shopping for girls plus size clothes

How to shop for clothes when your daughter wears plus size

Bodies come in all sizes, and if you have a child who is plus size, you need to consider how to help her find clothes that make her feel good. Girls plus size clothing and plus size junior clothing can be harder to find, but parents can make the process much easier by identifying retailers that carry plus sizes and getting creative with online shopping sprees.

Some online retailers that carry “Girls Plus Size” clothing include:

Some online retailers that carry “Juniors Plus Size” clothing include:

Things to think about when shopping for girls’ plus size clothing

We live in a society that promotes harmful body ideals. Bodies come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. But the fashion industry makes clothes for a very narrow (literally) body type. The lack of plus size fashion for girls and juniors is frustrating for parents.

Children living in larger bodies are at risk of body hate, disordered eating, and eating disorders. This is no surprise, since it’s hard to live in a larger body in our society.

We recommend that parents who have plus size girls, tweens, and teens learn about Health at Every Size. This approach encourages parents to completely accept their child’s body. But even the most accepting parents will find it difficult to help their kids feel when stores fail to carry kids’ plus size clothing.

When shopping isn’t fun because there’s a lack of girls’ plus size clothing

Going shopping – an adolescent rite of passage – can be fraught when you’re looking for girls’ plus size clothing. Clothes may not fit well, may be too tight in some places and gape in others. Even worse, many retail stores don’t carry plus size children’s clothes in the store.

Shopping meltdowns are common during this delicate time in a girl’s physical growth and emotional development. Parents and their kids can feel awful about themselves because there are so few options available.

In fact, shopping can be a major trigger for the beginning of struggles with body hate and dieting. Since dieting is a major risk factor for eating disorders, it’s important to address shopping struggles.

This is why it’s a good idea to think critically about clothes shopping before going shopping with your child. Education can help you and she understand the options and navigate the changing room with minimal shame.

Most clothes are made for “straight-sizes”

The vast majority of clothing available in retail stores is for “straight-sizes,” which range from size 0-12 for adults. People who live in larger bodies find it extremely difficult to find stylish clothing in their size.

In 2012, it was estimated that 67% of American women are “plus size” (size 14 or larger) (Bloomberg). However, plus size clothing is often given a tiny fraction of department store floor space. Sadly, the majority of mass retailers do not accommodate sizes beyond 12.

This means that people living in larger bodies have a very hard time finding clothing that meets their body needs and personal style.

The excuse from fashion designers is that making plus size clothing is hard. This will remain true as long as consumers accept a lack of selection in plus size clothing. We need to increase pressure on retailers and fashion designers to dress our bigger girls, tweens, and teens.

Children’s clothing sizes

Children’s clothing is based on age. This assumes a straight growth curve in which the child grows up and out at a standard rate. However, not all bodies are made to be straight. For example, an 8-year-old girl may need a size 12 to accommodate her waist, but a size 12 length is too long.

The hardest time for plus size girls is when they are in between children’s and junior clothing sizes. For example, 10-year-old girl may need a Junior size 2 to fit her waist, but the neck holes, armholes, and length are all wrong. Junior sizes give too much space for breasts, not enough space for tummies, and the length is wrong for most children.

Junior clothing sizes

Kids’ sizes end at straight-size age 12, at which point a girl goes into the Junior’s dept. A 13 year-old plus size teen is not going to be able to wear a Junior’s size 5 or 7. She needs clothes that fit her body shape. Straight sizes assume we grow according to thin beauty standards, however, most of us don’t.

This mismatch happens right as girls are gaining weight for puberty, and their shapes are in transition. It’s as if Junior sizes forget that tweens’ bodies are gaining weight and growing unpredictably. Straight sizes assume a standard chest-waist-hip ratio that doesn’t fit the majority of the population.

Brand sizing

Every brand uses its own sizing chart. This means that a woman may range up to four sizes depending on the clothing brand. This adds significant stress for people living in larger bodies, who already feel incredibly vulnerable in the changing room.

A teen who carries more weight in her thighs may be unable to fit in clothing from one brand. A teen who carries her weight in her breasts may fit that brand perfectly. This happens to straight-size and plus sizes alike.

