 10 to 12. Source:

New York City PSA for girls aged 10 to 12. Source:

I’ve grown up in the United States, but my family is German. While German and American beauty standards for women are relatively similar, I’ve definitely noticed some differences by spending time in both countries.

American female beauty standards have evolved greatly since the early 20th century. Between 1900 and 1910, the “Gibson Girl” was considered most beautiful. She was slender and tall, but had a full bust and hips. In the 1920s, the flapper look was all the rage. Flappers were thin and boyish. This ideal led American women to diet. Between 1930 and 1950, strong shoulders were popular, and the skinny flapper look was abandoned. In the 1950s, the voluptuous hourglass figure was in style as well as flawless skin. In the 1960s, the thin and androgynous woman was back in style. This trend continued into the 1970s, and diet pills became popular. Long hair and minimal makeup were on trend. In the 1980s, fit, tall supermodel-types were ideal. In the 1990s, both the heroin chic and Baywatch looks were in style. It was trendy to be thin, and this still rings true today.

Less information is available about the evolution of German beauty standards. On Cosmopolitan magazine’s German website, a Buzzfeed article about American beauty standards throughout time is cited to describe Germany’s standards as well. This leads me to think the same body types were popular in both countries.

So what about today? Here are some similarities and differences between the US and Germany that I, as well as other bloggers, have noticed.


  • Both countries are starting to shy away from the super-skinny unhealthy look, but ultra-thin models still rule the runway.
  • The evolution of the ideal look seems to have been similar in both countries.


  • Very minimal makeup is considered beautiful in Germany.
  • Plastic surgery is less common in Germany.
  • I have personally noticed that being tall is valued more in Germany than the US.

Rates of anorexia and bulimia are increasing globally. One study found that 81% of 10-year-old girls fear being fat, and 50 to 70% of girls who are of normal weight perceive themselves as being overweight. This is being fought in both Germany and the US. One of the most prevalent German magazines, Brigitte, made the switch to featuring everyday women instead of models in 2010. Teachers, students and saleswomen grace the magazine’s pages. In the US, Dove embarked on their Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004. They feature everyday women in their campaigns, not models. New York City has done its part by creating a series of PSAs for girls aged 7 to 12, captioned “I’m Beautiful As I Am.” The National Eating Disorder Association now orchestrates national Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It definitely looks like both the US and Germany are headed in the right direction.

This entry was posted in Culture.