A while back I read a post at Manolo For The Big Girl with examples of fat and not-thin people from the past, and it inspired me to make a post with an example I came across, Anna Tillinghast. I’ve been looking up stuff about the Victorian and Edwardian period (because I’m getting married, and I’m going to wear a late Victorian/early Edwardian dress, and I’m trying to decide what accessories, hairstyle, etc. I should have), and I’ve found some more examples of historical fat people.
I found a post with great examples of a few larger ladies, and a one larger gentleman, from the Victorian time period: Va-Va-Voom Victorians: Historical Costuming in the XL. In comments there, there was also a link to this video from the 1950s about fashion for “fine women”–equivalent to the modern-day plus-size category, though their models seem perhaps a bit larger than the plus-size models used today.
The third picture down in this post shows a larger Victorian lady with an unfortunate jabot-doily-thingy. (Unfortunate according to the author of that post, at least. I saw a steampunk necklace on Etsy made from a doily today.)
I also found an extensive collection of period photos at The Barrington House Educational Center’s website. It doesn’t allow me to easily link to individual photos, but I started on this page and found one plus size woman right away, one row down from the top of the page on the right. There’s also a portly gentleman one row from the bottom on this page. There are too many examples to link to each one, and I’ve only looked through the 1890s and Edwardian photos, so if it’s something that interests you, take a look! There are more pictures of women than men, but there are some men as well. (Unfortunately, but not surprisingly given the time and place, I did not see anyone who looked like a POC in the photos I looked at.)
Looking through all this also reminded me of the existence of a famous Victorian-era woman of size, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Va-Va-Voom Victorians ends on a very positive note:
The point of costuming is to express something within yourself. Lots of us have “born in the wrong era” syndrome, so a hoop skirt here and a button boot there makes us giddy. Size doesn’t matter if you are a painter, wood carver, perfumer, knitter, or any other type of craftsman. Why should size matter in the costuming community? It’s an art just like anything else–an especially grand and fun one at that! Sure, body measurements matter when it comes to making patterns, but clothes should fit bodies, not vice versa.
So if you are a big woman with big dreams, don’t think you have to squeeze your hopes (or yourself!) down to size just because you don’t match the “normal” historical stereotype. It’s 2013! Resolve to costume bravely!