What is Plus Size Clothing?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Plus size clothing tends to refer to clothing made for women who wear a size 14 in the US or 16 in the UK, The market for this form of clothing has gradually increased since its inception in the early 1900s. Prior to that, most clothing was not ready to wear and the majority of people made their own garments or had them tailored to accommodate various sizes. This is far less common in industrialized nations now, and most people buy premade clothing in designated sizes.

Women who wear plus size clothing may find a greater selection on line or through catalogs.
Women who wear plus size clothing may find a greater selection on line or through catalogs.

There are many manufacturers dedicated solely to producing plus size clothing, and also quite a few that make plus size or “womens” size clothes for brands that create “regular” size clothes. Some stores feature only larger sizes, and many of them have become popular destinations for women who wear plus sizes.

Plus size clothing is available in many stores and online.
Plus size clothing is available in many stores and online.

Early plus size clothing could be hard to find, and many women had to order by catalog. Moreover, a trend existed toward creating blousy or “tented” looks that did nothing to celebrate the figures and beauty of women with curves. This sensibility has gradually changed as many manufacturers now realize that clothing that fits and is not overly large tends to be much more flattering than clothing that hides the figure. Many companies have capitalized on this trend, producing fashionable, figure flattering clothing.

Larger sizes may be a little difficult to understand, since they can vary by manufacturer. Some plus sizes are designated as women’s clothing and a W may follow size number. Typically, sizes can go from a 12W to 14W up to 30W or greater. Sizes skip odd numbers, so they don't usually include 13s or 15s; some clothing marketed to teens is sized in odd numbers instead of even ones.

A 14W is likely to be larger in cut around the waist, stomach, and hips than is a regular size 14. The degree of difference between the sizes may or may not be significant. Each manufacturer uses its own measurements to determine plus sizes and, as with most brands, women will notice that some manufacturers’ sizes run smaller or larger than average.

Another way of sizing plus size clothing is in Xs. Clothes may be designated 1X, 2X, and 3X or larger. Though this is now always the case, 1X typically corresponds to a size 14W to 16W, 2X to an 18W to 20W, and 3X to a 22W to 24W. There are noted differences, however, and women should try on clothing to make sure that it fits correctly.

For women looking for plus size styles, the best bet when ordering from catalogs is to check sizing charts against personal measurements. Of course, the availability of larger clothes in stores adds an additional safeguard, since women can try on various sizes to see which ones fit the best.

Pencil skirts can be very flattering on plus size figures.
Pencil skirts can be very flattering on plus size figures.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I am very grateful for your common sense explanation, which allows me to have a better understanding of plus size clothing. I really like the products in a shop. More importantly, The dress is great, it feels very good when you get it, it is comfortable to wear, and the delivery speed is fast.


I really appreciate your common sense explanations. I have been online for about two hours now looking for some jeans. My problem is my shape doesn't run to the size charts, so I'm leery of ordering then being disappointed.

My belly is my problem; it's large and flabby (I blame the c-section). Anyway, my belly measures larger than my hips but the best fit jeans I have found are a size 16L. The waist and everything fit great. So thanks to your information I will try to order a 2x and see what happens. Thanks again. RJ


I live in the Netherlands and I wish to order a women's blouse (in plain color or in stripes), e.g. one advertised by Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren or Gant, (size 14, US, size 16 UK). When I order a blouse (without the remark "slim fit") I expect to receive a "regular fit one". This is not always the case. Please advise.


Cafe41-also wanted to let you know that Catherine’s is a well-known women’s plus size store.

It sells stylish plus size clothing for women in size is 16W to 34W.

They sell everything from lingerie, pants, blouses and dresses for plus size women.


Suntan12- I wanted to mention that stores like JCPenney, Wet Seal and American Outfitters also offer junior plus size clothing.

The sizes range from zero to double XXL which is size 20. The plus size clothing in these stores are similar to the regular juniors clothing found everywhere else.


Anon29835- I also think the writer really explained the sizes very well.I just want to say that Stores like Lane Bryant sell trendy plus size clothing for women that wear larger sizes.

They sell casual clothing like shorts and swimwear as well as more formal business attire like suits and dresses.

They also sell evening gowns and really follow the fashion trends that are available in most department stores. The only difference is that the clothing is made for larger sizes.

The size usually ranges from size 14 and up. Many women enjoy shopping at Lane Bryant because they offer designer plus size clothing which allows them to dress like everyone else.

They are not limited to certain fabrics like plus size ladies clothing was in the past. The wide variety of fashionable plus size clothing at Lane Bryant makes this store very popular.


I like your explanation of the differences between the sizes. I am not accustomed to shopping at plus size stores. I did not realize that a 1x was like a size 14. However, at a clothing store I did randomly try a 1x and I realize it fit better than a 14 or XL. I was wondering what it all meant and now that I read this page I understand. Thank you for the information. I had to look around a lot before I found this, but I am very glad, because now I am better informed. thank you.

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