Plus Size Terminology

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Size-Inclusive conversation is still a relatively new concept when we consider that until recent years, society’s beauty standards predominantly revolved around a narrow range of body types. It is understandable that terms, words and descriptors are still easily misunderstood. These are some words, terminology and labels that are commonly used to discuss the inner workings of the plus-size community as a whole. 

Fat: Is not necessarily considered a dirty word any longer. Although the word “fat” has negative connotations, many influencers use it deliberately as a way to lessen its stigmatization. This is a tool that activists use to fight marginalization by the fashion industry, challenging the connection between being a certain size and being socially acceptable. 

Fat-phobia: Is the fear and hatred of fat bodies–and is a form of discrimination that says that people of a higher weight are inferior. It is historically rooted in racism and still plays out today in many ways within the fashion and beauty industries. 

Fat-Baiting: When brands use fat/plus-sized models in their brand imagery and marketing when they don't actually carry inclusive sizes.

Size- Inclusive: To be considered truly size-inclusive a brand should carry all sizes from women's US  00-40 or XS-5X. 

Extended Sizes: When a brand carries sizes above the set straight sizes of a womens US XS-XL or 0-12. 

Plus-Size: Sizes above a 14. Standard women's US straight sizing is 0-12.

Curve/ Curvy: These are used frequently by retailers to indicate that they sell clothing above a size 14. This term has less negative connotations than fat or plus-size so many women prefer it. The downside is that some feel it reinforces the notion that to have an “acceptable” plus size body you have to have the hourglass curve shape.  

Thick: Another term that some women prefer to describe their body as it has become a more socially “acceptable” way to describe bigger bodies.  

Mid-Size: Those who fall below the size of an average American woman (16/18) but who, until recently , were never reflected in the fashion industry. Usually these women fall between a size 8 and 12.

Small Fat: Those who wear a 1X-2X, size 18 and lower. Commonly can still pass for mid-size.

Midfat: those who wear a size 2X-3X, size 20-24.

Super Fat: Those who wear a size 4X-5X, size 26 to 32.

Infinifat: Those who wear a size 6X or 32 and higher.

Visibly Plus: Typically used in the fashion world to describe models that are obviously plus-size, not on the smaller end of plus or mid-sized. 

Body Positivity: started as a radical movement on social media created by people who were not represented in mainstream beauty. It was a way for them to be seen and heard by being themselves and not feeling the need to fix themselves. It has since become mainstream and co-opted by all bodies. It was meant for individuals to change their mindset and beliefs about their bodies.

Fat Liberation: While body positivity is about the individual, fat acceptance is about society and altering the general public's perception of fat people. It’s about access and equity and creating inclusion in a practical and logistic way.

Body Neutrality: This empowering concept emerged as a profound response to the body positivity movement, aiming to foster a deeper and more authentic sense of self-acceptance. At its core, body neutrality encourages individuals to cultivate a sense of indifference towards societal pressures and unrealistic beauty standards, thereby liberating them from the constant scrutiny of their physical attributes.

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