Art Review: Gil Elvgren and the American Female Body

You are most likely familiar with the cartoon style art of Gil Elvgren by his famous Coca-Cola ads of the late 40’s and into the 50’s, which was classic Coca-Cola, and now has become imagery that is classic Americana. While Elvgren’s art is important for intersecting with art, advertising, and the origins of the commercialization of sex, it’s most fascinating to explore how he shaped the American view of the ideal body type for women.

Glossier’s Body Hero ad campaign in NYC

Enter into the time of the Glossier “Body Hero” product campaign, a body wash and complimentary body lotion that has been marketed to be inclusive to women of all shapes and sizes. Ideally, our global society is shifting; shifting towards an inclusive culture towards embracing the body types of all women and that one body type should not necessarily be held as a complete “one size fits all” ideal, which is simply not the case. The fashion industry and Victoria’s Secret Angels are most well known for being guilty to marketing a certain idealized body type, and it’s simply not sustainable to keep those ideals alive anymore. Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign is a testament to the shifting tides.

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign models

Ashley Graham, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model has made history for her curvy body type being used in the infamous swimsuit spread. Given the fact that Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, has been notoriously known for the objectification of women (similar to ads run by Carl’s Jr. where models bite into hamburgers), it’s a welcome change in being inclusive to all body types. Gil Elvgren’s paintings may have defined an era of women’s ideal body types, but it is certainly not going to be the definitive body type for the current era we are in.

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