What is considered a plus size? It shouldn't be hard to define, but it is. Sizes vary from retail store to retail store. And it seems like every article you read about what size makes a woman a “plus size” says something different.
A plus size is supposed to be anything above size 12. Seriously. That's, like, most of the United States. Yet fashion designers, retail buyers and retail stores have been really slow to catch onto this fact.
The problem is that sizes aren't consistent from brand to brand. A size 14 in one line of clothing may be an 18 in another. It gets very confusing. Add in that most online stores have their own sizing, or even worse, carry a bunch of different designers that each have their own sizing. Next thing you know the link you're clicking on the most is that “size guide” link on every single item you're looking at. And then, there's that disappointment when you realize they don't even carry a plus size.
So, how can you stay on top of which measurements make a woman a plus size? And which measurements do you even need?
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If you like to shop for clothes a lot, the easiest thing to do is periodically take your bust, waist and hip measurements. Then you can look at sizing charts to figure out your size in a particular line of clothing. You could probably end up with three different sizes from one department store.
Why do women have all these inconsistent sizes? According to Slate, the government sent out statisticians in the 1940s to measure a bunch of women to come up with standard sizes. They realized (duh!) that women were too many different shapes and sizes to standardize. So the National Institute of Standards and Technology basically told designers to make their sizes whatever they wanted, totally arbitrarily.
My husband has often remarked how much easier it would be if women's sizes worked like men's. You measure your waist and the length of your legs and boom! You know which pair of pants to buy. Not so in the women's department. Torrid‘s plus sizes are single digits, whereas other stores, like Lane Bryant, have double digits. It's never the same!
That's why size is merely a number, not a judgement. Don't let that stupid number work on your head. It wasn't until I was an adult that I figured out that 1) no one else knows the number on the tag of whatever I'm wearing and 2) going up one size usually makes you look thinner. If you're busting out of a shirt, everyone will be staring at your buttons, waiting for one of them to pop. If you wear a shirt that fits, they're just going to think you look smashing.
Don't worry about shopping in stores that are labeled “plus size.” If you feel good, and think you look good, that's the only measurement you'll ever need.