What Is Plus Size? [Sizing Guide Inside]

When shopping for clothes, it’s clear that the fashion industry tends to cater toward smaller and leaner body types. And while there’s a push for more inclusivity from fashion retailers, it can still be a challenge for curvy women to find clothing that fits them. Enter: the plus size clothing realm. If your body type has you struggling to find clothes that fit right, you might start to wonder – what exactly does plus size mean, and how do I know if it’s right for me?

Keep reading to discover what plus size really means and why you should embrace it like you’re Ashley Graham.

What Does Plus Size Mean?

The term “plus size” is almost entirely exclusive to the fashion industry. When articles of clothing, such as jumpsuits, leggings, or shirts, extend beyond “average” sizes, they are referred to as women’s plus size clothing. 

Outside of the realm of retailers, plus size refers to a woman that has a curvy or voluptuous body type. Their body shape tends to have larger proportions, although the weight lies differently from woman to woman.

For example, some plus size women may not like being called “curvy” because their body type does not fit the hourglass body shape typically associated with that term. Instead, they would prefer the term “voluptuous” or “full-figured,” both of which are positive ways of describing a woman with bigger body measurements.

Some would argue that plus size refers to the “average American woman,” seeing as studies have shown that the average clothing size for women over 20 is 14 (which is considered a plus-sized number). However, it’s essential to keep in mind that the right weight for one woman isn’t the right weight for another, and trying to jumble every woman into an “average” is almost impossible.

Others make the argument that plus size refers to an unhealthy size. While self-love and inclusivity are putting these rumors to rest, it’s essential to understand why plus size doesn’t automatically equate to being “unhealthy.”

Health experts encourage women to keep a waist size below 35 inches. Most clothing stores design size 14 pants or jeans with a 34-inch waist — which falls in the “healthy body” recommendations. The same is true for waist-to-hip ratio recommendations. The ideal ratio is 0.85, and a size 14 typically lands around 0.76 — again, proving that a plus size figure is still entirely healthy.

What Is Considered Plus Size?

Typically, most clothing lines will state plus size clothing as size 18 and above or range from 1X to 6X. Sometimes, retailers will also offer sizes extending beyond 7X, although this is more challenging to find.

However, while this is the average description of plus size clothing, it is not definite. Every retailer is different. Torrid, for example, is a well-known plus size clothing line that starts at size 10. 

The fashion industry makes the description of plus size even more challenging to understand. For example, a New York fashion show might have plus-sized models that are a US size six. These measurements are not typical of a plus size model, as a size six has a waist size of 26 inches and a hip size of 37 inches.Due to the push of self-love on social media platforms, the size six plus size models are becoming a thing of the past (for most clothing lines). Now, plus size models are taking center stage and showing what plus size really means. Take Ashley Graham, for example. This stunner wears a size 14/16 and has modeled everything from trendy dresses to swimsuits and has been featured in many commercials, including a controversial Lane Bryant one.

How Do I Know If I Am Plus Size?

If it is becoming a struggle to find clothing that fits you in “straight sizes” (otherwise known as the average 0-12 size range), then it might be time to dip into the world of plus size fashion. However, going from a “straight size” to a “plus size” can be a bit trickier than you might think.

A clothing store trying to be more inclusive may offer a larger size for plus-sized gals, sometimes extending their size range up to 22. These are known as “extended sizes.” On the other hand, specific plus size clothing runs from 12 to 22 or 32. Extended sizes and plus-sized options won’t fit the same.

But why? It all comes down to grading.

As much as we’d like to think it, designers typically won’t measure for every size. Instead, they choose an “in-between” size. For straight sizes with extended options, a size 8 model is typically used. For plus size, a size 18 model is used. The designer will create a sample size using the models, then make them smaller or larger to accommodate other sizes.

That said, a plus size model will likely share the exact proportions and curves as you rather than a straight size model that might not have much extra weight. 

Thanks to grading, it can be challenging to find plus size clothing. Grading is always responsible for every brand fitting differently. Since no two models are alike, all clothing adjustments will be different even if they are the same size (8 or 18).

Essentially, there are three ways to know if you should be wearing plus-sized clothing:

  • Average sizes aren’t fitting or not fitting correctly
  • You’ve done some trial and error trying on straight extended sizes, plus sizes, and plus sizes fit better
  • Your body measurements are suitable for plus-sized clothing

Plus Size Chart

Perhaps the best way to know whether or not you’re plus size is to get your body measurements. Then, you can line it up with the clothing store you’re trying to buy clothes from. Each retailer will have its specific measurements for the best fit. However, here are some basic guidelines for body measurements and their complementing plus sizes.

