Karina Chronicles

Is Dieting a Modern Phenomenon?

KD diet

Is Dieting a Modern Phenomenon?

KD Crystal BIO

Crystal Hammon is a vintage fashion enthusiast who blogs at Dressed Her Days Vintage. When she isn’t working as a writer, she teaches yoga, plays golf, sews and reads. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


We all know that a round belly and bottom were envied in Renaissance times. Enough so that Fat Bottom Girls didn’t just Make the Rock’n World Go Round. Thousands of years ago, a Latin word celebrated our voluptuous derrieres: calliopygia, for beautiful (and ample) buttocks—the bigger, the better. There isn’t much to envy about living through the Renaissance, but their plump aesthetics might have been welcome relief to those of us who don’t resemble society’s unreasonable standards for beauty and youth.

KD dieters

Let’s take the long view on this problem. The average 40 to 50 year-old woman weighed 140 pounds in 1960—twenty pounds lighter than today. Even at that weight, women wore control garments to improve their figures.

1960s mccalls pattern

If we believe the October 1958 issue of Seventeen magazine, all that stood between you and a proper-looking sheath dress were the right undergarments. There is no doubt that the average 140-pound gal would have worn foundations with the 1961 McCall’s dress pattern shown above.

Whether we wore 1920s flapper dresses or 1958 sheath dresses, it’s clear that very few contemporary women considered their physiques acceptable without a little help. It’s a well-known fact that Marilyn Monroe’s hourglass figure was sculpted by foundations while her weight yo-yo’d up and down.

 KD diet marilyn

Eat as much as you want and never gain weight.

One of my 80-something gym buddies claims people didn’t diet or exercise to lose weight 60 years ago. According to her memory, the word “calorie” was hardly known to womankind. Really?

I found plenty of content in vintage fashion magazines to contradict her view of history. In a 1956 edition of Ebony, you could send away for the Knox Eat-and-Reduce Plan—a weight loss program that was promoted as safe and practical. It allowed you to “eat your fill and lose two to five pounds a week.” Right.

It’s hard to know the exact date we came unglued about weight. Here’s a safe bet: the first women to succumb to the idea of thinness as a badge of honor were readers of fashion magazines. Unplugged from that influence, you could remain blessedly unaffected by the madness. And you still can, thanks to a counter-cultural blogosphere that chucks old ideas about what’s beautiful and what’s not.

Here are some of the most decidedly feminist and/or body-positive bloggers and sites to include in your feeds:

Luvin’ My Curves

Nicollette Mason

Garnerstyle: The Curvy Girl Guide


Bust magazine


The hairpin

Bitch Magazine

This post was originally published at Dressed Her Days Vintage

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