UK clothing: what size is ‘plus size’?

In the UK, the average woman is a size 16, but is the fashion industry keeping up?

woman shopping

by Ellen Kinsey |

Which UK clothing size do you think of as being plus size? According to research, a third of UK women would class size 18 and bigger as plus size.

Daxon, whose clothes range from size 8 to 32, surveyed ladies across the UK to find out how attitudes to plus size fashion have changed over the years. The results show that attitudes are changing for the better, with 70 per cent of respondents agreeing that plus size is more accepted now than 10 years ago.

In the UK, the average woman is a size 16, but does the industry serve them well? The good news is that the plus-size market is growing at a fast rate and brands are taking the right steps to make sure that all sizes are catered for.

The fashion industry can be an isolating place, what is deemed plus-size? Are there enough clothes being made to specifically flatter the plus-size body? And why is there such a stigma around plus size?

“The balance and shape of plus garments are different from regular sizes; you can’t grade your way into plus; it must be developed independently of regular sizes. Often, the style lines or proportions may need to be changed slightly in translating a regular size garment to plus,” says Alvanon senior consultant and plus-size specialist Alice Rodrigues.

What is considered plus size in UK?


Putting a number on plus size has always been a cause for discussion within the industry. There is no agreed starting size for plus size high street collections - retailers who do offer a plus size collection have a starting size range from anything from a 14 up to a size 20.

More than one in three (36 per cent) women chose size 18 as the size they would class as plus size, one in four (27 per cent) felt size 16 was plus size and one in six (15 per cent) felt that plus size should start at a size 20.

Ladies who are between size 6 and 12 were most likely to class size 16 as plus size, and the majority of ladies who were sized 18, 20 and 22 classed their own dress size as plus size.

Although over half (57 per cent) of ladies surveyed felt that high street retailers cater for plus size women, this was not applicable for ladies over the size of 20, 64 per cent of whom felt that the high street didn’t offer an adequate range of plus size fashion, with this number rising to 67 for ladies who are sized 22.

Where does plus size start in UK high street shops?

If you tend to buy your clothes a range of different stores, as most of us do, no doubt you've discovered that while you may be one size in a certain shop, in another you could go up or down a size sometimes, depending on the item of clothing. There is no one size fits all with fashion.

And you'll find the same when looking at what size high street shops start their plus size ranges...

Marks and Spencer: sizes 18-32

H&M: sizes 18-28

Bon Marche: sizes 16-32

Evans: sizes 14-32

M & Co: sizes 16-30

New Look: sizes 18-32

Diversity in fashion

different shapes

With the changing industry, brands also need to help plus size women understand their own body shape. 81 per cent of people when taking a survey stated they did not relate to the typical five body shapes such as pear, rectangle, circle, inverted circle or hourglass.

Designers should instead create fashion for plus size women that look beyond products that seek to emphasise a sort of ‘hourglass’ figure or ‘pear’ shape. They should rather recognise and celebrate that there is a diversity of shapes that plus-size women’s bodies come in.

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