Navigating The World Of Women’s Plus Size Clothing Sizing

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Female belly with tape measure

Plus size clothes shopping can be hard for many reasons. Its difficult even when you can try the clothes on before you buy it. But when you take your purchasing online, while it does open up a lot of options of where to shop, it becomes way more confusing about what size to buy. Without the ability to try an item on you are now stuck relying on size charts.

Why is this a problem? It gets confusing because: 1. Women’s sizes don’t just start at the smallest and go to the largest. Instead they are broken up into a bunch of categories and sized in those categories. And 2. Women’s sizes, at least in America, are not standardized. So how an 18W fits at one store might fit completely different at another store. And finally 3. To get the biggest variety of options you might shop stores that are either vintage styles or from another country, and they all have their own sizing as well.

For the purposes of todays article I am only going to talk about non-vintage US sizes. And if it is requested enough I will do follow ups with Vintage sizing and Maybe sizing from other countries. You, the readers, will really have to speak up and let me know what you want with this one.

I am going to use size charts from JC Penny’s because they offer all the sizes I am going to talk about in one store and their size chart tend to be fairly accurate, or at least they have been for me in the past.

First lets examine the two sizing differences that get most confused. This would be Plus Size and Junior Plus.

Camparison of Size Charts for Plus Size and Junior PlusKeep in mind that these are all JC Penny's size charts, so while a 1X here is a 16/18W that is not the case for every store. When shopping at a new store always check their size charts before ordering.

When you look at both size charts they look the same at first glance. Both have a 0X to start with, and both 0X sizes are equal to a 14. So let’s take a look at the differences. Obviously there are W’s behind the numerical sizes of plus sizes, but to make things even more confusing some plus size stores and brand have quit including the W on the end. The real difference comes when you start looking at the measurements.

Lets look at a size 18 in both charts. The bust measurement on the plus size chart is 46″, and on the junior plus side it is 44.5″(which is a generous sizing for junior plus, a lot run much smaller). That is a 1.5″ difference. But for some people, if they didn’t realize the store or brand was junior plus they might assume they had put on weight. Or if they were ordering online they might be very frustrated at a item that doesn’t fit. And at times that can lead to pricey returns at the customers expense, or with some companies even worse an all out loss.

There is so much more that clouds the water though. Its not just about trying to determine whether something is Plus Size or Junior Plus. There is also Misses sizes to look at, and some people can fit in both because of an overlap in sizes. So let’s take a look at both the misses and plus size charts next to each other for comparison.

CompareMisses&PlusThis time when you initially glance at the charts they look very different. And your first thought might be that if you where plus size, why would you even look at misses sizes. And for a large portion of plus size women that would be correct, but as we already said women’s clothing sizes in the US are very complicated.

The problem is not with the letter sizing (at least not for the most part, but we will talk more about that in a minute), but you see we again have many of the same number sizes again. Everything from a 14 to a 20 is on both charts, and depending on the brands you are comparing this could be everything from a 10 to a 24.

Lets look again at the size 18 to compare on both charts. Once again on the plus size bust measurements is 46″ and on the misses side the bust is 44″. That is 2″ difference. While 2″ is quite a bit, if you remember the junior plus sizes was 1.5″ different. So the junior plus and misses sizing is relatively close on measurements, at least in the bust. And if you look once more at the plus size 18 and this time compare it to the misses 20 you will see the bust measurement is actually the same. Actually the hip measurement is the same as well. The only variance is that the waist is 1″ smaller on the misses 20. So while it can be very confusing, if you do happen to fall in that zone where you could fit numerous categories, you have so many more shopping options.

Not that we aren’t already confused about the sizing enough, but now some brands have decided that they no longer want to use the sizing we have used for years. So we have brands that have branched off into a multitude of other types of sizing. The easiest to deal with is places like Torrid that often number theirs sizes 0, 1, 2, and so on. Simply add and X to the end and its the same thing as traditional sizes. Then we have brands that have started using S, M, L, and so on to mark their plus sizes. This is obviously confusing since this is the sizes we traditionally connect to misses  or juniors sizes. With the stores that use these sizing methods, if no size chart is available you must ask. And then we have stores that are not necessarily trying to use misses sizes for plus sizes, but they carry both and so they tag them all using traditional misses sizes and it just goes straight from XL misses over to a XXL plus size. And while just looking at that alone seems like a good thing, until we have everyone on the same page it just adds to the confusion.

