LISA HILTON: Duchess of Cambridge Kate’s sculpted arms are now a status symbol

We’ve long admired her fabulously shiny hair, bright smile, and sleek figure. But recent appearances in a selection of summery dresses prove the Duchess of Cambridge has another beauty missile up her sleeve.

Because the Duchess also boasts of that special something that millions of women have been waiting for since Michelle Obama crossed the threshold of the White House: perfectly toned arms.

Wearing a sleeveless white Emilia Wickstead polo dress last week, her taut triceps and biceps garnered as much admiration as the £1,350 dress.

Because while developed arm muscles were for years the preserve of female athletes, considered too “masculine” for you and me, now an elegantly sculpted upper arm is a discreet sign of youth, confidence and feminine power. – as likely to draw a sigh of envy from a woman who looks like a perfect blow-dry.

And unlike some other physical traits that boil down to the lottery of genetics, a sharp arm is ambitious, speaking of an investment of time and money in serious workouts.

Toned: The Duchess of Cambridge last week at the Out-Sourcing Inc charity polo match at Guards Polo Club, Smiths Lawn, Windsor

Power pose: Michelle Obama shows off her muscular arms

Power pose: Michelle Obama shows off her muscular arms

Actress Marilyn Monroe unlike Michelle Obama is seen with thin arms as she poses for a portrait in 1953

Actress Marilyn Monroe unlike Michelle Obama is seen with thin arms as she poses for a portrait in 1953

Yet while the Duchess’ sleeveless styles look fresh and modern, she’s actually invoking a venerable tradition. Because like so many aspects of a woman’s appearance, the size of our arms is subject to a complex societal evolution that has seen them grow and shrink over the centuries.

How can you have arms like Kate’s

By Hollie Grant, Founder of Pilates PT

PILATES PUMPS

These develop the triceps. You can start on your hands and knees, or from a half-plank or full-plank pose (pictured).

Place your hands shoulder-width apart, palms and elbow creases facing forward. Slowly bend your elbows, keeping them tight to your sides as you lower yourself to the floor. Then, extend your arms to return to the starting position. Repeat eight to 12 times.

PUSH-UPS PILATES: They develop the triceps

PUSH-UPS PILATES: They develop the triceps

CACTUS

Works biceps and shoulders. Start with your arms extended out to the side at shoulder height, forearms raised toward your head, and palms up.

Now, directing your palms, move your forearms down so that your palms are facing the floor. Then lift vertically. Repeat 12 to 16 times. You can add dumbbells, but make sure you can perform at least 12 reps.

CACTUS: Works biceps and shoulders

CACTUS: Works biceps and shoulders

MUTE SERVER

It really works shoulder alignment, which is key to Kate’s good posture.

Stand with your arms at your sides, elbows bent, forearms and palms flat in front of you as if you were placing a tray on it. Wrap one end of a resistance band over each hand, then start moving your hands to the sides, without letting the elbows go away from the body. Return to the starting position and repeat eight to 12 times.

DUMB WAITER: Works the alignment of the shoulders

DUMB WAITER: Works the alignment of the shoulders

BICEP CURLS

These can be done using dumbbells or by standing on one end of a resistance band and holding the other end.

Start with your arms straight at your sides, palms facing forward. Keeping your spine still and your elbows tight to your sides, slowly raise your forearms until your hands are close to your shoulders, then slowly release.

Repeat eight to 12 times.

BICEP CURLS: Repeat eight to 12 times

BICEP CURLS: Repeat eight to 12 times

PULL-UPS

You’ll need a pull-up bar for this challenging exercise, which will work your biceps, shoulders, and lats.

Start with your hands on the bar, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Inhale to engage the core and as you exhale begin to bend your elbows, bringing your chest back towards the bar. Inhale to come back down at a controlled speed.

Beginners can do this move standing on a box so your feet never leave the ground.

PULL-UPS: Beginners can perform this move standing on a box

PULL-UPS: Beginners can perform this move standing on a box

  • Train with Hollie at pilatespt.co.uk/train-at-home

In the classical world, a toned female physique was associated with intelligence and skill – sculpted Spartan girls were considered the erotic pin-ups of the time.

