What Is the Difference Between Size-Inclusive and Plus-Size?

A bit of clarification on these two popular fashion terms.

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Two people posing in dresses and sneakers on the street in NYC
Photo: Lydia Hudgens

It can feel like fashion has a language all its own. What the heck are carrot-leg jeans? Why is there so much talk about monochromatic outfits? How does one pull off jellyfishing? And sometimes the terms that need clarifying go way beyond specific trends. Like when it comes to clothing offerings, what's the difference between plus-size and size-inclusive?

Over the past few years, the fashion industry has slowly made some progress in creating clothing for every body type, but there's still more work to be done — and our 2020 runway report is proof.

To find out more about how sizing in fashion has evolved (and continues to evolve), keep reading for our explainer on the difference between plus-size and size-inclusive clothing.

What Is Plus-Size Clothing?

Initially, "plus-size" was a term that used to represent clothing made above a size 12, which is the highest size that many brands still continue to offer. However, that term unfairly made the people buying those clothes feel othered — it insinuated people in that range aren't normal sized, they are extra. (Interestingly, the average height, weight, and waist circumference for adult women aged 20 and over is roughly a size 18 to 20, according to the CDC.) This was especially brutal in cases where clothes are placed in a completely different section of a store.

What Is Size-Inclusive Clothing?

In response, there has been a pivot toward using "size-inclusive" to refer to clothing offerings instead. Plus-size, on the other hand, has become something of a way for people to identify, if they so choose, and come together as a fashion and body-positive community. (Our seasonal plus-size street style gallery is an example of some of these people, showing their best looks on the streets of NYC every Fashion Week.)

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For the most part, size-inclusive means that on top of having sizes previously referred to as "straight sizes," a.k.a. 0 to 12, a brand offers larger sizes of the same items, too. In an ideal world, all sizes are simply included in the same drop-down menu or on the same rack — you won't have to seek them out, and it feels, quite simply, inclusive.

The Future of Sizing

The part where things get tricky, though, is when we talk about how high sizing will go. A brand may claim to offer plus-size and size-inclusive options, or say it's "expanding" its sizes, but then clothes will only go up to a size 22 or 2x. What about people who are a size 24? What if you're above a 2x? It costs money to make a larger range, and we understand that, but people continue to be left out. And, considering brands like Universal Standard offer the same exact clothing styles up to a size 40, we're confused why more lines can't follow suit.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps in a few years, the industry will have evolved even more, and we won't need terms like plus-size or size-inclusive to refer to clothing because all brands will offer every size. For now, however, we hope we've at least cleared up the vocabulary.

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