The variation between brands can be mind-boggling. Here’s a woman trying on the same size in different brands:

girls plus size clothing size comparison same brand
Source: Business Insider

How to shop in the store

To avoid generating body shame and anguish, do some research before going shopping with your child. First, identify whether your child is straight size or plus size.

If your child is a straight size, then you will be able to find clothing for her in most major retailers. But children who are on the large side of straight sizes or are plus size may be harder to fit. You want to minimize the pain of not fitting into the largest size in the store. If your child is plus size, then you will likely have more difficulty finding options at your local mall.

1. Be a Fashion Scout:

It pays to do some scouting in advance. Find out whether your local retailers carry plus size children’s and plus size junior’s clothing. It’s better not to bring your child on your scouting expeditions. It can be frustrating for both of you to see that there are no plus sizes. Save your child from external evidence that there is something wrong with her body. She’s likely already facing that every day. We can’t protect our child from constant reminders that her body does not fit our cultural ideal. But we can protect her from unnecessary exposure to fashion tragedies.

2. Upsize

When shopping for clothes in a retail store, the key is to prepare in advance to “upsize.” This is especially true if your child has recently gained weight or her body has changed.

Upsizing means that you choose multiple sizes of the same item, including one that you are fairly certain will be too large. Try to avoid selecting anything that you are fairly certain will be too small. Have your child try on the clothes from the largest size to the smallest size. Avoid looking at the size label while trying on. This will help her enjoy whatever size actually fits, instead of starting small and trying to force her body into something uncomfortable or despairing over her body’s size.

Encourage her to ignore the size label while she is trying the clothes on, reminding her that every brand does sizing differently, and it’s important to buy things that fit well, regardless of the size on the label. Be careful to avoid bringing any judgment to the sizing process.

3. Don’t praise clothing size

If she fits in a smaller size than you were expecting, don’t praise her for having a smaller body. Just acknowledge that the size fits her well. If she is too large for the largest piece of clothing in a certain style, just remind her that sizing is crazy.

Remember: if the pants don’t fit, it’s the pants’ fault – not her body’s.

Whether the pants fit or not should never mean that you provide praise or disapproval of your child’s body. Remind your child that it is the clothing’s job to fit her body. It is not her body’s job to fit the clothing.

How to make online shopping work

Unfortunately, most of the major retail clothing stores do not provide plus size clothing in-store and if they do, it can be very limited. An exception for Juniors is Forever 21 and H&M, both of which do a decent job of including Junior plus sizes on the floor.

Many retailers provide plus sizes online. Online shopping isn’t the same as a traditional shopping trip, but your child may prefer it.

1. Over-order

Together you can search online retailers, fill shopping carts and place the orders. Ideally, you should over-order the clothing with the assumption that you will likely return 30%-70% of the clothing purchased online. If your budget allows, order at least two sizes of every item so there are choices.

2. Take measurements

Over-ordering isn’t always possible! The alternative is to take careful body measurements and consult the size charts for each retailer.

3. Fill the cart

Consider having your child do the “fun” part of adding the stuff she likes to the cart. Consider taking on the hard/frustrating part of figuring out which size to order.

4. Plan a try-on day

Wait until all the packages come in and have a try-on day. This can be a fun replication of the dressing room. Set all of the clothes up in multiple sizes. Lay out different outfits and combinations. Help your child evaluate how well the clothing fits, and have her sit, stand, and run around in it. Make a pile of keepers, maybes, and go-backs. This will optimize your child’s experience and minimize size-shame.

This is very much like the traditional shopping trip but in the comfort of home. Once you have piles based on how well the clothing fits, you can evaluate your budget and return what doesn’t fit.


Ginny Jones is the editor of More-Love.org. She writes about parenting, body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders.

Comments 26

  1. My granddaughter is 5 and she is chunky nothing fits her right she is wearing 7/8 many children fall into this size but in Jean’s are always to right no plus sizes for the little girls under size 10 very frustrating

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      It’s very frustrating. We just have to do our best and keep asking brands to expand their sizing options. Did you try any of the stores in this article? Have you found their children’s plus sizes helpful?

