Where did 'plus sized' come from, anyway?

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Last month, the former host of Australia’s Biggest Loser, Ajay Rochester, launched the #droptheplus campaign to protest the distinction between models and models larger than a size 4. And the term "plus sized" generally. (Because, it turns out, "plus-sized people" are actually just "people.") Since then, hundreds have fueled the cause on social media, sharing photos and support for the movement.


As the anti-"plus sized" campaign has gained traction, agencies and other bodies in the fashion industry are scrambling to hash out more respectful terminology. But where did the term "plus sized" come from, anyway?

The Wall Street Journal's Ben Zimmer offers a fascinating history of terms the fashion industry has used to refer to full-figured women—and the search for the next "it" word.

The use of special language to refer to garments for larger women began with the mass production of women’s clothing. Until the 1920s, women’s clothing was either made at home or by a tailor, but thanks to industrial growth, the birth of advertising, and urbanization (among other factors), mass manufacturing took over, which led to the development of a sizing scale.

Zimmer explains that women whose bodies did not conform to the slender, straight-line dresses and boyish figure ideals of the Roaring Twenties were deemed "stout." Then in 1922, retailer Lane Bryant coined the term "plus" in advertisements for "Misses Plus Sizes."

"Misses Plus Size" eventually became “Plus Size,” and the term spread to other retailers. Zimmer also writes that, initially, “plus size” (which became “plus sized”) referred to the clothing, not the women. By the fifties, the term became a noun, and it's maintained its place in the vernacular until, well, today. Although, with campaigns like #droptheplus and the latest move toward “curvy,” the term's days may be numbered.