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How to Be a Real-Life Barbie (1943)
Selling the "glamorous curves” of “popular” girls
Barbie, the iconic fashion doll, introduced generations of young girls to a lifetime of pursuing an unrealistic and exaggerated body shape. But Barbie wasn’t the only product that sold the idealized female body.
Many dietary supplements sold the “glamorous curves” of “popular” girls. Wate-On was marketed to women who were "thin, flat, skinny and underweight."
"Gosh, Jean, you sure are popular since you put on these extra pounds."
Many ads featured testimonials from B-list celebrities who praised Wate-On for helping them achieve a fuller figure that would make them more attractive and popular with men.
These products reflected the changing beauty ideals of the 20th century.
In the early 1900s, women were expected to have a curvy and voluptuous figure. It was seen as a sign of health, fertility and wealth.
In the 1920s, the flapper style emerged, which favored a slim and boyish silhouette. Women who wanted to fit into the flapper fashion had to bind their breasts, wear loose-fitting clothes and cut their hair short. This trend was short-lived, though, as the Great Depression and World War II made people value comfort and practicality over style.
In the postwar era, the ideal body shape for women shifted back to a more feminine and hourglass figure, which was popularized by stars like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.
This was also the time when Barbie was introduced, a doll that introduced low self esteem and unrealistic beauty standards to generations of young girls.
By the late 1960s the idealized female form took another turn - toward the thin and androgynous style of Twiggy. Rinse and repeat.