Trained in athletics and javelin throwing alongside their brothers, Spartan women proudly exercised in public wearing the skimpiest of tunics. Commentators were both titillated and shocked by what they saw as a shameless display of shamelessness.

Yet, unlike other Greek city-states, Spartan women learned to read and speak, which, along with physical fitness, was considered to make them better mothers for super-warriors.

True, women’s arms virtually disappeared for the next few hundred years.

No woman with claims to respectability would have dreamed of showing her arms in public until the introduction of classically styled “Empire” dresses in the late 18th century. Even then, the slightest hint of muscle was a no-no. Physical strength was associated with manual labor, and therefore with lower status.

In his book Curvology: The Origins And Power Of Female Body Shape, David Bainbridge of the University of Cambridge argues that unlike full breasts and hips, which indicated women had the fat stores necessary for fertility, it There were few biological advantages to a strong arm, since traditionally men did the heavy lifting.

They were therefore considered to be evolutionarily irrelevant, that is, they did not pass into the set of female characteristics known to be sexually attractive by convention.

Indeed, for Victorian women, the ideal arm was slender and “boned”, demonstrating that its owner had never had to pick up anything heavier than a pearl-buttoned glove.

The curvier physique preferred by Edwardians was achieved by inserting padding into the sleeves of the robe to give the impression of fuller arms, to better show off the delicate wrists and hands.

Yet, with the progressive advances of feminism, toned arms began to come back into view.

After World War I, which saw women entering the workplace in unprecedented numbers and winning the vote, fashion shifted towards the more androgynous look, bare arms and “flappers”.

Golf and tennis were now being promoted as healthy sports for women, and as the French Riviera became the vacation spot of choice for the chic and wealthy, women’s arms emerged from balloon bathing dresses in the sunlight.

World War II brought another brief change in the way society valued the physical strength of women, with the war effort at home depending on women’s ability to undertake manual labor. The iconic figure of Rosie the Riveter, sleeve rolled up with her impressive forearm, promised the world “We Can Do It!”

It was a powerful message. Yet once the war was won, women were encouraged to come home and embrace more “feminine” fashions, as evidenced by the understated corsetry of Dior’s iconic “New Look,” launched in 1947.

Over the years, pin-ups like Marilyn Monroe had tapered arms, but they were hardly toned by contemporary standards, while Brigitte Bardot’s bouffant was more impressive than her biceps.

In Jackie O, we saw a figure that looked more modern, with defined shoulders and collarbone, but like Farrah Fawcett, the emphasis was on flexibility rather than strength.

So it wasn’t until the 1980s, when Jane Fonda felt the infamous burn, that triceps started to be “a thing.” When a tank top-wearing Linda Hamilton revealed her impressively chiseled deltoids in 1991’s Terminator 2, it still seemed almost revolutionary.

Despite two more decades of fitness videos, sportswear commercials and the gradual rejection of size 0 models, it may not have been until Michelle Obama posed in a sleeveless dress for her official photo as First Lady in 2009 that elegantly sculpted arms have become desirable. .

Since then, we’ve seen beautifully toned forearms on women like Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, Queen Letizia of Spain, and Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot.

That said, it can take a lot of work to get the look. As women age, the skin on the upper arms naturally loosens and softens, causing the dreaded “bingo wings.” Mrs Obama has revealed her training regimen includes jump rope, boxing and weight training, while the Duchess of Cambridge is known for her skills in tennis, hockey and skiing.

Realistically, however, most women don’t have time to develop celebrity-level shoulder definition.

At 47, I’m not a huge fan of my own arms, which tend to be scraggy rather than spartan, but I’m a devoted follower of the Ballet Beautiful streaming workout site. Pro ballerina Mary Helen Bowers has a series of short “Swan Arms” programs that require no equipment and really make a difference in arm muscle tone, so are worth a look if you’re planning to go sleeveless this summer. .

However, if the evolution of women’s arms shows us anything, it’s that an arm of any size can be considered sleek and sexy.

So if you’re not yet bragging about having a bulging bicep, don’t panic; a slightly fluffy forearm was enough for Marilyn, after all.

James V. Hayes