The Terminology of Sizes

By Cynthia Sliwa

Since I founded my fine jewelry line, Apprecia, I’ve given presentations at a number of jewelry industry events on marketing and selling to the plus-size market. In my talks, I emphasize the importance of terminology.  

Terminology is tricky. You cannot approach a customer and say, “I see you’re a plus-sized woman. I have a line of jewelry that will fit you.” The reaction you receive is likely to be worse than cold.


Even though recent studies have reported that 50 percent of American women are size 14 and up, the fashion world refers to size 14 (sometimes size 12) and up as “plus size” or “plus-sized.” It’s appropriate and acceptable to refer to inanimate things such as clothing or conceptual ideas like a niche market as “plus size.”  It’s generally not appreciated to refer to a woman using that same terminology.


Notice that savvy retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom don’t use the “plus size” terminology at all in their marketing and selling. Saks has Salon Z and Nordstrom has the Encore department.


Petite and tall customers may experience similarly off-putting comments. Lumping petite, tall and full-figured customers under the label “special sizes” isn’t a great solution either. I recommend you think inclusiveness rather than segregation, and, if possible, get away from terminology of customer sizes entirely.


Keep the focus off the physical characteristics of the customers and focus instead on what you have to offer. That’s something that every customer wants to hear. In other words, describe the features of the jewelry you are selling, not the features of the woman it is destined to adorn.


And those delicate items of exquisite detail and those statement-making pieces of generous scale might just fly out the door.


Today’s Jewel

Carrying a wide range of sizes allows all your customers to experience instant gratification. Thoughtful choice of terminology reinforces your customers’ view that your store is the go-to choice for jewelry for customers of all sizes.