La Bella Figura: The Fascinating Italian Beauty Motto

Sophia Loren.

If you want an embodiment of the Italian’s idea of beauty, think of the actress Sophia Lauren. (Image: via Public Domain)

Italy and Italians pride themselves on always being beautiful and appealing no matter the time. The term la bella figura for Italians means more of a lifestyle than just a choice to look beautiful. But is being beautiful from the outside the main focus of Italians? Or does the need to look good no matter what have some deeper psychological reasons?

La bella figura: The lifestyle and the culture

When translated literally, la bella figura means “the beautiful figure,” but this Italian motto has also been used to define someone with a beautiful personality. In a way, the motto also embodies the desire to look elegant and act the same way. Beauty for Italians is not just about the face and the figure, but also about embracing all things feminine.

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Talking about looks, Italians prefer a certain kind of appearance when it comes to women. The ideal Italian woman will have rosy cheeks and high cheekbones. Dark eyes with an intense gaze and lustrous long hair along with olive skin are considered beautiful. Having larger breasts with narrow hips is also a standard for Italians. Being an hourglass or Rubenesque is considered to be “less” beautiful. If you want an embodiment of the Italian’s idea of beauty, think of the actress Sophia Lauren.

While this definition of la bella figura might seem very restrictive given the current trend of loving your own skin, another definition of the same phrase shows the progressive mentality of the Italians. Italians also prize themselves for having a warm and dignified personality. Having a sense of decorum and dressing style that compliments their age and status also forms part of Italian culture. The confidence a woman exudes without looking arrogant forms a part of the motto.

Sophia Loren in several major film roles:

The good and the bad side of this culture

You have seen both the angles of the phrase la bella figura. One defines the physical aspect and the other defines the mental and personality aspect. While both of these angles can be considered to be valid, the culture of Italy always places an emphasis on the personality aspect over the physical one. The need to look good and well-dressed even when going out to go grocery shopping is all about putting a good face to the world. Being a popular tourist destination and having faces like Sophia Lauren and Monica Bellucci does set up high standards. And the majority of Italian women having beautiful looks makes the beauty culture of Italy focus on the physical aspect.

So much emphasis is on the physical aspect that often having a different body type or skin tone makes the different woman seem alien. Italian women living in America or other parts of the world do feel the different mentality people have towards their looks. A woman shared how she was tagged to be ‘brave’ for wearing hip-hugging jeans in Italy while when she was in the USA, people did not think twice about her wide hips and narrow waist figure.

This difference in mentality is often felt by the women of Italy when they go out to different parts of the world. The need to have the ‘ideal figure’ often places young women to adopt unhealthy measures to maintain the la bella figura standards. But what most women do not realize is that the Italian culture and the phrase are all about having a warm and dignified personality. The motto is about self-respect and being strong yet gentle and feminine.

La bella figura is a certain kind of appearance Italians like their women to have.
Italians prefer a certain kind of appearance when it comes to women. (Image: Tomasz Tulik via Dreamtime)

The real motto

Italy is a beautiful place and has years of history and giving the world some of the finest art forms and artists, they have all the right to have beauty standards. But, the real standard and definition of the la bella figura are not limited to physical beauty only. Having a beautiful heart is the main focus. Dressing up and looking good does affect the person’s psychology and can help them feel good even if they are having a bad day. And that is the primary focus of this unique Italian culture.

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