You may think the name says it all, but plus-size clothing differs in many ways from standard sizes—and not just in the numbers on the label. Shopping in plus sizes can be confusing at first, but once you learn the sizing system you can focus on the cut, style and materials that will best work for your body.

Size Numbering

Plus-size clothing is often numbered from 1 to 4 at stores such as Target, Torrid and Kohl’s. The numbers refer to how many Xs, as in extra large, the size requires. Therefore, size 1 is equivalent to XL, 2 is XXL and so forth. These stores, as well as others such as Lane Bryant and Macy’s, also use the standard numbering system from size 14 and up. Measurements of bust, waist and hip will tell you which plus size you are by using a store size chart.

Figure Friendly

Good plus-size fashion always keeps the full-figured form in mind. For example, a cut commonly seen in plus-size tops and dresses is the empire waist, which flatters most body types. Conversely, low-waist pants and skirts are uncommon cuts because they accentuate the stomach. Jackets usually have a medium stance with buttons placed under the bust line. Plus sizes tend to require more structure than standard sizes to focus on the body’s attributes and camouflage its flaws.

Colors and Patterns

While plus-size fashions are no longer about shrouding yourself in black, designers still shy away from all-white garments. Instead, medium-sized patterns are used to blend away unforgiving dimples or folds on the body. Examples are colorful florals, animal prints and intricate geometrics. Small patterns tend to make the garment look bigger and are rarely used, and horizontal stripes are also uncommon, as they only draw attention to width.


Many plus-size garments are made of jersey-type materials because they typically flow rather than cling to the body and accentuate imperfections. Stretch cotton and denim are great for those with a fluctuating body weight. Because full-figured bodies tend to be softer, materials without a lot of give to them, such as silk or standard cotton, are not often used.

Accessories and Shoes

Some plus-size stores have their own line of shoes and accessories. While shoe sizes are usually standard for women, they may be a little wider and more padded with a thicker heel. Designers try to make one-size-fits-all accessories; bangle bracelets tend to be roomy while rings are often adjustable or made with stretch cord and beads. Proportion is also important to designers. Since they are accessorizing a more ample frame, jewelry is often made with chunky beads or bigger chains and pendants.