In 2013, we started to hear rumblings of an unusual fashion comeback: the corset. Yes, the garment worn in the 1800s that cinched in women's stomachs and left them in pain is being revamped and rebranded as a modern form of dieting. Even Jessica Alba was reported to have tried this bizarre diet, wearing a corset for 12 hours a day for an experience she called "sweaty, but worth it."
If you already think that's insane, consider the fact that doctors said that wearing a corset in order to lose weight is extremely damaging. According to bariatric physician Jyotindra Shah, M.D, it could cause bruising to internal organs, damage skin and restrict breathing.
Unfortunately, the corset is only one of the many tactics women have used to chase down the "perfect" body through the years. And that ideal female body has gone through dramatic changes -- in fact, the physical ideal has changed so much, it's hard to keep up. After reading through all the different ways to look "pretty" from one decade to the next, we've come to one conclusion: There really is no such thing as one "perfect" look.
1. The Renaissance Look (1400s - 1600s): Curvy and motherly.
The kind of body you will achieve: During this time, voluptuous bodies were considered beautiful. You'll want a full-figured pear-shaped body that will appear maternal, fertile and nurturing to the man who has caught your eye.
What you will wear: You'll mostly wear modest long dresses with a lot of jewelry. But if you really want to stand out from the crowd, dye your hair blonde. It was seen as the more sophisticated and preferable hair color.
What you will eat: Lucky for you, you'll be eating some great fatty and delicious food, since, during the Renaissance, people were just discovering the joy of how to use ingredients in many different and tasty ways. You'll be eating a lot of hearty stews, pies, roasts and soups. So go on and dig into that roasted rabbit!
2. The Victorian Look (1837-early 1900s): The hourglass shape with a super skinny stomach.
The kind of body you will achieve: It was all about the right proportions at this time, so you will work towards achieving the smallest and thinnest stomach you can have while accentuating your bust and your buttocks.
What you will wear: In order to get this
impossible look, you will have to wear a corset. Yes, the tightening device may suffocate you (and possibly break your ribs) but it will give you an artificially tiny stomach! Remember, keep cinching that stomach until you reach the ideal measurement, which could be as small as 20-21 inches.
What you will eat: Unfortunately, you may have to resort to, well, not eating. Women strived to look so thin, that it was in the Victorian era that the first cases of anorexia nervosa were diagnosed. (The disorder was actually named by a British physician in 1873 and was widely regarded as a form of hysteria.) Or you could try the diet Lord Byron popularized. All you have to do all day is drink water mixed with apple cider vinegar. Side effects include vomiting and diarrhea. Yum!
3. The Flapper Look (1920s): Appear as boyish as possible.
The kind of body you will achieve: It's time to look like a man. In order to justify their carefree and bold attitudes (they smoked, drank and even played golf!) women in the 1920s embraced a more masculine look . That meant trying very hard to not to show any breasts or buttocks and embracing a straight, curve-free figure.
What you will wear: You'll want to show off your thin and toned body when you're out dancing, so you'll wear short swingy dresses. You've also tightly wound your chest with strips of cloth in order to make it appear more flat. Instead of a corset, you'll be donning a girdle, which was basically a new kind of corset that advertised to help women look young while also providing bodily freedom so they could move around as they please.
What you will eat: Cigarettes. That's right: You'll be going on the "Cigarette Diet." Lucky Strike popularized this fad when they launched a campaign that boasted the tagline, "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." Why have dessert when you can just have nicotine?
4. The Modest Sexpot Look (1930s - 1950s): Dress conservatively but still have a voluptuous body.
The kind of body you will achieve: It's all about looking conservatively sexy at this time. You will work towards achieving a skinny hourglass figure. Since this is a very hard body type to have, dieting will become very important to you.
What you will wear: This is the motto you will live by: "Never leave the house without at least one pair of white gloves." It's all about being prim and proper, with a lot of rules to abide by.
What you will eat: You'll try an assortment of diets and eating fads. First, you'll try the grapefruit diet. Also known as the "Hollywood Diet," it calls for eating a grapefruit with every meal. But that won't seem to cut it. So you'll switch over to the Cabbage Soup Diet, which promises that you can lose 10-15 pounds a week if you just swap in cabbage soup for much of your regular food every day. Once it's time to go to drastic lengths to stay slim, you'll try out the terrifying "Tapeworm Diet." Your friend said she loses weight by ingesting baby tapeworms because these parasites live in her intestines and consume all her nutrients. Unfortunately, after you try it, you start developing cysts in your muscles, which start forming visible bumps under your skin. You also develop cysts in your eyes that start to float into your field of vision.
