I do a lot of shopping for plus-size clothes, and I’ve always assumed that 2XL and XXL were the same thing, just written in a different way. It was only when I noticed that one of my XXL sweaters was bigger on me than a very similar 2XL sweater that it occurred to me to ask – what’s the difference between 2XL and XXL?

The main difference between 2XL and XXL is that XXL is usually a half size bigger than XL. 2XL is usually larger overall than XXL. When you see 2XL, it usually means that the clothing is both double large and also longer. 

The difference between XXL and 2XL becomes even more complex when adding new dimensions like W (women’s) or T (Tall, big and tall sizes).

What Differences Are There Between 2XL and XXL Clothing?

The real difficulty in understanding this question stems from the lack of any industry standard.

XL vs XXL - Extra Large Living

Individual manufacturers create clothing to suit their particular target demographics. The result is a rather chaotic system where you can ask a seemingly simple question like “what’s the difference between 2XL and XXL,” and 20 people will answer with different opinions. This is because people buy different brands and thus have a different experience.

In Men’s clothing, 2XL is typically the larger of the two and indicates that clothing likely has more girth than an XXL. The XXL sizes denote a general increase (usually half a size) from the XL labels. For example, online Men’s retailer Perry Ellis uses XXL for its regular-fit clothing in tops and pants, but in their “Big & Tall” section, they use a system with variations on 2X.

For women’s clothing, things get more complicated in general sizes, but it seems that XXL and 2XL are used more interchangeably.

What Do XXL and 2XL Mean in Women’s Clothing?

The website sizecharter.com indicates that there are three different sizing systems for plus sizes, giving women shoppers many choices and a lot of confusion. The three categories of size are:

  • Misses’ Sizes
  • Women’s Sizes
  • X Sizes

Misses’ Sizes are clothes sizes that use simple numbers to indicate sizes such as 8, 10, or 12. These are usually marketed to a younger crowd, with the “plus sizes” end of the spectrum starting as low as size 14.

Women’s Sizes refer to those that also give a number but add the suffix “W” to indicate that they may suit those needing a looser, more relaxed clothing fit.

X Sizes refer to those that pertain to our central question, namely 2X and XXL. These are described by sizecharter.com as “all-encompassing” sizes in that they don’t indicate a precise size like the number systems do. There is an equivalence, but the equivalent size numbers in both Misses’ and Women’s sizes are different.

A 2XL or XXL could refer to Misses’ Size 20 or 22, but Women’s Size 18W or 20W. There is no distinction made here between 2XL or XXL, indicating that most manufacturers “pick a lane” when it comes to which style of X Sizes they want to use.

Why Do Manufacturers Use Different Sizes?

The simple answer to the question would be for the clothing manufacturers to come together, perhaps with the government, and agree on a uniform set of rules for clothing sizes. The truth is that if this could happen, it probably would. The fact that it has never happened isn’t due to lack of will but rather the realities of the marketplace.

Clothing isn’t a niche market. Every human on the planet needs clothing of some sort. While clothing is a universal constant, the state of human bodies is not. Different geographical regions have very big differences when it comes to looking at what constitutes the “typical” male or female body.

Western markets are filled with larger-frame people with broad shoulders in men, larger hips and bigger busts in women, etc. Asian markets, on the other hand, contain much more slender men and women, on average. Variety and divergence are everywhere, which eventually leads clothing companies to give up on forming a uniform standard.

The result is that clothing companies instead manufacture based on their perceived core demographic. If they know that their main market is slender women with small busts, smaller hips, and fewer curves, the clothing lines will be like that, and “XXL” and 2XL” will mean different things.

How Can I Be Sure to Get the Right Plus Size Clothing?

The team at Extra Large Living believe the best way to get the right size is to look beyond the label sizing and delve into the specifics of the clothing items you are looking at. When you go shopping in person, the simple solution is to try things in different stores and see which brands tend to fit you better and then favor those brands in the future.

However, shopping online for this type of plus-size clothing seems to make things impossible, but this is not the case. What you have to do is start getting smarter with your information.

The first advantage of the online space is that there is more room in the product display to include detailed sizing information in inches or centimeters. If you measure yourself up in some of these key areas, you can compare the numbers and get a good idea of whether things will fit.

Another advantage of the online space for plus-size clothing is the greater provision for different body types. It takes more searching, but you can find the smaller boutique companies that cater to various plus sizes and find the brand that fits you best.

To always get the right size:

  • Know your measurements in both inches and centimeters
  • Read product information to understand differences between “relaxed fit,” “oversize,” “comfort fit,” and similar terminology used by brands
  • Shop around and stick with brands you become familiar with
  • Watch out for additional letters and categories like “W” (women’s) or T (tall) because if you only look at the number, you’ll still end up with the wrong size.