National Survey Reveals How the Plus Size Woman Perceives Herself

About the Survey partnered with Op4G (Opinions For Good), a leading online market research panel. The survey was conducted on August 28 to September 2, 2013. Survey respondents were women sizes 14 and up. The sample size was n=1,000 with a margin of error of 3.1%.

Robyn Lawley for French Revue de Modes

Robyn Lawley for French Revue de Modes Magazine

Plus Size? Full Figured? Curvy? When it comes to describing her size, what term does she prefer?

Women sizes 14 and up are evenly split on this, with 28 percent preferring the term “curvy”; 25 percent choosing “plus size” and 25 percent citing “full figured” as their top choice.

When offered the opportunity to suggest another term to the fashion industry to describe her size, “normal,” “average” and “beautiful” are her top picks.

How does she feel about her curves?

51 percent say their curves help define who they are. And, while the vast majority (85 percent) say they believe that beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes, fewer than half (49 percent) say that they embrace their own curves and find it easy to be fashionable.

What’s in her closet?

While 26 percent identify themselves as trendsetters who can’t wait to buy the latest trends, 21 percent say they wait to see the trends on their friends before wearing them. An astonishing 54 percent say they do not follow the trends.

And, because her size fluctuates (69 percent), she says her closet includes clothing items in various sizes.

Will she sacrifice comfort for fashion?

NO! 48 percent say they dress for comfort and fashion when choosing their daily attire. 43 percent say they dress for comfort, and only 9 percent dress for fashion.

How does she feel about dressing for special occasions?

Plus size women have mixed feelings about dressing up. While 44 percent embrace a wedding, cocktail party or girls night out as an opportunity to show of their curves, an equal number say they “dread having to find a suitable outfit but do my best to put together something that’s suitable.” And 13 percent say they just “pull an old outfit from my closet and hope that no one notices me.”

Where does she find her fashion inspiration?

Mostly, she takes her fashion inspiration from women who look like her. When asked to rank her sources of fashion inspiration, curvy friends and family topped the list (30 percent), with plus size icons (21 percent), plus size pages in national fashion magazines (19 percent), plus size bloggers (13 percent) and Full Figured Fashion Week runway shows (13 percent) beating out straight size icons, fashion magazines and runway shows.

Fashionably dressed plus size women inspire their peers more than they know. While 61 percent of women surveyed say they feel inspired when they see fashionably dressed women their size, only 36 percent say they would pay a compliment to a woman who is rocking her curves and ask where she got her look. Instead, 64 percent say they would quietly admire her look and resolve to pay more attention to their attire, or just wish they could pull together outfits like she does.

What’s keeping her from embracing her curves and dressing more fashionably?

When asked to select all that apply, 49 percent cited the cost of fashionable clothes as a factor. Other barriers include:

• Not feeling like a fashionable person — 41 percent

• Having difficulty finding clothing in my size — 39 percent

• Not knowing how to put outfits together that will look good on me — 33 percent

• Feeling uncomfortable in my skin / don’t want to be noticed — 31 percent

• Worry that I’m going to change size / new clothes won’t fit — 16 percent

• Find it hard to be fashionable and work-appropriate — 13 percent

What would help her embrace her curves and dress more fashionably?

While 31 percent say they don’t need help when it comes to embracing their curves and dressing more fashionably, others, when asked to select all that apply from a variety of options, say they could use help:

  • Learn a few basics on how to shop for themselves — 47 percent
  • Seeing how other plus size women wear the trends — 42 percent
  • Getting free advice from a plus size style expert on what to wear — 36 percent
  • Shopping with a plus size friend — 24 percent


  1. As a size 14/16 myself, my preference is to be called curvy. When I visit plus-size clothing stores, I’m typically too small for their clothes… so I hate being that in-between size. I sure would like to see more options for the women like me.

    Mo at BAPology

  2. Is it just me… or does the lady in your picture look like a normal size, rather than a plus-size? Depending on height… even a size 16(UK) can look normal. It does make me wonder whether what is ‘plus’ ought not be readjusted in view of the fact that more women than not are nowadays a size 14 and up…

    • Abbi

      It’s not just you. Frame size seems to be completely ignored half the time. I am 5’8 and a size 18 and my biggest problem is that EVERYTHING is too short. It’s just a symptom of this idea that women just come in one shape.

      • I wish there was an easy solution. And you are right to point out the one-size-one-shape problem. I love wearing dresses, but most of them do not take into account that a woman may in fact have a curvy bottom which requires some slack in the fabric. So… I either have to swim at the top in order for the bottom to be comfortable, or … well: to be honest I can’t really do it in reverse, since I need to be able to walk and sit as well as wear the garment.
        But surely, by not addressing this issue, the fashion industry are missing out too. Even if they amended the practice from a purely self-interested perspective, it would still be a step forward.
        We are many shapes. How difficult can it be?

      • Abbi

        I know exactly what you mean. Making something plus size also doesn’t just mean proportionally upscaling a size 8! That’s why I like ASOS Curve. They completely reshape the clothes for a bigger frame.

  3. I’m with you. It’s all about frame size. I’m almost 6ft tall and wear an 18 beautifully. Can I find great clothes? No. The legs are too short and so is the rise. Or it’s baggy in the thighs. Skirts work but I don’t want to wear skirts all the time. Call me ‘normal’ sized, 44/34/44, but I’m tall for a girl. Nice work on the survey. Thanks for the post!

  4. Pingback: Robyn Lawley for GQ Australia November 2013 : “I’ve got big hips and a big body. I’m double, triple the size of other models and I embrace that ” | the CITIZENS of FASHION

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