About a year and a half ago I did not know I was considered plus size. In fact, I was not aware that a specific term existed for certain size ranges. All I knew was that I wore a size 16/18 and that I was having difficulty finding pieces that fit my size and style choices. So, I made the decision to start my own clothing brand and create what I needed and wanted all along. It was then that I discovered the term for the business niche: plus size. My experience has a lot to do with my absence from social media, so for those who are active in the social networks the term plus size is not unknown. But for someone like myself who chose books and in person interactions in the boom of social media, the term plus size was non-existent. So, if you have been wondering what size range is considered plus; lets dive right in.
When it comes to sizes there is two types: alpha and numeric. Alpha would be the L, XL, 6xl etc. Numeric would be a 14,18,36 etc. The first type is used in clothing that has stretch and numeric is used in garments that have very little stretch or are fitted. You can see in the chart below the corresponding numeric sizing for each alpha size.
Most clothing brands in the U.S define plus sizes as a size 14 and above. However, some brands include a size 12 in plus sizes. So, if you struggle to find a size 12 in certain stores you might find it in a store or brand that caters to plus sizes. Now, the million-dollar question is why doesn’t every brand cater to plus sizes or better yet why can’t they just be inclusive? Unfortunately, I cannot answer that question with exactitude as I am not a mind reader, nor do I partake in their meetings. But what I can offer you are insights into what goes on in the making of a garment.
First, designers create what is known as a sample size for runway shows in a size 0 to 4. This sample size will then be graded to get more sizes. However, an issue that accompanies grading is that you can only go up so many sizes before the garments fit starts to be distorted. Hence, why most luxury designers only carry up to a size 10 or 12. Also, not every pattern maker knows how to make plus size patterns. The majority are used to the formulas for smaller sizes such as a size 6. Diving into a new size range means a brand must now invest into training or hiring of skilled individuals and doubling the cost of sample making.
If the cost itself is not a problem for a brand, their niche is. Every business has a persona, muse, or ideal customer they cater to. Most luxury brands have chosen to cater to smaller size ranges and their muses, i.e., supermodels represent their ideal customer. I know this is upsetting for many, feeling excluded from something so basic as clothing. That is why I decided to start South Elevation, to fill the need of women like myself.
Now back to sizes, if you are unsure of your size the best way to find out is to measure yourself. You can buy a measuring soft tape pretty much anywhere. The three most important measurements are the bust, waist and hips. Below you can find the standard measurements for plus sizes, the image is from Alvanon. I recommend to always look at a brands size chart to see where your measurements are. Also, some brands share the garment measurements while other share body measurements, so watch out for that!
I hope this has brought you some clarity as to what sizes are considered plus or extended. I know firsthand how disappointing it can be when a garment does not fit properly. Especially when you bought it last minute for a special occasion! So, understanding the two types of sizes and what measurements go into each one might bring some peace to the often-frustrating experience of shopping. Remember that no matter what size you wear, you are and will always be altogether beautiful. There is more to the human experience that the exterior things.