Believe it or not, many plus size women (and non-plus size) don't really know what size they are. I've seen this over and over again as I work with women to dress in a way that helps them feel great about who they are.
One of my girlfriends needed some clothing so we decided to have a shopping day at my home. She walked into my front door claiming that she was a size 20W. Well, by the time we were done measuring and trying on all sorts of clothing, it turned out that she is actually a 16W!!! Can you imagine? She's been walking around in clothing that is a size 20W because somehow she got it into her head that 1) the one time she tried on a 20 and it fit then this was her true size and 2) this baggier look would help her look slimmer. She just had it stuck in her head that this was her size. After our couple hours of trying different things on, she has learned to try on clothing that is now in the 16W and 18W range and go with what fits right - not what the size tag says.
Once she saw how her body looked in clothes that truly fit, she was amazed. She looked like she had lost at least 20lbs, we could see that her body had a true curvy shape, and the glow on her face said that she felt really good about how she now looked.
Of course, this story would make anyone feel good because they've "gone down" 4 sizes but what about the opposite direction? Well, I'll use myself as the example for this next story. As an adult I have been every size from a 14 to a 26W. That's quite a swing but it's true I've gone back and forth a few times. Over the past couple years I have been an 18W to a 20W and then I was able to lose some additional weight and get down to a 16W. Wow! I was so happy that I insisted I was a 16W in everything and even tried to get into XL blouses whenever possible. Long story short, as I look at pictures of myself and now have a more "realistic mirror" I realized that I was a 16W in SOME things but NOT in everything and there were very limited XL's that I should have been wearing. These items were too snug, showed my bulges, and with just a small weight gain they were completely unwearable. My focus was the size on the label and not on what looked on me.
So, what's the moral of these two stories? The size on the clothing tag is NOT what matters. What matters is that you find clothing that fits you in a way that flatters your body and makes you feel good about you! How to do that is a whole guide in itself but I felt the need to write this because I know that often as a plus size woman we feel the need to dress baggy or we are wearing clothes that are too small because we can "fit into" them and want to be that size to make them feel better.
Neither one of these approaches helps us to look our best or feel our best and really that's what clothing should be helping us do.
I most often learn from the experiences of others who share my same challenges. I hope that this helps someone to look at themselves and consider whether they also fall into one of these examples and maybe need to take a closer look at the size of clothing they are wearing.