What Is Size Inclusivity? – Can We Stop Saying “Plus Size” Now?

What Is Size InclusivityWhy do we even say, “Plus Size”? I read somewhere that a model was asked about being plus size in this growing market, and the model says, what do they mean by “plus size”? Plus what? And I have seen the term “straight size” being thrown around as the opposite of plus size. What does that mean? Why do we have to differentiate between the two? Is there some imaginary line that puts you into a “normal” category vs. an “abnormal” category? This is why we are trying to promote “size inclusivity”. What is size inclusivity, you ask? I will try to answer that, so please read on….

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What does size inclusive mean?

Size inclusive means that, no matter how you look – short, tall, big, small, athletic, curvy, flat, plus size – you will not be discriminated against based on your size. When it comes to clothes, it means a brand is trying to cover as many sizes as possible, and doesn’t just cater to one figure. That means no body shaming. Or only having “cute” designs in the petite sizes. Or only carrying the supposed “average size” (which makes bra shopping an absolute nightmare).

What Is Size InclusivityWhy is size inclusivity important?

“Size inclusive means that my short, gorgeously curvy friend and I can shop in the same place, and both of us will have options and a positive shopping experience. Body positivity starts with each individual person learning to love the body they are in, but it definitely helps if the clothes that are available make them feel comfortable, sexy, athletic, etc. (and not claustrophobic, uncomfortable, or like they’re wearing a tent).” From Parfait Lingerie

Definition of “Plus Size”

Plus size clothing is clothing proportioned specifically for people whose bodies are larger than the average person’s. The application of the term varies from country to country, and according to which industry the person is involved in.

According to PLUS Model magazine; “In the fashion industry, plus size is identified as sizes 10-14, super size as sizes 1X-6X and extended size as 7X and up” The article continues “Susan Barone shared, ‘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’.”

What Is Size InclusivitySuch clothing has also been called outsize in Britain, a term that has been losing favor. One example of this is the renaming of “Evans Outsize” to simply “Evans”, as well as losing their advertising slogan “Evans – The Outsize Shop”, which also featured on their clothing labels. A related term for men’s plus-size clothing is big and tall (a phrase also used as a trademark in some countries).

A relatively new alternative term for plus size (or large size) gaining consumer and editorial favor is curvy. In a euphemistic sense, curvy is regarded as less offensive to those that wear larger sized clothes. There is evidence of this term gaining media and market traction. In current media use, while curvy can appear less offensive, it appears to associate with a younger style of dressing than plus size or larger size when used as a general reference term. This is from Wikipedia

As you can see, Wikipedia has not gotten the memo on “inclusivity” yet. But from what I understand, “Inclusivity” is a fairly new term when it comes to clothing sizes.


Lane Bryant began trading in the early 1900s as a producer of clothing for “Expectant Mothers and Newborn”‘. By the early 1920s, Lane Bryant started selling clothing under the category ‘For the Stout Women’, which ranged between a 38-56 inch bustline. Evans, a UK-based plus-size retailer, was founded in 1930.

The large-size fashion revolution of 1977–1998 in the US began after the Fashion Group of NYC released a study predicting the demise of the Baby Boomer Junior Market, as the Boomers were coming of age. Mary Duffy’s Big Beauties was the first model agency to work with hundreds of new plus-size clothing lines and advertisers. For two decades, this plus-size category produced the largest per annum percentage increases in ready-to-wear retailing.

Max Mara started Marina Rinaldi, one of the first high-end clothing lines, for plus-size women in 1980.

The first plus-size fashion line to show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was Cabiria, featured in the Fashion Law Institute fashion show in the tents at Lincoln Center on September 6, 2013. This is from Wikipedia.

What Is Size InclusivityThe history of Ulla Popken: In 1880, Johann Popken founded the Popken Textile Company in Hameln, Germany. Three generations later, in 1968, Friedrich Popken and his wife Ursula, “Ulla”, opened their first maternity and baby wear store in Oldenburg, Germany, Mami and Baby. After observing an employee packing more than 15 items for one customer, Friedrich wondered why a pregnant woman would order so many items. The answer was unexpected: the customer was not pregnant! She had written to the company explaining that she had trouble finding youthful fashion in her plus size, but found clothing by Mami and Baby to be both young as well as comfortable. This was the spark that led to Ulla Popken, a business specializing in plus size fashion clothing. The Ulla Popken success story soon crossed the ocean to North America, led by the next generation of the Popken family. Known as Popken Fashion Group USA LLC, the USA division opened in 1993, with headquarters outside of Baltimore, Maryland, where it continues to grow more than 20 years later. This is from Ulla Popken

Nowadays, the plus-size section doesn’t suffer from any restrictions, becoming more welcoming to various types and styles of garments. Moreover, there has been the increasingly positive trend to offer premium flattering fit to the customers. There are companies specializing in larger sizes which offer great fit along with varied ranges of clothing including sweaters, dresses, non-iron work wear shirts, cardigans, bottoms and skirts. This is from Wikipedia.

