The History of Plus Size Fashion

What does Plus Size mean?

The term "Plus size" traditionally refers to "clothing proportioned specifically for people whose bodies are larger than the average person's".

This term was probably coined in the 1920's in the US, when the average person was indeed slim, and usually means US sizes of 12-26, yet it varies from country to country. Other classification identifies Plus Size as sizes 10-14, Super Size as 1X-6X and Extended Size as 7X and up.

Other names include "oversize", "outsize", which are used rarely because they had become offensive. "Curvy" is currently being used more and more often.


Women's fashion was very conservative for dozens of years, but slowly became more stylish in the early 1900's, as women freedom very started to gain momentum. Industrial technologies enabled mass production, and sizes were standardized, however, almost solely for the thin. Anything bigger would be special, and people with larger bodies had to keep turning to tailors.


A change finally appeared in the 1920's, when Lane Bryant introduced "clothing for the stout women", after having sold clothing for expectant mothers for two decades, and also advertized "misses plus sizes", which later on became just "plus sizes" by other retailers.

Lane Bryant catalog, Summer 1929 (Pinterest)


In 1930, Evans became the first UK plus size retailer.

For years, the plus size clothes were wide, big, "sacky", hiding, "auntie style", "old fashioned" and unattractive.

1970's - 1990's

More manufacturers introduced plus size clothes in addition to their "normal" lines between late 1970's and late 1990's, and they "dared" to advertize, using plus size models.

1990's - 2000's

UK and Australian markets have finally woken up in the 1990's, and plus size clothes became available. But is wasn't until the first decade of 2000, that fashion shows included, or better yet, specialized for plus size audiences.


Then, plus size clothes became truly trendy, fashionable, chic, stylish, just like the "thin" fashion, and all sorts of garments were to be found: dresses, tops, jeans, shorts, jackets and more. The industry finally realized that the plus size market is thirsty and profitable, after years of negligence and ignoring.

2013 and Onwards

Finally, the first plus size show in the history of Fashion Week.

Mainstream: recently, many manufacturers have a plus size division, and even modelling agencies have plus size departments, as everyone is realizing, that what was "average" in the 1940's is far from the nowadays "average". It is believed that the average American woman is now above size 14, which means, that there is a big audience of women at sizes 16-52, that deserves attention!

Tess Holliday, Torrid (Pinterest)
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