The concept of the large woman was..

.. not just the influence of luscious fashion icons like Lillie Langtry of the 1880’s, but was actually a reflection of women’s status in the world at the time.

Through the 1850’s and 1860’s (mid-Victorian) eras, women were required to be diminuitive, passive, and of a status beneath every man in her life; not just her husband.

By the 1880’s, women in American had gained property rights, and in some states like Wyoming, the right to vote, hold office, and direct businesses and government.

It is hard to say whether women’s position in society directed fashion to become larger, or if fashion reflected the attitudes of women.  It is obvious through extant garments and photos to see that the large woman, after so many decades of tiny wasp like waists of the 1830′-60’s and the long slim lean lines of the late 1870’s were suddenly and abruptly replaced by large, healthy, and robust women and their huge sihouette.

(Photos:  the new ideal woman of 1883)