What Is Size InclusivityWhy Change From “Plus Size” to “Size Inclusivity”?

Imagine a clothing store where size is irrelevant, where terms like “straight size” and “plus size” don’t matter much because all physiques are represented. Collections don’t stop at size 12, 24, or even 32. Whatever a customer’s build, she can buy something that fits. This is where any woman, tall or short, fat or skinny, and everything in between, can walk into a store and feel welcome.

Perhaps the front runner in providing size inclusivity is Universal Standard. Here is part of their story in creating a business that started first and foremost as a size inclusivity store.

“Universal Standard started with the two of us, but we actually wanted to do it for all of us. We lived in a world in which access was limited. We couldn’t shop together; one of us could hardly shop at all. It felt unfair, but moreover, it made no sense. If 67% of women in the U.S. wear a size 14 or above, why were their options so dismal? It was clear that all women weren’t given the same level of style, quality, or even respect.

What Is Size Inclusivity“We asked ourselves the whys, and then we asked ourselves the hows. How can we participate in the change we wanted to see? How can we bring all women together in a way that no one ever has before? We wanted a size 40 to shop in the same way as a size 00 – using style as her only filter, and we wanted to be the ones to make that happen. Our goals were lofty; some may say idealistic, some may even say impossible. But we’d have to disagree.” From Universal Standard

Project Runway, after 15 years of dressing “typical” size women (which really isn’t typical, if you ask me!) and having one token plus size session, is stepping up their size inclusivity game this coming season.

“Instead of focusing one challenge per season on creating for a plus-size or “normal sized” woman, this season the model casting includes the series’ first transgender model, Mimi, as well as plus-size models Kate and Asia. The group altogether reflects a range in terms of body type, height, gender identity and race, allowing for the designers to be challenged to design inclusively all season long, rather than as a one-off or token plus moment. As Kloss told The New York Times, “I’m really proud we have women of all shapes and sizes and the first transgender model in Project Runway history. Fashion should serve everyone.” From Instyle Magazine

We Should Start Changing Our Language

“The plus-size era is over before it began. In its place is a new standard: inclusive sizing, and retailers that haven’t woken up to those changes in apparel risk losing billions in sales. Two-thirds of U.S. women consider themselves to be a special size defined as plus, petite, junior or tall, according to NPD Group’s Consumer Tracking Service. One-third of female consumers identify as plus-size, the same study notes. NPD has also found that U.S. teens who purchased in the junior size category dropped from 81% in 2012 to 73% in 2015, while teens who purchased plus-size clothing was at 34%, compared to 19% in 2012.” From Retail Dive

What Is Size InclusivityRetailers Need To Step Up

Despite the complexities, mounting evidence that size inclusivity is no mere fad suggests that offering only a narrow size range is becoming indefensible. The good news is that at the end of the difficult path are sales and profits, some experts say.

“I think that ignoring 70% of American women is unacceptable and arbitrary.” says Alexandra Waldman, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Universal Standard

“Companies, I think, are really in this interesting place where they’re trying to capitalize on this bopo (body positive) movement, but doing it ‘safely’ … (because) our entire culture here in the U.S. is incredibly fat-phobic still,” Jes M. Baker, an activist in the body positive movement and creator of The Militant Baker blog, told MarketWatch.

Retailers need to, at least, acknowledge that the average size woman is a size 16-18, not 2-4. And our average height is 5 feet, 4 inches, not 6-7 feet tall. So, please, retailers, at least understand that, and operate your businesses with average sizes at the top of your bell curve, and not out on the fringes. We larger size women have money to spend, and I assure you that we will spend it where we feel we get the comfort and selection, and the inclusivity you should be providing.

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Please put your comments and questions below, and thank you for reading!













  1. Charles

    I really appreciate this article. I like what you said about body shaming and how separating things into size categories that way can be body shaming. I personally never even really identify people by their weight. Now that I know about this I would definitely be more aware of choosing to shop at a size inclusive store. I mean I am a guy but even for guys there is still like body-shaming and Body Image stuff.