I am not really going to discuss the difference in sizing, but I wanted to share this with you so you can take a look for yourself. To make matters even more complicated, some stores like JC Penny have added a third category of Juniors sizing. Now there is Juniors, Junior Plus, and the third added option is Curvy Juniors.

Juniors, Curvy Juniors, and Junior Plus Size Charts to compare

But here is the good news. Yes it may be confusing at times, but its not impossible. And there are certain things that can make shopping easier. First and foremost, I hope that I have impressed upon you the importance of knowing your measurements, especially when shopping online. Because no matter what size range the brand may offer, if you know your measurements, you will most likely end up with an item that fits.

Second, if you take some time to find out how a brand or store is categorized you will find your size there quicker. For example I know at most plus size stores I am a 2X or a 20W, but if I go to Junior Plus I am usually in a 3X. So some examples of straight plus size would be Torrid, Avenue, Lane Bryant. And Junior plus would be Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and Wet Seal (quick tip: if you are having a hard time telling if a store is junior plus check their prices, prices are usually quite a bit less and stores targeting juniors since they either don’t have jobs or only part time ones). But beyond finding the right size, I hope this has perhaps helped at least a of my readers to open up to some new shopping options. All I really want to say is don’t limit yourself just because a store is categorized as something you don’t think you are. Don’t be afraid to just try it.

And finally, if you are ordering from online, always make sure to check out the companies return policy. There is nothing worse than ordering from a company only to get something that looks nothing like what it does in the picture and then find out they have a no return policy. Or just as horrible maybe they charge you a restock fee on top of you paying for the shipping. At the end of the day, read everything because we live in a buyer be ware world.

So do you have any useful tip or tricks that I missed about sizing or shopping? If so make sure you comment below and share with everyone.




Please note that some text links on this site may lead to affiliate links. However your prices will not be affected and you are under no obligation to use my link. Thank you to all who help keep this blog up and running.


  • Lidia Martinez

    Hello, my name is Lidia. I read the above size chart information, and yes! I’m still confused lol. My son has been raising her the last 5yrs alone. Unfortunately, I don’t live in the same State. I’m attempting to buy clothes for her via online to have shipped for Christmas. I do not wish to just give her a gift card (bad grandma lol), I love to personalize all her gifts, and since my son works full time and at this stage of a young ladies life I’m sure having her daddy shop with her is not what she’d want.
    I have been searching for shirts and dresses online at Kohl’s, JC Penny’s, and Macy’s. She’s 11 yrs old, and I, nor would she want to wearing adult woman outfits, which shirts/blouses are too low cut, and they all are too old for her. Trying to keep her in wteen fashion.
    Could you please just advise me as to what sizes I should choice if her measurements are chest: 41 waist: 39 1/2 hips: 39. I was told I should add 1/2 inch to her sizes?

    • karenmsmith77

      I will try and help the best I can. Its a bit tricky dressing someone younger like that, especially since her body won’t have the same curves a lot of women’s clothing is designed for. Height should definitely be considered when choosing items for her. I wish I could straight out tell you what size she needs, but I suppose this was a big point I was making in this blog post, there is no consistency in sizing across brands. What I can do is give you some suggestions that might help. First of all her current body shape (based on her measurements) seems to be an inverted triangle. So since she doesn’t have big hips currently the goal would typically be to balance out her proportions with the clothing. So the easiest thing to do would be to look for silhouettes that flow away from the body below the chest area. Think trapeze dresses, babydoll tops, and kimono style jackets. This way the only measurement you really have to worry about is the chest measurement. If you want to get bottoms, I would suggest going with some leggings with a fun print on them. I have a niece close to her age, and she and her friends love those. And they are much easier to fit than say a pair of jeans. For those you would only need the waist measurement. I think JC Penny’s should have a decent selection for her age range, so you are probably on the right track there. I would also suggest looking at Loralette and Old Navy to find things for her age range. I really hope this helped.

      • Lidia Martinez

        Thank you for all you wonderful suggestions, it truly does help.

        One last question, please. Why is it that we (women) measure under the arm pit vs across the breast (chest)? I’m not an expert yet I was thinking the measurement across my breasts would be larger, therefore my shirts would fit better? lol. I’m not sure.

        • karenmsmith77

          This is also not one simple answer as there are multiple elements involved. I would say that 90% of brands and garments would have you measure across the bust. But you should be measuring with a well fitting bra on. If your bra is fitting properly, this should have the largest part of your bust about even with your underarms. However a lot of women, if not most, have improper fitting bras. There are occasional items you will measure over or under the bust for, but as I said those are probably ten percent or less of garments and they are most likely not your everyday items.

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