How Nike Is Redefining Its Approach to Women's Plus-size Clothing
Nike plus-size clothing for women is made for all body types to feel empowered through movement. Here's how.
If you traditionally shop for women's plus-size workout gear, you know it can be challenging to find well-fitting, plus-size clothes that don't slide or bunch during exercise. That's in part because clothing brands haven't always developed athletic apparel with a range of body shapes and sizes in mind.
Sure, apparel brands can take the design of a size medium pair of leggings and produce the garment in a size they call "3X" but that doesn't mean it will fit on a different body shape.
In order to address this, Nike has transformed its approach to women's plus-size apparel, offering an expanded size scale (0X to 4X) and redefining the design process so that Nike apparel will fit better on every body, including all sizes, heights and shapes.
What Is Considered Plus-size?
At Nike, the expanded plus-size apparel assortment includes sizes 0X to 4X, which is an evolution from the brand's previous plus-size scale (which included 1X to 3X).
The sizing reset isn't just based on literal body measurements. For the team's plus-size clothing designers, it's a science rooted in crafting athletic gear that empowers movement for bodies of all sizes and shapes.
A driving reason behind this, said Ann Woodruff, lead technical designer for women's plus-size and maternity apparel at Nike, is because options for plus-size folks in athletic wear have historically been limited. "It is common for women who wear plus sizes to shop in the men's section or simply to be forced to wear an athletic garment that doesn't fit properly", she explained. "We wanted to change that by listening to the consumer's needs and engineering the garments to her specific shape".
Read on to learn more about plus-size apparel at Nike, how plus-size garments are made and how to find clothing that fits well and feels great on the body.
What Makes Nike Plus-size Apparel Different?
In women's apparel, Nike sizing runs from XXS to 4X.
Sizes XXS to 2XL encompass the "standard" sizes at Nike. These garments are designed using traditional industry size models.
Nike plus-size garments in sizes 0X to 4X are specially designed for curvier bodies and are informed by data. Each garment—from tank tops to sports bras to leggings—goes through rigorous testing to ensure it is comfortable and non-constricting on a wide range of body types and for different variations of movement.
"Every plus-size style at Nike is touched by our dedicated Plus Technical Design Team", explained Woodruff. "Each style is fit and evaluated on a real body. We use findings from focus groups, wear tests and consumer insights to inform every decision we make about plus-size styles".
For example, through product testing, Nike discovered that designing a unique rise for curvier bodies (so, not necessarily high- or mid-rise but somewhere in between) among all plus-size leggings provided the most comfort during athletic activities for women who wear sizes 0X to 4X.
"As a Nike Plus design team, we're proud of the supportive and high-performance plus-size apparel we've engineered for athletes. We're looking forward to building on this momentum and growing the plus-size assortment with new styles every season."
Ann Woodruff, lead technical designer, women's plus-size and maternity apparel
Here's a breakdown on how some other types of Nike plus-size garments are designed differently than other sizes:
1. Plus-size Leggings and Trousers
According to Woodruff, Nike designers engineer these garments with special contouring at the waistband to prevent any dipping and gaping at the back. "We shape the waistband to hug and support the belly", she added, noting that many plus-size leggings and trousers are made from stretchy, supportive fabrics designed to secure the leggings comfortably on the body so they don't roll or slip down.
2. Plus-size Tank Tops and T-shirts
"We engineer the patterns on these garments to hug curves by adding bust- and waist-shaping features", Woodruff explained. "We contour the hems of tanks and tops so they don't hike up at the front".
3. Plus-size Dresses and Jumpsuits
In order to ensure a great fit in Nike plus-size dresses and jumpsuits, Woodruff said that special attention to proportions is key. "We re-size pockets and add seam, waist and hip shaping in certain areas".
4. Plus-size Jackets and Vests
As Woodruff noted, Nike plus-size jackets and gilets feature extra panels to help enhance shaping. "We contour collars to make sure they're comfortable around the neck and chin", she added. "Pocket placement is moved towards the front of the jacket for ease of use".
5. Plus-size Hoodies and Sweatshirts
For plus-size hoodies and sweatshirts at Nike, Woodruff said that designers add extra bust- and waist-shaping features to the garments to allow for a more tailored fit.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Considered Plus Size?
What Are the Best Plus-size Leggings from Nike?
Key Nike leggings franchises, including Nike Zenvy and Nike Go, come in plus-size styles. The best leggings for you will depend on the fit you want—whether you prefer a lightly compressive, locked-in fit (which Nike Go provides) or if you're looking for a super-soft and smooth feel (which you'll find in Nike Zenvy leggings).
For more info on Nike leggings, check out The Best Nike Workout Leggings for Women.
Words by Julia Sullivan