I didn't address Ethereal and Dramatic, though. That's because those beauty archetypes don't arise wholly from what's true about actual human women and men.
More specifically, I propose the following:
- We humans like to imagine magical, superhuman, and supernatural forces.
- We like to give these imagined forces physical forms.
- We generally ascribe feminine physical qualities to those beings we imagine as helpful.
- We generally ascribe masculine physical qualities to those beings we imagine as dangerous.
Ethereal: The Feminized Supernatural
The most obvious example is our idea of an angel. But this archetype also shows up in saints, aliens, and deities; whether they're male or female, we tend to give them feminized physical traits.
Our fantasies of such creatures generally depict them physically as having narrow and smoothly ovoid faces; high foreheads; large, widely spaced, oval eyes; high, rounded eyebrows; long noses; unearthly but low-contrast coloring; narrow jaws; and small, tapering chins.
The overall physical impression of these beings is rather feminine, but some traits that characterize average human women, such as a relatively round face and relatively small nose, are missing.
These are feminine faces, but it's an imagined femininity, not a mortal, "estrogenized" femininity.
From this imagining, I believe, emerges the archetype of Ethereal beauty.
See the similarities between the faces above and the Ethereal faces below. Faces are elongated and oval-shaped, gently sculpted but without harsh angles. Eyes are penetrating, wise, and peaceful, more almond-shaped than round, and often heavy-lidded. Noses are long and narrow. Lips are a bit fleshy and feminine, but not voluptuous. Eyebrows are narrow, long, and gently arched. Foreheads are high. The hairline is rounded.
Dramatic: The Masculinzed Supernatural
As for Dramatics:
I believe our idea of the Dramatic archetype derives from the way that we ascribe masculine physical traits to superhuman or imaginary creatures we view as dangerous.
The obvious example of this is a devil, but other examples include vampires, dragons, witches, sorcerers, and deities of war and chaos. Even when these characters are female, we tend to give them masculinized features.
The masculine physical qualities we project onto dangerous characters include an angular, sharply sculpted face: narrow, angled eyes that are closely set; a heavy or protruding brow; prominent cheekbones; a sharp nose; and extreme coloring.
The overall impression of all of these creatures is masculine, but some features, such as prominent cheekbones and somewhat narrow chins, are not characteristic of average human men. These are masculine faces, but it's an abstracted masculinity, not a human, "testosteronized" masculinity.
And it's from this archetype of "inhuman + intimidating," I believe, that we derive our idea of Dramatic beauty.
See the similarities between the faces above and the striking beauty of strongly Dramatic people: Faces are elongated and sharply sculpted. Cheekbones are prominent. Noses are long, prominent, and flared. Brow ridges project out over the eyes. Eyebrows are prominent and sharp, or rather horizontal. Eyes are piercing, narrow, and often close-set. Mouths are rather horizontal. The hairline is horizontal or sharply peaked.
Compared to Ethereal, the face overall is more sharply chiseled and more square or rectangular, with few circle or oval shapes.
It's probably obvious to you at this point that Ethereals and Dramatics actually have some overlap. I think this is because there are certain features -- facial elongation in particular -- that read as "otherworldly," whether they're masculine or feminine.
A key distinguisher between Ethereal and Dramatic may be your answer to the question, "Does this beauty feel pacific and still, or active and intimidating?"
Some amazing people, such as Tilda Swinton, possess a good bit of both:
So, to synthesize this week and last week:
Our ideas of Romantic, Natural, Gamine and Ingenue beauty derive from real, human physical characteristics that signal biological sex and age.
Our ideas of Ethereal and Dramatic beauty derive from gendered fantasies of inhuman or unearthly beauty: Ethereal represents an archetype of supernatural beauty that's feminized and benevolent, while Dramatic represents an archetype of supernatural beauty that's masculine and dangerous.
* * *
A final comment that I really hope doesn't need to be made, but that I will make anyway, just in case:
By noticing that angels and aliens are generally rendered as feminine, while devils and dragons are generally rendered as masculine, I am in no way saying I think it's right that femaleness is identified with virtue and purity, while maleness is identified with malevolence.
Description is not prescription.
Personally, it drives me nuts when people trot out that tired old idea of women as the gatekeepers of morality.
Plenty of women are evil. Plenty of men are good. Almost all of us are a mix of both.
If I could wave my magic wand, we'd live in a world where "feminine" =/= gentle and passive, and "masculine" =/= aggressive and predatory.
Alas, that's not our world, and these archetypes do exist.
For the purposes of helping all of us look amazing, I see it as my job to accurately describe the archetypes.
For better or worse, "Dramatic" features read as masculine and intimidating, and look the most beautiful with sharp, straight, intimidating clothes.
For better or worse, "Ethereal" features read as feminine and peaceful, and look the most beautiful with long, sinuous, delicate lines.
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