At the same time, certain modern artists clung to the sanitized version of women’s sexuality that demanded they be clean shaven even as society opened up around them.
is perhaps the biggest offender of this view of female nudity. His Bather Arranging Her Hair
(1893) is essentially the same painting as Titian’s Venus Rising from the Sea
(ca. 1520), made hundreds of years earlier.
Overall, these changes in modern art were reflected by the consideration of women’s body hair in popular culture. In response to the rise of sleeveless dresses at the turn of the century, Gillette released the Milady Décolleté, the first razor marketed to women, in the United States in 1915. The same year, Harper’s Bazaar ran a scandalous shaving ad in their May issue; a model in a sleeveless dress throws up her hands. Lo and behold, no armpit hair.
In our current century, more and more women—and men—wax, thread, shave, or laser themselves bare. No matter how women choose to present their hair, the uncomfortable fact is, we have it. Our society and our beauty ideals might have followed a very different course if artists had been more open and faithful to the true perfection of the female form, body hair and all.