Beauty standards are always changing, but they never seem to go away. In 1938, LIFE magazine did a feature on 20-year-old June Cox, showed the model in a floor-length dress and then again in her underthings, and proceeded to praise Cox for possessing the “ideal figure.” The model stood 5 ft. 6 3/4 in. and weighed 124 lbs., though life insurance statistics, the magazine said, suggested she should weigh 135 lbs.
The magazine explained that American women’s increasing involvement in sports in recent years had made them taller and flatter, and as such, “the boyish form became the vogue.” But by the late ’30s, romantic-influenced clothing had returned to fashion, and a “soft feminine figure” was replacing the athletic form as the look du jour:
“The perfect 1938 figure must have curves but it differs from the perfect figure of past decades in relationship of curves to straight lines,” said the magazine.
“In the 1890s women had full bosoms, round hips. In actual measurements they were probably no rounder than Miss Cox but they seemed so because they were shorter, tightened their waists into an hour-glass effect.
“Now, though, the ideal figure must have a round, high bosom, a slim but not wasp-like waist, and gently rounded hips.”
(Photos: Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)