Sunday, August 25, 2013


Tam observed that she encountered the size "0X" recently at Kohl's.  I have seen this size as well, and I wondered whether it existed to cater to people with plus-sized proportions who are a bit too small to fit into plus-sized clothes.  I did some investigation on the Kohl's web site and this is what I found.

Plus sizes:
The size 0X is the same as 14W. 
1X is the same as 16W/18W.

Straight sizes:
The size L is the same as 12/14 or 14/16, depending on the brand.
XL is the same as 16/18 or 18, depending on the brand.

In shirts, plus sizes (indicated by W) are designed for a larger bust measurement than straight sizes.  For example, a 16 is 41" but a 16W is 44".  I assume that this means that the overall proportions of the shirt are different, with a roomier bust area but a fit in the area above the bust that is similar to a size 16 -- so that women with a relatively large bust size for their overall frame can find something that fits both.  A woman with a 44" bust could size up to a size 20 in straight sizes instead, but would probably find that the shoulders are too wide, it gapes around the neckline, etc.

This suggests that a woman with a relatively large bust, who also has a somewhat large frame, might find that W sized shirts fit better than the straight sized ones.

In bottoms, plus sizes seem overall larger, with both waist and hip measures being bigger than the corresponding straight sizes.  For example, a 16 is for 33" waist and 43.5" hip, but a 16W is for a 39" waist and a 47" hip.  But the interesting thing is in the proportions.  Plus sizes are clearly for those with a more apple shape (i.e., a higher waist to hip ratio).  The 16 is for a waist to hip ratio of .76 and the 16W is for a waist to hip ratio of .83.  The plus sizes are also shorter in the inseam than the straight sizes by 1" (30" vs. 31").  A woman with 47" hips could pick either a size 16W for a 39" waist (and 47" hips) or a size 20 with a 37" waist (and 47.5" hips).

I also checked the size charts for Lane Bryant and found that their size 16 bottoms fits in between Kohl's size 16 and 16W:
K 16 = 33 / 43.5, LB 16 = 36 / 44, K 16W = 39 / 47.
However, the Lane Bryant has a waist to hip ratio (.82) that is closer to the K 16W (.83) than the K 16 (.76).  So it appears that perhaps there is a systematic difference between plus and straight sizes in the waist to hip proportions.  (I am not quite interested enough in establishing this to check out other sizing charts and see if this pattern holds.)


mom said...

Reading all that and trying to understand it actually makes my head hurt. No wonder women have so much trouble finding clothing that fits!

Sally said...

I think the bottom line is this: Plus sized clothing is made for (1) women overall too big for straight sized clothing but also might work for (2) women with a bigger bust or bigger waist relative to their overall size (who are in a range where the two sizing schemes overlap).

Tam said...

Interesting. I was trying to classify this in terms of being "curvy" but of course curvier women have larger busts and a smaller waist-to-hip ratio. Maybe "matronly" is a better mental model for women who aren't really big but might still benefit from shopping in the Women's rather than the Misses section. (I was really confused by plus sizes being called "Women's" the first time I saw it, but that's what they do at Kohl's and, I think, Dress Barn too.)

Sally said...

Tam, yes, "curvy" is a misnomer for sure -- I guess people use it because it sounds nicer than "matronly," which was the exact term that came to mind when I was thinking about it, too.

I read an interesting book on pattern alteration that had a history of pattern sizing and ready-to-wear sizing. One odd thing was that the original sizing of "misses" (girls/young women) clothing had sizes corresponding to age -- like a size 16 was targeted to a 16 year old girl. Note that at that time, a size 16 was for a 34" bust! (This was for both pattern and RTW sizing.) Today, a size 16 pattern is for a 38" bust. Which is yet smaller than today's RTW size 16, which at Kohl's is for a 41" bust.

Sally said...

And to the Misses'/Women's thing -- there were originally Misses' for teens and Ladies' for older (like, above age 20) women. Now Misses' is called Juniors' and Ladies' is called Misses' and Women's (for "more mature" figures) has been added to the mix.

Tam said...

I'm curious whether "Juniors" used to have but has now lost a masculine connotation.

Sally said...

Tam, that one I can't even speculate on (and I'm not one to be leery of speculation generally).