X is for XXL (& Other Plus Sizing Headaches)

Kristin and Sheridan are two intrepid, young women who wear plus sizes. They ordered clothing online and revealed the disappointing results on BuzzFeed, even mimicking the model’s poses. Their comments are hilarious and their experiences showcase many plus sizing headaches. I highly recommend the piece.

This series of photos comparing trousers on a model to the way they really look is a perfect example of what all woman face. But women who wear plus sizes can expect additional plus sizing headaches:

 xxl model xxl kristin xxl sheridan

xxl model back xxl kristin xxl sheridan back

These fit the model but they don’t fit Kristin or Sheridan. That’s not surprising because “plus size” models are significantly smaller than most women who wear plus sizes. According to Plus Model Magazine:

The term ‘Plus Size’ is an industry standard that applies to any women who is over a size 12. To be even more specific, the fashion industry identifies plus size as sizes 12-24, super size as sizes 4X-6X and extended size as 7X and up.

Of course, Susan Levine (President and CEO of MSA Models) tells a different story:

Plus size caters to anyone that is size 18 to 24. A lot of the models are diversified, meaning they can do fit modeling, catalogue or showroom. A successful plus-size model must have perfect proportions for her size and she has to keep her body in check at every single moment so her size doesn’t deviate.
She also tells us:

If you have the right proportions and are 5’8 to 5’8 ½ , you can be a fit model (junior models can be a little bit shorter). Commercial plus-size models can be taller…

What she doesn’t say is what the right proportions are. Whatever they are, the plus size model will be stitched into clothing for photo shoots; runway models are chosen either because they fit particular garments or because they have a certain “look” and their clothes will be altered to fit them. She also fails to tell us that since there is no standard sizing, one manufacturer’s size 12 or 18 will be bigger or smaller than another’s. And there’s even more to the story. According to Susan Barone, owner of online plus size shop Always For Me:

Plus sizes are sizes 14W – 24W. Super sizes and extended sizes are used interchangeably for sizes 26W and above. Sometimes the size 26W is included in plus size.

A 14W is significantly bigger than a 14 misses. (There is still no industry standard for either). And women who wear plus sizes still have unique body shapes, can be petite or tall, or a combination thereof. (Women can even be plus sized on one half and regular misses or petite on the other.) Kristin seems to be plus size petite on top and probably plus size regular on bottom. Finding plus size petites are almost impossible. Sheridan seems to be plus size tall on top and plus size misses on the bottom. Most plus sized clothing for tall women would be huge on her and unsuitable for a young woman. Those in the business don’t even share the same definition for the range of sizes that make up plus sizing. Of course women who wear plus sizes have plus sizing headaches.

When a woman is size 14 (misses) and above, putting together a wardrobe that fits and suits her style is a lot of work. When illness, steroids, and other meds caused me to gain 80 pounds, I went from a 6/8 to a size that only heaven knows. But my tastes didn’t change. I still love J. Crew tops, a variety of skirts and trousers, cool jackets, and dresses. Everything should be a bit unique, even avant garde. I mix it all up and create outfits I love.

J. Crew offers some items in extended sizes which helps. But, even the smallest clothing from plus sized shops is made for women significantly larger than I am. Many shops in the US are extending their size ranges but they haven’t mastered fitting plus sizes. Or perhaps they’re each listening to a different authority. Probably, they don’t understand that women who wear plus sizes are actually many different sizes and shapes.

Since many shops carry nothing larger than a size 12 (sometimes 10), it’s almost impossible to walk into a shop and find anything that fits, at least anything I like. The best answer I’ve found thus far are some of my favourite English shops that sell online: Toast, Boden, Poetry, Wrap, and YOOX, an online discount shop selling lots of British and European designers. Many English (and some European) brands carry some or all of their regular stock in extended sizes and seem to have mastered fit better than American manufacturers. So if you’ve worn their clothing for years, you should be able to continue wearing them. (NOTE: It’s necessary to check if the sizing is US or English. English sizes are 2 or 4 sizes bigger. Each site that ships to the US has conversion instructions where necessary.) There are many online English shops in many price ranges to suit any woman’s taste. Just Google, “online English women’s wear.” English shops have great sales, just like American ones. (Toast has amazing flash and archive sales.)  If the price is quoted in pounds (£), check the conversion rate and subtract 18% (Americans don’t pay VAT).

English online shops aren’t ideal. If you’ve never worn their clothes, it’s still work to determine fit. Some shops ship from the US and often offer free returns. Many do provide actual garment measurements and offer great customer service to help women get clothing that fits. It’s still far from ideal. Ultimately, each plus size woman must determine her body shape (see here and here) and look for pieces that work for her. Searching for pieces from a variety of sources usually brings more success than trying to find everything in one shop. (That’s true for every woman.) And, to avoid plus sizing headaches, women who wear plus sizes will have to find alternative ways to have cute outfits unless results like these are acceptable:

xxl kristin skirt xxl sheridan skirt

Stay tuned for more ideas on finding cute outfits and minimizing plus sizing headaches.

3 thoughts on “X is for XXL (& Other Plus Sizing Headaches)

  1. Awesome post. I find that when trying to fit my waist and chest, the arms of blouses and legs of pants are way too long. I’ve been told that a lot of manufacturers simply make every dimension larger. But you know this. ~grin~ Your wise comments on proportions say it all. Best wishes! Thank you for visiting me at http://darlamsands.blogspot.com/ during this A to Z blog challenge. Today I am number 1179 on the list. Looks like lots of participants continue dropping off, unfortunately.

    • Unfortunately, manufacturers make clothing according to specifications that have nothing to do with the women who will actually be wearing them. Ready-to-wear really isn’t wearable. Thanks for visiting.

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