How Does Plus-Size Sizing Work?
Confidence is in the clothes. When you look in the mirror and feel fierce and beautiful, there's nothing you can't conquer. So why is it so challenging to find on-trend, plus-size clothing that flatters your curves without breaking the bank?
From one store to the next, sizes, quality, price and designs vary so widely that it becomes almost impossible to find a killer outfit. A day of shopping quickly turns from a fun experience into a frustrating waste of time. Cuts that should flatter are loose or tight in all the wrong places. And styles you love don't come in your size. The seemingly haphazard sizing and vast differences between brands might make you ask — how does plus sizing work?
There's no need to wonder anymore. This sizing guide breaks down all the essential facts about plus-size clothing, including how plus sizing is different than regular sizing and what materials and patterns you can use to your advantage when creating a look.
Once you've read this comprehensive guide, you will feel more empowered than ever to knowledgeably choose stylish clothes designed for your fabulous figure.
Plus Sizing vs. Regular Sizing
To fully understand how plus sizing works, we need to dive into the numerical standards of regular sizing. Whether you're a 00 or 22 waist, women around the country agree that there are glaring irregularities between brands. Two pairs of jeans can both claim to be size 4, but fit entirely differently on the same woman. What gives?
What Is a Sample Size?
When designers and brands create their products, they use a model to help guide the shape of the design. The finished product becomes the sample size, which is essentially the prototype of the garment. Manufacturers and designers have several models representing various consumer groups — core size, plus size, etc. Unfortunately, time and financial constraints make it impossible for a company to test-fit every size.
As you have probably guessed, the sample sizes are what you see on the runway — and they're the reason tall, slender models are the ones you see strutting the designs down the catwalk. While it's up to the companies to determine what they will or will not produce for the stores' inventory, the problem lies in the fact that the sample size is whatever size the first pattern is — aka what size the model wears.
That means if a clothing manufacturer's model is a size 2, they will use her measurements and body shape as reference points when making the other sizes, either removing or adding fabric to scale the garment down or up. Every company uses different sized models, which is why you may wear a size 12 in one brand and a size 14 in another.
But if companies used an actual "average" body size in the prototype stage, it would be easier to add or subtract fabric when creating the other sizes.
While the pinnacle of '90s fashion was elongated, skinny frames for men and women alike, the designers of the last few decades are not necessarily to blame for the misrepresentation. These standards likely date back to WWII, when fabric shortages required designers to change their strategies when creating clothes.
In today's modern world, this is no longer an issue, and companies and designers are starting to integrate realistic sizing and plus-size fashion as mainstream and available. But the industry still has plenty of catching up to do.
Regular Size 14 vs. Plus-Size 14
Even though more than 67% of women are a size 14 or above, there are no industry standards regarding plus-size clothing. So while a size 14 might be a genuine representation of average American women, that number is where most retailers begin their plus-size section. As if that isn't confusing enough, the fashion industry considers celebrities and models who wear a size 6 or 8 to be plus-size.
The line between where straight size ends and plus size begins is blurred and vague — so much so that you can sometimes find size 16 pants on the straight-size clothing rack and the plus-size one in the same store. Is there a difference between a regular size 14 and a plus-size 14? Let's use a size 14 dress as an example.
Firstly, the overall proportions are the primary difference between a 14 straight and a 14 plus. The design's cut and style should contour your body and make you feel confident when you look in the mirror. However, only an inch of extra fabric distinguishes the two "different" sizes.
Next comes the availability factor. It's not a secret that the fashion industry has pushed plus-size fashion to the wayside, at least up until a few years ago. The extra effort to be inclusive didn't measure up to the costs and time required to produce additional designs and options for curvy women. But today's fashionistas are using the internet to find fashion-forward lines that come in all sizes, so everyone can look and feel their best.
Is cost a factor in manufacturing plus-size clothing? The answer is yes. Right now, many major clothing manufacturers charge more for plus-size clothing, with the rationale that it is more expensive to make because it requires more material and labor to create a plus-size line. However, many activists in the body-positive movement argue that it's unfair to make most of the population pay what essentially amounts to a "fat tax" on their clothes.
Regular-Size Sample Model vs. Plus-Size Sample Model
When creating plus-size prototypes, designers must use a curvy model. While this model's measurements aren't necessarily an accurate representation of the average plus-size woman, her proportions are vastly different than what you'd find in a regular-size sample model.