5. The Twig Look (1960s - 1970s): Thin and waif-like.
What kind of body you will achieve: You will want a rail-thin body -- even thinner than the women back in the 1920s. Your body inspiration will be the super-skinny model Twiggy, whose body mass index was reportedly only 14. Even though the average woman's BMI at this time was 25, you just know you can get yours down to Twiggy's size.
What you will wear: You absolutely must achieve that thin body because it needs to fit perfectly into your high-waisted bell bottoms. You will also wear billowy, short shift dresses that have a magical shrinking effect, making your body look even more petite.
What you will eat: These days, your food has points. In 1963, Weight Watchers was founded by Jean Nidetch, a self-described "overweight housewife obsessed with cookies." She claims you can have your cake and eat it too, as long as you don't go over the very restricted amount of points you get every day. Good luck!
6. The "Bigger Is Better" (In The Right Places) Look (1980s): Have large breasts but a very small waist.
What kind of body you will achieve: The Amazon body. Short women everywhere will curse the gods that they weren't born with the genetic gift of height. Supermodel Cindy Crawford is the one you and every other woman aspires to look like, with her sculpted and curvy body. You covet her perfectly toned arms because going to the gym is very important right now in your life, and you know Crawford does arm exercises, like, every day.
What you will wear: Shoulder pads and spandex rule your world. The shoulder pads will accentuate your buff arms and the spandex will show off your svelte body that you work so hard on every single day at the gym.
What you will eat: You'll be spending a lot of time doing aerobics and jazzercise, so you'll be pretty hungry from all that moving. But, don't eat! Instead, take the new diet drug, Dexatrim Max. You will be fine... until they have to change the formula in 2000 due to its link to an increased risk of stroke.
8. The Fake And Skinny Look (Late 90s -- Early 00s): The plastic and polished body.
What kind of body you will achieve: The waif-like look of the early '90s (think Kate Moss) and the big and bold idea of the '80s will merge now to create probably the most impossible and damaging female body type: the skinny body with a flat stomach, large breasts and a round, firm butt. A lot of women have been talking about going to a doctor who gives them plastic breasts and sucks out the fat from their stomachs. You start thinking about booking a consultation with a plastic surgeon.
What you will wear: Anything tight, cropped or low-cut. You worked hard (or paid a lot) for this body and you want to show it off! Crop tops and tight stretchy jeans will dominate your closet as well as low-cut dresses and tank tops. The less clothing, the better!
What you will eat: It's hard to maintain this "perfect" body and eat whatever you want, especially when working out is just so boring. You'll try all sorts of eating plans, like the Macrobiotic Diet, a vegetarian plan based on whole grains and vegetables. You'll read "The South Beach Diet" and be forever changed. Your life will revolve around replacing "bad carbs" with "good carbs"and "bad fats" with "good fats." With all this dieting, it may come as no surprise that hospitalizations for eating disorders rose 24 percent between 1999 and 2009.
9. The Unrealistic "Healthy" Skinny Look (Late '00s -- today): Be curvy yet thin at the same time.
What kind of body you will achieve: These days, it's all about how happy you feel with whatever body you have. It's a great concept, if only runway models and marketing towards females didn't continue to push for an impossibly thin look. The messages are a confounding mix: Plus-size models are becoming increasingly more mainstream and more celebs like Jennifer Lawrence are advocating for a "real" woman's body that embraces curves and quirks... but as a woman living in a media-saturated world, you will basically be told to attain a slim body that is both toned and curvy, like that of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.
What you will wear: Aside from the insanity of corsets coming back, in order to keep yourself looking slim enough, you will resort to body-shaping undergarments like Spanx (which will literally squeeze your organs) under your dresses to eliminate any "lumps" and keep everything looking smooth. Even celebrities like Katy Perry and Octavia Spencer have proudly announced they wear the slimming undergarment.
What you will eat: It's the Wild West out there when it comes to dieting. There are still pills, like Alli, which claims to keep your body from absorbing some of the food you eat. But more popular are restrictive and very specific diets. In fact, the top three diets searched on Google in 2013 were The Paleo Diet (eating veggies, fruits, lean meats, fish and healthy fats while eliminating dairy, whole grains and beans), The Juice Cleanse Diet (fasting and only drinking fruit and vegetable juices for 14 days) and the Mediterranean Diet (focusing on fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and healthy fats).
In conclusion... you could work and work, but the "perfect body" is an elusive thing. No matter how you choose to eat or what clothing you choose to buy, the only way to "win" is to love the body you have.