    I think you made some really good points in this article with the history of how all this came about and how we need to move toward thinking more about size inclusivity. You definitely raised my awareness and I appreciate it. I will make sure to tell About your page to people if it comes up.

    • RhondaLeigh

      Hello Charles, and thanks for reading and commenting.  This is how change takes place, by making people aware of the issue, and they take awareness to their friends, and so on.  I appreciate that you don’t identify people by their weight.  Unfortunately, body shaming is just as wide-spread as race and ethnicity discrimination.  Hopefully, as we keep talking about it, people will become aware, and will stop shaming us.  Thanks again for your sentiments.  RhondaLeigh

  2. RoDarrick

    Wow! This would bring a whole lot more easiness to the world of shopping as there won’t be need for size consideration before going into any shopping outlets. Wow! This is beautiful to know about and I must surely share this out to my female colleagues and other social media platforms. Size inclusivity is the new cool and no more plus size. Sometimes, when I hear that utterance, I get vexed at the discriminatory tone that the utterance carries in it just because of body shape. Greta post

    • RhondaLeigh

      Thank you, RoDarrick for your comments.  Although my site centers around women, I do know that men have these issues as well.  There are stores I don’t even go into, because I know they won’t have my size.  Thanks for sharing this on social media, and with your female associates.  I really appreciate you reading and commenting.  RhondaLeigh  

  3. My Daily Pointers

    I couldn’t agree with you more!  As a fabulous and curvy woman, I want to look sexy, attractive and trendy.  I want to be able to go into a store with my size 8, 5’8″ sister and be able to find the same outfit for my 5’2″, size 16-18 body.  I am thick.  I am curvy.  But guess what?  I am also intelligent and productive, and a good friend, and an amzing auntie and I would love to look great at the same time!  Retailers need to get on board!

    • RhondaLeigh

      Thank you so much for stopping by my site again.  I agree with you so much.  Retailers do need to get on board, because not only are you beautiful, smart, nice, and productive, you have money to spend!  Those that want our money will have to see the light or they will be left in the dust.  Retailers need to know that we will be voting with our purses and our feet.  If we don’t get what we want, they don’t get our money, and we walk out!  Woo!  Thanks for getting me even more excited girl!  Thanks again for reading and commenting!  RhondaLeigh

  4. Todd Matthews

    I think this could be an excellent opportunity for the clothing industry. For example, if I owned a woman’s clothing store (this is hypothetical by the way), I would be looking to drive the market, and one way would be not just to offer different sizes, but also to even go as far as to hold focus groups, to see which size categories appeal the most to different types of women. I would do this again and again, until I found a common denominator for each, then go from there. Not only would this, in time, allow more inclusivity, but at the same time, I’m leading the market, which all markets regardless of industry tend to have a ‘copycat’ mentality, following businesses whose methods work.

    This is where retailers need to sense opportunity, especially as demand for more inclusive naming and positive shopping experiences come into play. With demographics changing in America, there’s a lot of opportunity here and an industry leader will break out. When they do, the rest will be forced to follow or else their name, brands, and reputation will be on the line. 

    • RhondaLeigh

      Hey Todd, what you say is the impression I got as well.  The problem is, there is still a stigma of being overweight.  Skinny = Beauty and Fat = Ugly in the fashion business.  The designers, producers, and retailers need to get over that if they want to win the market.  I think companies like Nike and Gillette are starting to get it, but did you see the negativity they took for busting out of the status quo?  We have a ways to go before larger size becomes the main stream.  That’s why people like myself need to call attention to it.  Anyway, thanks for your insights, they are spot-on.  RhondaLeigh

  5. Henderson

    Wow, this is just totally awesome post. I don’t know about anyoy else but I think you are absolutely right about the issue of people saying plus sized. And there’ll be no judgement if one feels offended by being called that. Inclusivity is truly a good way to start a revolution (if I can call it that) too give the relatil

    • RhondaLeigh

      Hi Henderson!  Thanks for your compliments.  Yep I didn’t realize I would be caught up in this “revolution” of size inclusivity when I started my website RhondaLeigh Plus Size Capsule Wardrobe, but here I am.  It started out when I was looking for affiliate partners, and I just couldn’t find as many as I thought I would that carried my size.  So I started fighting along with my large and curvy friends to get retailers to include us.  They should after all want our money, don’t they?  Thanks for visiting my site and for your comments.  RhondaLeigh

    • Hello Fitoru, Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it. Thanks for your complement as well. Be sure to share this with your friends and family! Thanks again! RhondaLeigh

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