There’s an interesting post on the Marginal Revolution about how ideals of beauty are related to economic and social conditions.
The Environmental Security Hypothesis states that
in tough times men will prefer women who are good at production, generally older, taller, heavier, less curvaceous women with less body fat. In good times, they will prefer women who are good at reproduction, generally younger, shorter, lighter, more curvaceous women.
Pettijohn & Jungeberg (2004) now examine the relationship between facial and body characteristics of Playboy Playmates of the Year from 1960-2000 and the U.S. social and economic environment. They find that
Consistent with Environmental Security Hypothesis predictions, when social and economic conditions were difficult, older, heavier, taller Playboy Playmates of the Year with larger waists, smaller eyes, larger waist-to-hip ratios, smaller bust-to-waist ratios, and smaller body mass index values were selected.
Given the perspective of a long and nasty slump, I very much hope women are not aware of this hypothesis and trying to adapt to changing preferences…