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Women's Plus Size Clothing

Get information about women's plus-size clothing.

There are many different styles available in women's plus-size clothing. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
There are many different styles available in women's plus-size clothing.

Women's plus-size clothing represents one of the fastest growing segments in retail. According to information from the Weight-control Information Network, 60 percent of American women are now classified as overweight and around half of that number are obese. With the rise in weight, there is an increasing need among women for functional, fashionable clothing designed for a fuller figure. According to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor, almost half of American women now wear a size 12 or greater, and retailers and designers have began to take notice. Plus-size clothing now offers bridal wear, formal wear, office attire, athletic apparel, lingerie and casual clothing.

Plus-Size Measurements

There are no standard sizes across manufacturers for women's plus-size clothing, but the categories generally apply:

  • XL 14-16
  • 2X 18-20
  • 3X 22-24
  • 4X 26-28
  • 5X 30-32
  • 6X 34-36
  • 7X 38-40
  • 8X 42-44
  • 9X 46-48
  • 10X 50-52

Clothing sizes larger than 3X are often classified as extended plus sizes and are more available online. Women should avoid relying on size alone when choosing plus-size clothing, as retailers use different measurements. A more accurate fit can be found by reviewing the corresponding ratios listed for bust, waist and hips.

Leading Plus-Size Retailers

The biggest name in plus-size clothing is Lane Bryant. The retail chain has been successfully selling women's plus size clothing for several decades. Its parent company, Charming Shoppe, Inc., is one of the largest specialty retailers, and also operates both Fashion Bug and Catherine's Plus Sizes. All together, the company offers over 2,000 stores across the country with catalogue and online shopping for larger women.

Another leading specialty retailer is mall-based chain Torrid, which markets plus-size apparel to teens and young adults with a hip edge. Redcats USA is one of the largest sellers of Internet and catalogue shopping for women's plus-size fashions. Their popular brands include Woman Within, Avenue, Roaman's and Jessica London.

Most brands offering plus-size clothing also feature bras, panties and other intimate apparel. However, Just My Size specializes in plus-size lingerie with an extensive stock from their own labels, Playtex, Bali, Glamorise and other leading brands.

Well-known retailers are also expanding their plus-size product lines. Old Navy, owned by Gap, Inc., offers plus-size clothing exclusively online. Discount stores including Kmart and Target now offer low-priced, fashionable clothing in plus sizes. Discount giant Wal-Mart features plus-size clothing from exclusive brand Metro-7 and other labels.

Though women's plus-size clothing has long been criticized for its lack of stylish selections, designers have begun to step up to the plate. High-end brands, Monif C and Kiyonna, cater to women needing size 14 and up. Contemporary label IGIGI offers plus-size eveningwear, career-wear and wedding gowns online and in stores.

Dress for a Fuller Figure

Thicker women should try to emphasize their best features with fitted clothing for a flattering look. Those with proportionate bodies can often wear the same looks worn by smaller women, such as sleeveless styles, cleavage baring v-neck tops, and skirts above the knee. Plus-size women can disguise a thicker waistline with a high-waisted dress. Look for boot-cut or wide-leg pants to slim chunkier legs and balance the upper and lower body. Women with fleshy arms can choose tops with voluminous sleeves. Black and monochrome colors work to slim any woman's shape and plus-size curves look flattering in empire waist tops with gathering. With the growth of women's plus-size clothing, all women can find styles that compliment their bodies and budgets.

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