  2. None of those stores carry plus size that is plus enough for my daughter. She is not very big at all, but she is so short and her rise is so short. Her waist is a regular size 14. But her rise and length is 10. The only brand we have found that works is Justice. She wears a size 10 plus, as long as it is their jeggins. They are stretchy enough and still look and feel like real jeans.

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  3. Could you do an article on how to find styles that are flattering on plus sized kids? My 9-year old is still in that princess stage but those styles do not flatter a protruding tummy. The other kids are brutal. Help!

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      Author

      The problem is neither her tummy nor the clothes – the problem is the other kids. Have you spoken to her about having confidence in her body and assured her that there is nothing wrong with her body? Perhaps also help her find ways to respond to the bullies. For example: “please don’t talk about my body,” “I don’t like it when you talk about my body.” Please speak with her teachers, principal, and school psychologist. It sounds like she is being bullied, and that is very serious and absolutely not OK. Sending love … Ginny

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  4. Thank you for doing this article, my daughter is 10yrs old and is sizing up and out of the store we have shopped at since she was a baby. It was easy shopping for me, til now when I go try to find her next size up it’s not there. It’s frustrating there is not a store made just for girls who are sizing up and out, but still need to look like little girls. Thank you again for the great tips and store recommendations.

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      It’s so difficult to find plus size kids clothes. Thanks so much for your comment – I’m really glad to hear this article was helpful!

  5. Being the parent of two fabulous plus size girls, who want nothing more than to wear clothes that fit in with current trends, I have felt the frustrations and heartache of a lot of the mums who have posted on this site. Your article has been an inspiration for me and I will certainly be putting into practice all the tips and recommendations. Thank you so much.

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  6. WONDERFUL article, thanks for sharing! My daughter is short and stockier and we are beyond able to just size up, pants are just too tight and long doing that!! Thankfully my daughter has a great self esteem and self awareness at 8, but I will do everything in my power to keep here there! Thanks for stores that are great options to shop at her for clothes that will be a little roomier and the right length!

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      I’m so glad the article was helpful! Thanks for the work you are doing to keep your daughter positive about her body. Please keep assuring her that the problem is never, ever her body. The problem is the pants!

  7. My daughter is 6yo going into first grade. She is almost wearing junior clothes. We shop mainly at justice and sometimes kohl’s (online) because they have cute shirts and dresses that flare out and aren’t tight on her tummy. She has friends that wear these cute little outfits that we can never find in her size and its so frustrating. Breaks my heart every time we shop. Lately we have been sticking to ordering online because they have all the right sizes. My fear is that in the next few years, she wont be able to fit into the justice girls clothes or anything that is for little girls. Also, Even when we can find something girly in say a size 20 plus, it is so long that I have to fix it for her to wear it. Shoes are also an issue. She is right in between a kid and adult size shoe. She can wear a 6 girls or a 7 womans. But a lot of stores kids size shoes only go up to a 5. The last thing she wants is to wear an adult shoe? I just wish stores and designers would understand that there are kids out there that are built a little different. Thanks again for reminding me to assure here that its not her body, its the clothes!!!

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      I’m so glad that you are willing and able to alter her clothing so that she can enjoy being a child! It’s unfortunate, but many people in larger bodies learn alteration skills so they can achieve the fashion they enjoy in an environment that doesn’t serve their bodies. She is lucky to have you – thank you!

  8. It’s great you took the time to address this problem. My 9 year old is currently at the in between stage where a 14 doesn’t quite fit unless we’re lucky. The juniors stuff is always too long and skinny or just not made for her body size/shape. Yesterday we went school shopping and she had a meltdown in the target dressing room when we weren’t having any luck and something she really wanted didn’t fit. I feel her pain as it’s the story of my life, I was having flashbacks to my childhood crying while school shopping cause I hated the few things that did fit me. I just was really hoping for some great insight on where or how to find a kids size 18 20 which is really what they should have available for these kids! Instead your solution was to order stuff online in multiples and get tons of it like if you were in the store trying stuff. This seems totally impractical not to mention expensive. I don’t do a lot of online ordering but I do know it costs extra sometimes and can cost $ to return. MAN I really wish there had been some better solutions than that! It is sad really because plus size clothes have come a long way since I was a teen and they had NOTHING. But apparently the fashion industry left out the most important client, kids!! You are so right about your description of “straight” sizes and how they expect all kids to be built the same and to only grow up and not out! SO FRUSTRATING and school starts next Tuesday. My poor girl school shopping should be fun😢😢😢

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      Target meltdowns seem to be common! It’s hard finding clothes that fit, and I’m so sorry that your daughter has to deal with this. I wish I had better solutions, too! One thing that has come up lately is learning some basic sewing skills so you can alter clothing. Like everything, this is an imperfect solution to a frustrating problem. Good luck – I hope your sweet girl enjoys going back to school!

