As a member of the generously-proportioned club, I’m always on the lookout for people who look like me in media — who doesn’t want to see themselves in their entertainment, and particularly as beauty icons? Well Jezebel’s recent Titanic fiesta included a post about Kathy Bates as Molly Brown as plus-size style icon, and one of our fabulous Facebook readers suggested the idea for this post.
Initially my idea was to list my top 5 plus-size historical costume ladies, but I admit that I got stumped. Our society is so anti-“obesity” that it’s pretty hard for someone who isn’t model-thin to break through. Luckily some actresses have done so, and the body-positive movement is definitely changing things, but I still had to tweak my theme to make it “curvaceous” ladies rather than strictly “plus-size.” (Come on, Hollywood! Put any or all of the following in a historical costume movie, particularly in a leading role: Melissa McCarthy, Nikki Blonsky, Gabourey Sidibe, Brooke Elliott, Dascha Polanco, and all the fabulous ladies who I haven’t immediately remembered).
Anyway, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite curvaceous actresses who have strong resumes in historical costume movies!
She’s gorgeous, she’s multi-talented (rapper! singer! actress! probably many other things!), and she looks damn good in slinky beaded dresses.
Latifah shimmied her way into all of our hearts with her performance as Matron Momma Norton singing “When You’re Good to Momma”:
Latifah takes the starring role as 1920s blues singer/icon Bessie Smith. Not only does she rock the hell out of her 1920s wardrobe, her singing is on point AND she gives a really nicely emotional performance.
Thank you, universe, for Christina Hendricks. Not only is she gorgeously curvaceous, she’s a redhead AND the world has realized that she is 1) stunningly hot and 2) her curves are a large reason for her hotness.
Mad Men (2007-15)
Okay, so I occasionally needed breaks when this show got too intense, but this show was amazing for its stunning accuracy to the period and fascinating characters. Hendricks as first office manager, then partner Joan Holloway smoked up the screen with her hotness and blew everyone away with her smarts. Don’t underestimate the hottie in the tight dress, because she can take you DOWN.
Another Period (2013-18)
Hendricks is now a regular on Another Period, the tv series that mocks both Downton Abbey and reality shows. She plays “Chair,” the servant who is secretly having affair with the scion of the family, and through various machinations she ends up taking charge in the wife’s role.
James Cameron can fuck right off if he thinks I’m including Winslet in Titanic (1997) or any other film where she was on the thin side of perfectly average size. In fact, it’s a stretch to include her on this list at all, but since she’s been a bit more curvaceous in a few films (particularly lately), and because she’s hot as all get-out, I’ll embrace her as one of my people!
Winslet always rocks the curves, but it’s when she’s pregnant that she really qualifies for this list. In Enigma — the story of British spy/code-breakers during World War II — she’s the brainy overlooked girl, but she ends up good.
A Little Chaos (2014)
Winslet was pregnant again for the filming of A Little Chaos — in fact, she was quoted as saying, “We were in the early stages [of pregnancy] so I didn’t really have much of a bump at all, but I had huge, huge breasts and at a certain point there really isn’t any place to put them. So they either go down or they up, but then you’re like, ‘Do we have any space in my armpits for these things?’” (Variety).
The Dressmaker (2015)
I’m not sure what Winslet’s biological state was for the filming of this 1950s couture/revenge film, but I do know she had curves and rocked them like nobody’s business.
Another talented actress who has gained some curves later in life. I look forward to more from her in the future!
As Atia of the Julii, Walker OWNED Rome as the bitchiest, sexiest, smartest, and scheme-iest badass EVER. She shagged the fuck out of James Purefoy, berated her children into marriages to benefit herself, and was generally a horrible person … but she ate the scenery with the best of them, and was SO much fun to watch. In the first season Walker was naked a decent amount, but she was very covered up in later seasons — which appears to correspond with her being a larger size. Which was disappointing to me, but I’ll respect it if it was Walker’s choice. I just hope it wasn’t body-shame-y.
Mr. Selfridge (2013-16)
Walker was an important addition to season 2 of 1910s department store series Mr. Selfridge as Delphine Day, novelist, club owner, and friend of Rose Selfridge. She gets a smashing wardrobe that celebrates her curves, and she gets to be the bohemian bad influence — what more does a girl want?
The inspiration for this post! Thank goodness for Kathy Bates, supremely talented actress AND one who has been cast/taken roles in a number of historical productions. I love that she’s not tiny by ANY means but she rocks it. Let’s hope for many more such roles to come!
Okay, so even if director James Cameron gets the credit, I’ll say it: it was GENIUS to cast Bates as “Unsinkable” Molly Brown. She’s the brash-talking, take-no-prisoners, tell-it-like-it-is chorus in the film. It’s quite possible Rose would have fallen for Jack anyway, but Brown’s near-instant recognition of his finer qualities certainly helped. And it’s good to have someone around who can take the nobs down a peg, especially while doing it dressed to the NINES.
Bates plays the mother of a young man in love with an older courtesan in this film set in turn of the century Paris. Whatever, check out this glamour:
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Despite being a Woody Allen production, this is a great film. Bates plays the small part of famous author Gertrude Stein, who could do amazing things for lead character Gil…
American Horror Story: Coven (2013-14)
Okay, so the character Bates plays — a New Orleans socialite who tortured and killed numerous enslaved African Americans, based on a real historical figure — is pretty horrible. But the character reaps her reward as the series develops, and Bates’s wardrobe is pretty damn fabulous:
Which curvaceous and/or plus-size historical costume actresses and actors are your faves?