An average regular-size sample model's proportions are as follows.
- Height: Between 5'8" and 5'10"
- Bust: 32A-34B
- Waist: 24"
- Hips: 34"
While regular-size sample models must fit within specific constraints, plus-size models have a bit more leniency. However, on average, a plus-size sample model will have a 47" bust, 40 1/2" waist and 50" hips.
Representation within the fashion industry is slowly, but surely, evolving to show the diversity that makes up the consumer base. But until retailers start stocking enough inventory to reflect the population of curvy women, online shops and boutiques will continue to be your best bet for gorgeous, quality clothing.
Where Do You Fit In?
Between the juniors, misses and women's departments, it can get confusing when you're shopping for something age-appropriate, affordable, trendy and flattering to your shape. So, how is plus sizing different than regular sizing when you're shopping in the women's clothing department? It all depends on the label.
Often, women who fall between the sizes of 0 and 22 shop in "misses," which is essentially a crossover section featuring trendier, youthful looks. Available clothing sizes in this department vary by store, but crucially, misses sizes tend to have a more generous cut than standard junior sizes, especially in the bust and hips.
Here's where sizing starts to get more complicated. Aside from the typical S, M, L and XL ordering, you'll also find women's clothing labels also have a "W," "Plus" or "+" after size 16. For these fashions, the cuts have a loose, relaxed fit for women with curvier busts and hips. Essentially, avoid the "W" if you are petite or a misses size.
Most clothes made for larger figures use the X sizing system, which is more generalized than exact.
Retailers like Target have added numbers from 1 to 4 to their sizing charts. The numbers refer to the Xs that correspond to each item's sizing. So 1 is for XL, 2 is equivalent to XXL and so on.
The unpredictability of sizing comes from plus-size clothing manufacturers using different systems to create and categorize their products. That means your best course of action for creating a fabulous outfit is measuring your bust, waist and hips to know what garments will best complement your shape.
When trying on clothes, you may have noticed some garments fit more tightly or loosely than others, even when they have the same size printed on the label. That’s because some clothing manufacturers make more forgiving, flowing fits to create more comfort, or sometimes, more modesty.
If you see the following terms on the tag or label, it probably has a looser fit for its size:
- "Relaxed fit"
- "Comfort fit"
Tall and Petite Sizes
Clothing manufacturers know curvaceous women come in all different heights, which is why you'll also see petite and tall plus-size clothing.
Tall sizes, typically made to fit women taller than 5'8", have longer inseams, sleeves and torsos. Sometimes, the waist is also a little bit lower. Petite sizes fit women under 5'4" and feature shorter inseams, sleeves and torsos. You might also notice differences in armhole size and waist placement.
Tall items may have a "T" or "Tall" after the size number, such as 2XT or 20W Tall. Petite sizes may have "P" or "Petite" on the label. Using these guidelines, a size 18WP would be a women’s size 18 petite.
When the Sizes Overlap
Since everyone's body is different, it makes sense that some straight sizes will overlap and fit similarly to plus-size garments. If you typically shop in the misses department, but the store you're in only has women's sizes, these shopping tips will save you.
- Women's clothing accentuates the waist, hips and derriere, whereas misses garments have a slightly thinner cut in these areas.
- Women's sizes have more room in the bust, while misses tend to have less.
- Misses clothing is very similar to what you find in the juniors section, but with a roomier cut in the chest and hips. That means a woman who wears a misses size 5 might fit into an 8 in juniors clothing, depending on the garment's cut.
- Women's sizes are approximately one size larger than the corresponding misses sizes, so you don't have to worry about limiting your choices to the clothing available only in one department.
- Lastly, pants or jeans in a women's size will have a higher waist than pants in the misses size.
Finding Your True Size
Are you average, plus size or somewhere in between? Before you start consulting size charts, you have to know what your measurements are. So, it's time to break out the measuring tape! Taking your measurements will help you find the best fit for your body whenever you shop. Remember to undress and stand up straight, so your measurements are true to size.
- Measuring your bust: Wrap the measuring tape around the largest part of your chest, placing the tape under your arms.
- Measuring your waist: Start by identifying your natural waistline, which is the narrowest part of your torso. Wrap the tape around that area, not too tightly, to get an accurate reading.
- Measuring your hips: This measurement includes your buttocks, so make sure you keep the tape around the fullest part of your hips.
