Greta Garbo

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According to an article on The Daily Beast from March 2009, a researcher named Dr. Terry Pettijohn II says men instinctively choose women based on how they perceive the state of the world. Dr. Pettijohn tested his hypothesis by looking at the facial features of film actresses and the bodies and faces of women in Playboy magazine. "He found that during rocky economic and social [times], the most popular actresses appeared more mature, with smaller eyes, thinner faces and stronger chins," the article reads. "By contrast, when things were good, the popular actresses had more baby-faced qualities—bigger eyes, chubbier cheeks."

An article in the London Telegraph in February 2009 quotes a designer and author named Stephen Bayley who says: "In times of plenty, there's a contrarian chic to having an austere shape. Equally, in times of want, there is an opposing taste for a voluptuous one. What the female body illuminates is that ever-present conflict between acceptance of the real and pursuit of the ideal."

Is that true?

Well, in the 1920s, the U.S. economy experienced a post–World War I boom of new wealth and consumer goods. Actress Greta Garbo was popular and beloved for her rain-thin "flapper" physique. Flappers were a generation of women who got jobs, stayed out late, drank and smoked, wore fashionable clothes and short hairstyles and prized skinniness.
Mae West

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After the stock market crash of 1929, the United States and the world plunged into the Great Depression—unemployment, bread lines, food shortages. A major sex symbol of that era? The voluptuous Mae West.
Fashion model Twiggy

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In the late 1960s, as the world was feeling another period of seemingly unlimited economic growth, fashion models like Twiggy became household names. Twiggy earned her name because of her super-skinny build.
Cindy Crawford

Photo: Getty Images

The late 1980s and early 1990s were periods of economic insecurity in America. While the economy was lead by a booming Wall Street, some manufacturing jobs were transferred to other countries with lower labor costs. Bill Clinton was swept into office in 1992 with the slogan, "It's the economy, stupid."

It was also the era when supermodels like Cindy Crawford were so famous they could be seen on magazines, get starring roles in movies and host their own television shows on cable. Absolutely no one would say these supermodels weren't skinny, but Cindy Crawford was certainly not as twig-like as, well, Twiggy.
Stars of today.

In the 2000s, the media landscape was full of thinner actresses—but gorgeous full-figured actresses too!

Do you think the state of the economy really can change what the media says is beautiful? Make your opinion heard in the comments section below.