How Plus Size Clothing Sizing Works

plus_size_shoppingThese days, there are more plus size clothing options than ever before.  Although this is fantastic in terms of expanding your wardrobe, it’s downright confusing when it comes to understanding your size.  The sizing uncertainty comes from the fact that plus size clothing manufacturers actually use several different sizing systems to describe their garments.  Fortunately, understanding your proper size is as simple as figuring out how these systems compare.

Three Different Sizing Systems for Plus Sizes

As you shop, you’ll encounter clothing with a simple numerical size, such as 20, as well as pieces with a numerical size and the letter “W.”  To make things even more complicated, you’ll also see general sizes like 2X or XXL.

  •  Misses’ Sizes – Plus size clothing items that are sized with a simple number, such as 18, 20, or 22, are often called “misses” sizes. You’ll sometimes see them on more youthful looks, but some retailers stick to this type of sizing for all their pieces.  Some clothing lines consider anything a size 14 or above a “plus” size, while others start their plus sizing at a 16 or 18.
  • Women’s Sizes – Other pieces are sized with a number followed by the letter “W.”  This “W” stands for women’s sizing, and in general, it means that the clothing is cut with a looser, more relaxed fit.  These clothing lines are often made for those with more generous curves and may have more ample bust and hip areas, too. Occasionally, brands add a “Plus” or a “+” after their sizing; this usually means the same thing as a “W.
  • X Sizes – The X sizing system, such as 2X or XXL is more all-encompassing, and you’ll most often find it in pieces that don’t have a tailored fit. It is very commonly used for knits and items with more give that require less exacting fits.

Plus Size Sizing Chart

Each manufacturer is unique, and the sizing comparison is not exact.  However, you can use this general chart to help gauge your size in each of the sizing systems.

Bust Waist Hip Women’s Size Misses’ Size Letter Size
43.5 36 46 16W 18 1X/XL
45.5 38 48 18W 20 2X/XXL
47.5 40.5 50.5 20W 22
49.5 43 53 22W 24 3X/XXXL
51.5 45.5 55.5 24W 26
54.5 48.5 57.5 26W 28 4X
57 51.5 59.5 28W

How Misses’ and Women’s Sizes Compare

Most manufacturers will carry either misses’ or women’s sizes, so this can help avoid confusion.  However, some do carry items in both sizing ranges and even have overlap. So, it’s important to understand the differences between these two sizing systems, especially if you’re shopping online.

In many cases, a women’s size is roughly equivalent to the next misses’ size up.  For example, an 18W is similar to a misses’ size 20.

Some other general rules for sizing these items include:

  • A women’s size garment is cut more generously in the waist, hips, and bottom, making it more generously proportioned in these areas than its misses’ size counterpart.
  • The bust difference between misses’ plus size clothing and corresponding women’s sizes is smaller, although women’s sizes may run fuller.  The exact difference depends on the manufacturer.
  • Pants or jeans in women’s sizes may also have a taller rise than those with misses’ sizing.

Where the X Sizes Fit In

X sizes, such as XL, XXL or 2X, encompass more than one numerical size.  You’ll almost always find this system in knitwear and other relaxed fits, since it doesn’t offer the exact dimensions required for tailored pieces.  For instance, a woven dress or business suit will usually feature a misses’ or women’s size, while a sweater or a pair of pajama pants usually uses the X size.

An XL is usually equivalent to a 1X and an XXL is like a 2X. In brands that carry a 0X, it usually falls between a Large and Extra Large, but will often have the more generous hip proportions of a women’s size item.

Understanding How “Ease” Changes a Fit

You may have noticed that some pieces are more form-fitting than others, even if they carry the exact same sizing label.  That’s because some garments are built with “ease” or extra room, creating a comfortable and sometimes, more modest, garment.

If a piece is described using one of the following terms, it probably has a looser fit for its size:

  • “Relaxed fit”
  • “Oversize”
  • “Comfort fit”
  • “Loose”

Adding in Tall and Petite

Curvy women come in all different heights, and clothing manufacturers realize this.  That’s why you’ll also see petite and tall sizes for the full range of plus size clothing.

  • Tall sizes are generally made to fit women taller than 5’8″.  They feature longer inseams, sleeves, and torsos, and often, the waist is slightly lower as well.
  • Petite sizes fit women shorter than 5’4″ and feature shorter inseams, sleeves, and torsos.  You may also see differences in armhole size and waist placement.

For tall items, the size may be tagged with a “T” or “Tall” after the size number, for example you may see a size 18W Tall or a Size 2XT.

Petite sizes are often labelled with a “P,” “Petite” or “Short” designation.  So, a size 14WP would be a women’s size 14 petite.

Clothing that Fits and Flatters

Taking the time to understand the different sizing systems can help you find plus size clothing that fits perfectly and flatters your shape.   Always check the manufacturer’s size chart when shopping online to be sure your measurements line up with the size you order.

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