Staying on Trend: The Cut for Your Shape
Women's clothing styles and sizes change every decade. While some trends help define the times, there are noticeable differences between regular and plus-size designs.
Curves aren't exclusive to plus-size women. While numbers represent women's clothing sizes, we know shape also matters when finding the perfect fit. That's where your unique body type comes into play.
Thankfully, we've entered into the era of celebrating our bodies and embracing what makes us unique. This surge of body positivity has garnered the attention of designers and retailers, so there are more options for plus-size women than ever before. While many cuts have proven to flatter every figure, some styles complement plus-size women best.
Flattering Hourglass Curves
An hourglass shape means you have a fuller chest and hips, roughly the same size, with a defined waist. This shape shows off dresses like none other. For inspiration, look no further than Marylin Monroe! Iconic cuts like a fit-and-flare or wrap dress will look stunning on you. With your natural curves, you can also rock an empire waist to flatter your shape.
For jeans, pants and shorts, let's take a moment to appreciate the fact that high-waisted styles have finally made their way back into the spotlight! Low-rise pants and skirts accentuate your stomach, which is the exact opposite of what you want. High-waisted bottoms will hug your hips and butt while accentuating your waistline. You couldn't ask for a better design to show off your — ahem — assets.
When choosing blouses, anything with a form-fitting fabric and cut will look great on you. Look for tops with a round, boat or V-neck. You can't go wrong with any shirt, because your figure naturally fills out all the right places while slimming down your waist.
If you love flowy styles and loose-fitting clothing, you can always add a belt to cinch your waist and elevate your look.
Styling Pear Shapes
A pear-shaped body type means that your hips are broader than your shoulders. Look for garments that elongate your body and highlight your waist and neckline. The superpower of the pear-shaped body is that any and every top will look flattering. From plunging V-necks and bell sleeves to cowl necks, you can't go wrong. Don't be afraid to wear fitted or more structured blouses for dramatic definition.
With dresses, the same rules apply. Exaggerated necklines, open backs and belts will complement your slimmer upper body. For skirts, anything with an A-line or a cut that ends right below the knee will lengthen your shape.
Last but not least, dark jeans and pants will tie your look together. Bootcut and flared styles will add balance to your proportions. And, of course, you can't forget a pair of heels and matching accessories!
Fashion for Inverted Triangles
Curves come in all shapes and sizes, including the inverted triangle or apple-shaped body type. You have this silhouette if your shoulders are broader than your hips, you don't have a well-defined waist and your curves aren't necessarily dominant in your hips. The best part about styling an outfit for this shape is that you can play with various cuts and waistline structures to highlight your favorite features.
When choosing a top, go with an A-line, tunic or relaxed look. If you want something with more structure, a substantial fabric like silk, linen and cotton will streamline your appearance. Not everyone can pull off a strapless or spaghetti-strap top or dress, but apple shapes can! Maxi and A-line styles will flatter your figure the most. You can make any skirt length work, so don't shy away from bold choices.
Who doesn't love a good skinny jean? If you fall under the inverted triangle body type, skinny jeans and leggings will elongate your silhouette and pair well with an oversized sweater or loose-fitting blouse.
Finding Fashion-Forward Styles
It's no secret among curvy fashionistas that the broadest range of affordable, flattering clothing is available online. But even nationwide retailers don't carry enough sizes or products to meet the demands of curvy women who want to be playful and stylish with their outfits. The fact of the matter is that current trends should be accessible for women of every age, body type and size — all within the same store.
Curvaceous women everywhere should feel confident and stylish every time they look in the mirror. And it starts with clothing that reflects the bold and beautiful person you are on the inside.
At Perfectly Priscilla Boutique, we offer exclusive styles and sizes for every woman, regardless of body type or size. We make all our clothing with you in mind, so you can walk out into the world every day feeling and looking like the fierce, strong woman you are.
As women who have struggled to find clothes that perfectly fit our bodies, we know what designs, cuts and materials make for a cute outfit that complements your curves. We believe prices for every size should be the same across the board — whether you are a size 2 or a size 20. And our entire catalog reflects that belief. Check out our expansive inventory of dresses, tops and bottoms for proof.
You don't have to settle for drab, uninspired patterns and fabrics anymore. We care about our customers, because we ARE the customer! From clean-cut T-shirts to rompers and party dresses, we offer an outfit for every occasion so you never have to worry about store hopping again.