Fads, Fashion, Racial, Sexual History, Social Movements

Niches In America Through Time: The Gibson Girl, 1890s Tinder Favorite

One of the niche groups that emerged in America during the 1890s was the Gibson Girl. The caricature was an upper middle class or wealthier young white woman who was said to epitomize feminine beauty, grace, spirited and confident, but who delighted in her feminine nature and had no wish to challenge male patriarchy or associate with the suffragette movement. Indeed, the suffragettes were often derisively depicted as mannish domineering old maids and the antithesis of Gibson Girls.

She was often, in fact, seen to have power through her feminine beauty that surpassed any power a man might hold and could reduce even the most desirable alpha man to a drooling fool she wrapped around her finger. Unlike earlier feminine ideals, she was allowed to be athletic and active, which did not devalue her feminine appeal in any way. On the contrary, a Gibson Girl briskly cycling by was thought an enchanting sight. The ideal Gibson Girl was to be slender, but with ample busom and tush, though not vulgarly so. This figure was emphasized by a tight corset she wore around her waist. Her hair was one of her greatest attributes, and should be ample and piled on top of her head in graceful shapes and waves.

As mentioned previously, she was in no way expected to be a meek wallflower. Her playful witty banter with men was thought one of her attractive qualities. While her main focus was to be of her home and husband, she was at the same time seen as engaging frequently in promoting social causes and perhaps even attending college. It is a bit hard to determine whether the Gibson Girl existed originally or whether she was created based on a male fantasy of the ideal female. It may have been a bit of both.


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