Women's Sizes for a
long time were the only cut type referred to as "plus-size"
and the two were regularly used interchangeably. It's still one
of the most common, but that is no longer the case as other
cut types have been extended upwards in their size range
above a size 13/14 in recent years. Originally mainly
more classic in style to appeal to older women, this also is
no longer true, and women's sizes can come in anything from
classic to trendy styles.
Sizes are even numbered, generally beginning at a 14 or 16
in most brands, but it is possible to find Women's Sizes as
small as a 10 in some plus specialty designer lines.
The key to understanding if this is the cut being
represented is the use of a "W" at the end of the numerical
size. For example: 20W. Almost all "super sizes"
(26W+), with the exception of formalwear, will be this cut
Women's Sizes are
cut with some key fit components. First, arm holes
should be more generous. A common tip off that pattern
fitting and grading hasn't been done properly during
production in a brand is problems with the arms, but if the
garment is a true women's size arm holes should be lower and
larger. There is also more room in the bust area, and
again lower. Meanwhile, waists are more generously cut
in this fit type as well. This tends to be the best
cut type for apple shaped figures. Sometimes a top or
bottom in this cut will suit other figure types especially
well, for example, if a customer is especially busty.
Ironically, the larger arm hole is most important for figure
types that carry extra weight in their arms which is not
always true of apples, and more common in some others that
may or may not need the extra room in the bust or waist
None of this means that a garment cannot be fitted and
figure hugging, it merely indicates how the piece is cut.
More problematic is the common usage of more generic size
labeling that uses the 1X, 2X, 3X, etc system. This
can refer to several cut types, and furthermore which
numerical sizes are encompassed in each depends on the
designer. The best retailers will indicate which
sizes correlate with which. For example: 1X (14-16W),
or 1X (16-18W). Occasionally a retailer may try to use
vanity sizing in this system, starting with a Small which is
really the bottom of their plus-size range. Often this
causes more confusion for the customer, especially with new
customers and can be off putting. Again, savvy
retailers will include a numerical size equivalent in the
size selection menu. For example: M (16-18W). It's an
ill advised strategy to make women feel good about
themselves that more often than not back fires when it comes
to knowing what size to order on-line, but it is
important to know that this size labeling variation is out
The Misses cut is the one
most straight size clothing is available in. Styles tend to be
classic to contemporary, although trendier detailing can also be
seen occasionally. Most ideal for evenly balanced figure
types, the waist to hip ratio is closer to the classic hour glass in
proportion. Pear shaped women often also do better with this
cut type if they can find it in their size, although frequently take
different sizes top and bottom. Larger hour glass figure types
can run into trouble with this cut if they carry extra weight in the
upper arm and thighs, as the pattern grading rarely takes this into
account in Misses Sizes.
Also designated by even
numbers, Misses Sizes do not carry the "W" at the end. A
Misses Size 14 will fit differently than a Women's Size 14W, and it
is not unusual to wear a larger numerical size in Misses than in
Women's in order to accommodate for particular figure issues such as
heavier upper arms, thicker thighs, or a less well defined waist.
Misses Sizes used to end at
a 12 or 14 in most clothing lines, and still do in exclusive, high
end designer wear, but a growing number of low to mid market level
clothing lines have been extended to include sizes 16, 18 and even
size 20. Formalwear can come as large as a 32 in the Misses
cut, and hence the reputation for formalwear running small. The
average woman in the United States wear a size 14-16, so it is not a
surprise that many lines have expanded to include these sizes.
Fits, however, can be a little funky if pattern grading isn't
tweaked somewhat at the upper sizes. For example arm lengths
can be excessively long in proportion if the designer has failed to
pay attention to fit details. When using the non-numerical
system XL, XXL, XXXL is usually used for the upper sizes.
Again, savvy on-line retailers will indicated which numerical sizes
are being included in each of these designations. It is not unusual
for retailers that carry some styles in the Misses cut larger than a
14 but not all to use the term "Extended Sizes" in their menu
navigation to find the styles available. This term can also be
used for Talls and Petites, as well.
Another issue that is
starting to crop up is that as the Plus Market heats up, some
manufacturers and designers are entering without separate fittings
for their plus-size lines. Instead they are simply grading up
Misses cut patterns and slapping a Women's Size label on them.
Fit problems almost always ensue and the line eventually is
discontinued as unsuccessful. Unfortunately it is rarely
recognized as a fit problem, and is often blamed on plus-size women
themselves being uninterested in shopping.
