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18 Of The Strangest, Most Dated Beauty Trends From History

Updated August 28, 2019 4.3m views18 items

It's impossible to meet the incredibly unrealistic and changing beauty standards of our world, and many of us have already spent way too much time trying to pluck, paint, or contour ourselves into stacking up. It may not be a surprise to learn that this is basically a timeless issue, but some of the beauty ideals of the past are really hard to imagine as fun or glamorous.

Beauty standards through history have shifted into so many forms that some of the hottest styles of the past are basically horrifying, or at least way more trouble - and danger - than they are worth. Sure, makeup is a pain, but at least we aren't shaving back our hairlines or painting our legs with gravy juice anymore. Check out this list for some of the weirdest historical beauty standards ever.

  • Men's Calves Were The Abs Of The Middle Ages

    Photo: Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger / via Wikimedia

    Women's legs are highly admired these days, but back in the Middle Ages and well through the 18th century, men's calves were what it was all about. Men wore stockings like women in order to show off their well-shaped calves, and some even wore padding inside their stockings to improve their unsatisfactory gams. King Henry VIII, for example, was renowned for his excellent calves.

  • Beauty Patches Were Super Classy

    In the 18th century, the previous standard of bare-faced women disappeared, and women began wearing heavy makeup. They also started wearing beauty patches, small pieces of fabric that were adhered to the face. They came in many shapes, such as stars, circles, and squares, and their placement on the face had specific meaning. For example, one by the mouth implied flirtatiousness, and one on the right cheek meant that the woman was married.

  • Short Teeth Were Essential During The Renaissance

    During the Renaissance, the essential "beauties" of women were well-known. This list eventually climbed to 30 different (very specific) traits. Many of them are familiar to us: long legs, wide hips, and a narrow waist, for example. However, one of them was short teeth. They just loved gummy smiles.

  • Incredibly Small Feet Were All The Rage In China

    Although foot binding is perhaps one of the most infamous forms of body modification, its origins in China are unknown, though historians know it was prevalent among the wives and daughters of nobles by the 13th century, and it spread from there. Foot binding usually began when a girl was five to seven years old, and it consisted of her feet being bandaged tightly while she was growing, causing the bones in her foot to break, the sole to bend down to meet the toes, and the toes to bend under the foot. This painful and disabling practice was based on the sexual and aesthetic appeal of small feet.