  9. Thank you for this article. This has been an issue for so long now with my 11 year old. She was confident until the last year or so, now she talks about being fat. And all of her friends are really thin and wear cropped tops, skinny jeans and bikinis and she wants to look like them. It’s so sad. I second that the only kid’s store that consistently fits her is Justice plus sizes (especially their jeans). But most of their options are online and their clothes are low quality and fall apart quickly. Plus, now my daughter doesn’t like most of their styles. It is definitely frustrating to be locked in to so few stores. We have turned to mostly shopping in women’s clothing. She can find more styles she likes, and luckily she is tall for her age (but still on the short side for the average woman) and of course the sizing is made for a developed woman. So it’s still a struggle (and more expensive), but she enjoys that shopping more, and there are women’s clothes everywhere so we often find something. The world is made for thin people with a certain type of build, and it effects our self esteem as adults, the effect it has on girls and teens is even more damaging. I don’t buy the clothing industry’s argument that it’s harder to make, it’s all about catering to the body type society says is acceptable and looks good on models. I have been thin my whole life and never thought about how limited plus size clothing is until I had a plus sized friend. And now it’s hitting home much harder with a plus sized daughter who I just want to feel confident in her body.

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      I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience with fashion. It’s very upsetting that the fashion industry doesn’t accommodate a range of body sizes, and I know that many kids feel frustrated and ashamed, which is terrible! I’m glad you have found a solution that works for you guys right now. I’ve heard from several women in larger bodies that learning basic alteration skills has been a huge asset for their ability to enjoy clothes. Thank you for supporting her. She is lucky to have a mom who loves her unconditionally.

  10. Thank you so much for your article! My partner and I have just gotten custody of his 14-year-old daughter, who was not able to bring any clothing with her when she came to our house for good (and didn’t have anything appropriate to begin with anyway). She needs a bunch of new clothing, and I had no idea where to start. She has been bullied at school recently for her size, and for her ill-fitting clothing. I want to take her shopping and really appreciate these suggestions and the ideas about scouting in advance! Having always fit into standard/straight sizes without issue, some of these issues just never would have occurred to me. Your suggestions for how to approach the shopping, how to talk about sizing and her body so as never to make her feel her body is the problem are SO appreciated! I love this little girl, and she has been through some really difficult things lately; I just want to scoop her up and make her feel good about her beautiful self.

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      Oh my goodness! You are an inspiration! Thank you so much for doing your research. It means soooooo much to your little girl. She is so lucky to have you in her life!

  11. This article has some great ideas. It is such a hard thing to take your three daughters shopping and only one not be able to fit into anything because the stores don’t carry her clothes to fit her. My girl went to camp this week and the weather turned at the last minute and we were scrambling for long sleeves to keep her warm. I have started using surveys as a means to communicate to stores that EVERY girl should be able to shop in a store and feel comfortable about herself.

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      I’m so glad the article was helpful, but I also wish that it was an unnecessary subject, since stores should carry clothes that fit more kids’ bodies! Thank you for the energy and effort you are putting into changing the system while simultaneously being compassionate towards your daughters who are not being served by current retail stores. I hope you were able to find long-sleeved shirts that fit her for camp!

  12. Thank you for this information. And for allowing replies to be posted. It always helps to know you’re not alone 😊 after a frustrating shopping trip last night all this info will be helpful moving forward.

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      Author

      You are absolutely not alone! This is the most popular article on our website – and we have +350 articles! I hope future shopping trips will be easier for you. It takes patience and practice, and I always keep in mind the mantra “if the pants don’t fit, the pants are the problem – never the body.” xoxo

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