Junior Plus Sizes
Clothing made in Junior
Sizes is the trendiest and often some of the least expensive in
fabric quality and materials. Who wants to spend a fortune on
something that is going to be out of style tomorrow, right?
But the cut is also very different. The idea is that
younger (junior) bodies are less well developed than older women's
so have fewer curves. If you look around you know this not to
be true, but it is how the cut evolved. Consequently, the cut
is straighter with less room in the bust and thighs, and less of a
difference between hip and waist than either the Misses or Women's
Junior Sizes are designated
numerically with odd numbers, although sometimes it is designated as
a dual odd/even pairing. For example: Size 15/16. The even
number is closer to a Misses size than a Women's, meaning Junior
cuts appear to run smaller. This can be especially confusing
when the 1X, 2X, 3X system is in place as a 3X may be as small as a
19/20 so be sure to check sizing charts. Easiest to understand
is on a junior trendy site which extends it's sizes upward to Junior
Plus and uses the XL, XXL, XXXL system which is an instant flag that
the sizing will run smaller than 1X, 2X, 3X and to be careful to
check charts. A good example of this is teen trendy retailers like
Alloy. However, many
department stores carry Junior Plus Sizes using the 1X, 2X system
but will flag a garment as a Junior cut. Meanwhile some trendy retailers
Forever 21 will use 1X, 2X as size
designations but customer
feedback and social media discussions often flag it as running
small. This is because they are, in fact, Junior Plus Sizes.
Somewhat confusing are trendy plus retailers like
Deb Shops that use the
Women's Size cut discussed above, so be aware that style is no
longer an automatic give away to cut type. The best policy is
to check size charts, and know your measurements, especially with
Extended Specialty Sizes
Retailers can use the
"Extended Sizes" category in their web navigation to mean a number
of things. If it is a retailer or designer who is known for
regular Misses Sizes, it may simply be where to find the Plus-Size
section. However, it can also be where to find styles
available on the site available larger than a size 24 (Super Sizes),
Talls, and Petites, depending upon the retailer.
Petite Plus Sizes can
either be based on the Women's Size cut or the Misses Size cut,
depending on the retailer. For example, those found at a
plus-specialty retailer like
Catherine's will all be based on
the Women's cut, while those at a retailer like
Old Pueblo Traders are actually
extended Misses Petite cuts. Look for the "W" in the sizing to
differentiate. For example: 24WP is a Women's Petite, while
18P is a Misses Petite.
Petite Sizes have some
other factors that make them different as well. If a pair of
pants or jeans are designated "Short", they are merely shorter in
inseam. However, if they are a true Petite the fit will be
different in other areas as well. Rises on pants will be
shorter, waists and bust lines placed with petite proportions in
mind, and sleeve lengths shorter. True Petites also tend to
run slightly smaller than their Misses or Women's counterparts, so
it is not unusual to have to go up a size in Petites.
The average height of the American woman is 5'4", so it is
surprising that there aren't more Petite Sizes available. Many
make do with approximate fits and hemming, but with some looking
there are options out there, mainly in classic styles.
Tall Plus sizes are
probably the hardest sizes to find. Like Petite Plus they are
available in Women's and Misses derived cuts. Talls are usually
designed for women 5'9" or taller, although more plus specialty
brands design with shorter customers in mind with pant and hem
lengths more suitable for women 5'6" and shorter, closer to national
averages. This can cause extra problems for taller women when
buying off the rack. A few plus specialty retailers like
Avenue regularly carry Tall Plus
sizes up to 32WT in pants, while companies like
Eddie Bauer will offer true Talls
based on the Misses cut in a wider variety of clothing types.
"Longs" or longer
than average inseam lengths in pants and jeans are also available.
However, true Talls have higher rises, waists and busts placed with
tall proportions in mind, and longer sleeve, and shirt hem lengths.
It is rare for a Tall specialty retailer to offer larger than a 20T,
although if anyone is likely to wear larger sizes it's tall women.
Unlike petites, the solution to fit problems are not a quick hemming
job at the tailor. The answer, as frustrating as it may seem
is being extra aware of skirt, dress and pant hem and inseam lengths
in product descriptions and where they will fall on your body.
Some brands do design with inseam lengths suitable for medium talls,
so don't discount regular plus-size offerings entirely. Maxi dress
and maxi skirt trends also offer opportunities to find longer
lengths than are usually available.
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