Bring back some good or bad memories


May 21, 2016

Gibson Girls: The Sexiest Women of All Time

The Gibson Girl began appearing in the 1890s and was the personification of the feminine ideal of physical attractiveness portrayed by the satirical pen-and-ink illustrations of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson during a 20-year period that spanned the late 19th and early 20th century in the United States and Canada. The artist saw his creation as representing the composite of "thousands of American girls." The artist believed that the Gibson Girl represented the beauty of American women:
"I'll tell you how I got what you have called the 'Gibson Girl.' I saw her on the streets, I saw her at the theatres, I saw her in the churches. I saw her everywhere and doing everything. I saw her idling on Fifth Avenue and at work behind the counters of the stores... [T]he nation made the type. What Zangwill calls the ‘Melting Pot of Races’ has resulted in a certain character; why should it not also have turned out a certain type of face?...There isn’t any ‘Gibson Girl,’ but there are many thousands of American girls, and for that let us all thank God."
The Gibson Girl image that appeared in the 1890s combined elements of older American images of Caucasian female beauty, such as the "fragile lady" and the "voluptuous woman". From the "fragile lady" she took the basic slender lines, and a sense of respectability. From the "voluptuous woman" she took a large bust and hips, but was not vulgar or lewd, as previous images of women with large busts and hips had been depicted. From this combination emerged the Gibson Girl, who was tall and slender, yet with ample bosom, hips and buttocks. She had an exaggerated S-curve torso shape achieved by wearing a swan-bill corset.

Images of her epitomized the late 19th- and early 20th-century Western preoccupation with youthful features and ephemeral beauty. Her neck was thin and her hair piled high upon her head in the contemporary bouffant, pompadour, and chignon ("waterfall of curls") fashions. The statuesque, narrow-waisted ideal feminine figure was portrayed as being at ease and stylish.


  1. This brought back wonderful memories. My maternal grandmother was a Gibson girl. She had the pompador hairstyle, the frilly dress and the tightly corseted body. She was adorable, funny, sassy and lived until almost age 90. I believe gave up wearing a corset only when she was too ill with cancer to put it on.
    I'm now 71 myself and she will always remain in my heart. She was the only grandparent I ever knew; the rest all died before I was born or when I was only a toddler.

  2. Actually one of the girls shown here ...

    (14 from the bottom, or 17 from the top, the one with the cluster of white roses and the swanlike neck)

    She is not an American Gibson Girl but actually a tragic French girl named Blanche Monnier, who was imprisoned by her mother and brother in a locked attic room where Blanche lived in her own leftovers and excrement. When Blanche was finally released in a police raid (the police had received an anonymous tip, probably from one of the house servants), Blanche was emaciated, naked, and haggard -- and certainly no longer looked like the sweet girl in the picture above. Prolonged starvation had left her tongue unusable.
    Incidentally, her mother was never prosecuted for involvement and passed away shortly after Blanche was rescued. Blanche's brother was prosecuted but was acquitted since, according to the brother, Blanche was free to leave whenever she wanted. (Free to leave from a room that is padlocked from the outside? Hm.)

    Yeah, sad story.

    1. What a horrible story! I'm so sorry for what Blanche went through! Jealousy is next to murder, and in my opinion, her mother was jealous of her and the man she loved. Forget the wicked stepmother stories, wicked mother stories are real.

  3. Only a few of the women shown here are actually American and none are Canadian. Belgian, French, Hungarian, Danish, and English, yes.




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