While inclusive sizing has become more mainstream over the past few years, it’s also become a bit more…confusing. Traditionally straight-sized retailers have extended up to sizes 22 via “extended sizing,” while “plus sizes” run from 12-22 (or with even more offerings, 12-32). Caveat: Traditionally, most plus-size retailers started at size 14, and some straight sizes go to size 12. Needless to say, sizing has a lot of nuance. 

This leaves a question for those teetering between straight and plus sizes, a group of in-betweeners called “mid-size.” So, what is considered “mid-size”? Generally speaking, if you fall into sizes 10-14, you may be mid-size. Here’s why it matters and how to understand the nuances in sizing, and how you can be a savvier shopper.

What is “grading”?

Juicy industry info alert! All clothes are made based on a system of body measurements and sometimes the difference between sizes is just a matter of about 1 or 2 inches. Designers start with a sample size (usually an 8 in straight sizes that have extended sizing) and an 18 in plus sizes. Based on these sample garments, all other sizes are created by adding or subtracting a few inches of fabric. This is also known as grading.

What does that mean?

A size 18 will accommodate a body as a starting point much differently than a size 8 will—in short; an 18 will likely take your curves and proportions into account in a completely different way than straight sizes. So, for those who can wear a plus size 14 might wear an 18 in a brand with inclusive sizing. In short, it can become really hard to find your size across brands

The benefits of trial and error.

Since we carry sizes 10-32 across several different brands, sometimes the best way to understand the nuance across brands (and size runs) is by trial and error—especially if you are mid-size and don’t always wear plus sizes. This is one of the reasons we launched Try Before You Buy. Nearly every product we sell at dia.com can be tried on at home and returned risk-free. Test drive a few sizes to see what works.