You probably grew up hearing the term plus size in relation to clothing sizes. If you thought you understood the way sizing was labeled under the banner of plus size clothing, you might then be confused with alternate terms that float through the fashion industry, such as the label “size-inclusive.” No matter what sizes you generally wear (although sizes are largely inconsistent across the fashion industry), it’s important to understand the differentiation between plus size and size-inclusive because, as you surely know, the sizes you generally wear can vary greatly from one clothing brand to another. And in this day and age where people understand that labels that exclude people groups are damaging, but where different sizes still need to be distinguished from each other somehow, it matters that everyone is on the same page.
The difference between plus size and size-inclusive clothing in the fashion industry is probably not what you think, because it has less to do with the labeling of sizes and more with the identifiers people can relate to and understand. You’re incredibly curious to understand the nuances between these terms, so keep reading as we dive in!
What Exactly Is the Difference Between Plus Size and Size-Inclusive Fashion?
In order to distinguish between these two labels that are often used in the fashion industry, we need to ensure we have a clear understanding of what each term refers to on its own. You are probably more familiar with the meaning of plus size, and yet, its meaning has shifted somewhat over the years. Let’s examine the definition of plus size clothing.
What Does Plus Size Mean?
In the past, “plus size” has simply been a label for clothing that was in a larger sizing standard than the non-plus size clothing. The term first surfaced in the 1920s and picked up popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. When it comes to shopping for clothing, plus sizes are those above size 16. In more recent decades, plus size has also been used to refer to the people who wear plus sizes; this has not always been a positive label, since plus sizes begin at size 16 but most women in America wear between a size 16-18. Today, it’s important to know that plus size can also be a term people choose to identify with. This is a way for those who have long felt excluded from the fashion industry because of the term to take ownership of the label.
What Is Important When It Comes to Plus Size Fashion?
One complaint that women who shop the plus size ranges have frequently shared is the way many clothing brands offer completely different styles for their plus size clothes versus their straight size ones. Instead of offering the same trendy, sexy, or sophisticated designs in larger sizes, plus size clothing is often entirely separate and those pieces are frumpy, bland, or unappealing. It’s important for clothing brands to make their stylish fashions in extended sizes for everyone to wear, because it shouldn’t be up to the company to decide what styles look good on what bodies—that is up to the wearer. Be sure to support brands that make their same pieces for plus size people.
What Does Size-Inclusive Mean?
Size-inclusive is not a sizing reference at all, like plus size is, but is instead an understanding that bodies are diverse. Companies that are size-inclusive are ones that recognize the fashion industry’s confusing, non-standardized way of identifying sizes that historically hasn’t accounted for the full range of body types. Size-inclusivity in the fashion industry can look like many things. For one, advertisements that represent a diverse type of bodies and people are examples of size-inclusivity. Another example is, as mentioned above, clothing brands that make the same pieces in both their standard and larger sizes rather than creating a separate plus size line.
Size-inclusive as a term has recently gained traction as people have called out major clothing retailers for not recognizing the diversity of the human body. The focus of size-inclusive fashion is acceptance and inclusivity in an industry that has long followed practices of exclusion.
As you can see, the differentiation between the terms plus size and size-inclusive is important to know for a few reasons. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings and context. Whereas plus size is a way to label clothing made for women of larger sizes than the standardized “straight sizes,” it is also a title people can choose to identify with as a way to take power over perception. Size-inclusive is an overarching model that empowers women in their diverse bodies and aims to make the fashion industry more inclusive.
The next time you go shopping—no matter the sizes you wear—remember that many clothing companies are making meaningful steps towards a more positive fashion community, one design at a time.