SizeSize EquivalentBust (Inches)Waist (Inches)Hips (Inches)

Again, these are just the “average” measurements for plus size clothing. It is imperative to look up sizing charts for the clothing store you’re attempting to buy from. For example, ASOS lists their size 14 as a 38-inch bust, 30-inch waist, and 40-inch hip, which is much smaller than the chart listed above.

Why You Should Embrace Being Plus Size

Some people associate “plus size” with negative connotations, primarily due to the demeaning beauty standards of the fashion industry. To hear or learn that you are plus-sized may be a whirlwind at first. But if plus-sized influencers and bloggers have taught us anything, it’s the critical aspect of body positivity. Here’s why you should embrace your beautiful body, babe.

  • You’re gorgeous, no matter your size. Sure, some magazines might say that particular articles of clothing, like 14-size dresses and crop tops, shouldn’t be worn. We say, no way. You are gorgeous no matter your size and free to wear whatever you want. Go ahead and jump on those new arrivals, honey, even if it’s out of the “average size category.” Rock it!
  • Confidence is attractive. You have heard this time and time again. Why? Because it’s true. You can be a size 2 or 22 and be insecure. You can be a size 2 or 22 and be confident. But confidence is going to radiate and make you even more beautiful and charming, putting nay-sayers back in their place.
  • You stand out. The “standard” of beauty might say you need to be a specific size, but you’re not standard. You’re a vibrant, beautiful woman that goes above and beyond. Sure, you might stand out from the crowd, and who said that had to be a bad thing? Enjoy all eyes on you and rock that beautifully curvy and/or voluptuous figure. 
  • You can enjoy good food. I’m not telling you to throw caution to the wind and eat 400 cookies in one sitting or five Big Macs. However, having a plus size body means you can enjoy food without being overcome with anxiousness or worry about your weight. Everything in modesty!

There’s more of you to love. The more, the merrier. That phrase is used so commonly when talking about things like money, presents, food, etc. Why can’t it be used to describe humans, too? You have a little extra weight. So what? That means there is more of you to love (and plenty of people love it — trust me!)

The Bottom Line

Plus size refers to women that don’t fit in the “average” size category, and that’s okay. Having a voluptuous body frame is nothing to be ashamed about. The best way to enjoy and love your body is to find clothes that fit you and style as you’ve never styled before. Ignore the negativity, whether it’s on TV or social media. Instead, embrace body positivity and follow plus size influencers and bloggers designed to pump you up and make you feel fab — no matter your size.

Frequently Asked Questions

By now, you should know (almost) everything you need to know about plus size fashion and body types. But if you’re still on the fence about being a plus size expert, check out these frequently asked questions

Is size 12 plus size?

Generally speaking, a size 12 is not considered plus size in America. Although this size is regarded as a “standard” size, many women have expressed difficulty finding clothes at this size, as fashion is typically made with a more petite frame in mind. For this reason, the term “mid-size” was coined, typically referring to women sizes 8-14.

It’s worth noting, however, that sizing differs greatly depending on your location. A size 12 (or equivalent) may be considered plus size in other countries.

What is the most common size for plus sizes?

As of right now, the most common size for plus sizes is 14 and 16. Some research has shown that 14 and 16 are the most common sizes for the majority of women. Again, every woman is different, so it’s hard to pinpoint which size is genuinely the most common. However, 14 and 16 sizes tend to be best-sellers.

What is the largest size available as a plus size?

A lot of plus size clothing stores will cap out around 5X and 6X. But what about those beautiful babes that need 7X? Are they entirely out of luck? Of course, not! There are a few great brands that sell super trendy clothes for size 7X (40/42). Universal Standard, Daily Ritual, and Ulla Popken are three top-notch shops for extra-extended sizes. Always for Me, and Big and Tall can go up to 8X.

What is the difference between plus size and regular size?

Regular size clothing refers to sizes ranging from 0 to 12 or 14, although we learned earlier that some brands now go up to 22 (extended sizes). Though their extended sizes do not fit the same as plus size brands, they’re based on size eight models. Plus size refers to sizes 14 and up, although some brands will go as low as size 10 or 12.

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