‘And that’s what makes you beautiful!’ - the infamous lyric that every teenager has sung along to in 2012. However, historical beauty trends prove that although the song will remain a catchy bop, what people actually consider ‘beautiful’ will change over time. In the beauty industry, which is ever-growing, creativity is one of the defining factors. Like most types of art, fashion and make-up define eras in history.
Of course, beauty is not determined by make-up and attire. However, when you consider trends, those are two of the apparent factors that change. So, while beauty may come from within, beauty trends are made up of what’s popular, what people are wearing, and how they choose to dress up. Thus, the questions arise: what are the major differences between what is beautiful today and what was beautiful fifty years ago? What is the similarity in beauty trends And what influences the changing beauty trends? In this article, the focus will be on South Asian beauty trends over the ages.
The evolution of make-up and its role in the beauty industry is one of the most prominent changes between the 1980s and today. Bold, colourful and dramatic looks have now been replaced with subtle colours, and are more focused on unique personal expressions. According to an article in Byrdie, a fashion and makeup blog site, ‘there appears to be an overall shift in the culture of beauty trends toward embracing an inherently less "trendy" sense of individuality’. With the embracing of darker skin tones and differencing cultural styles, the glamour of gaudy makeup has been swapped with natural tones and artistic expression. Make-up has now become a reflection of personality.
Other beauty standards, such as body types and attire, have also considerably changed in the last fifty years. The need to be skinny and a size zero has been replaced with fitness and health ideologies. As fitness boot camps become trendier and diet culture fades, people of various body types that are confident in their own skin begin to emerge. As reported by an article in local media, Pakistan’s fitness industry has been booming in the last couple of years and has seen a considerable increase during COVID.
In terms of clothing, comparatively plain and comfortable attire has become the norm for everyday wear, and heavy bejewelled dresses are saved for special occasions. Clothes have always been a method of displaying wealth and this continues today. Price tags and brand names have become more popular than specific styles. Even the plainest dresses from famous designers sell for up to ten times their worth because of their name tag in an attempt to look wealthy.
A huge factor in this influence is the introduction of consumer-oriented algorithms and advertisements. In the past, everyone was exposed to the same four TV channels that ran the same shows and ads for everyone. The factors influencing their ideologies were limited and uniform. However, through technology. advertisements can now be focused on individuals’ Social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram which allow exposure to specific content. Thus, people can now form communities with like-minded individuals. It has allowed them to find people who share similar interests and beliefs, and are now influenced by those people. The sense of community where one may previously have felt alone has reduced the need for conformity.
Makeup products may be standardised, despite different styles and skin colours. However, attire is different. There is no way to tell how expensive the mascara is once it is on someone's eyelashes, but with the look, material, and style of clothes, it is easily determined as to who the designer is and how much it could have cost. To wear anything less than a certain standard would make one seem ‘poor’, so regardless of whether it is affordable or not, individuals prioritise higher price tags in an attempt to seem wealthier. This is not a new development; for decades, people used clothes as a display of their wealth. The only difference being what previously used to be silk and velvet is now designer names and yet, the sentiment remains.
Beauty, like most things, changes over time. With accessibility, education and technological advancements, it becomes more accepting of different styles and looks. Makeup has evolved into an artistic expression, with people becoming more accepting of skin tones and varying body types. However, beauty standards and trends are a way of differentiating between social classes. Clothing and jewellery are a means of monetary display. They follow what's famous and consequently expensive even if it's wildly overpriced.
Nur Us Sahar Kamran is an in-house writer at Perspective.
Find her on Instagram @nur_kamran9