Does Plus Size Minimalism Exist?

This article may contain affiliate links; if you click on a shopping link and make a purchase I may receive a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

I recently updated the look of Wardrobe Oxygen, and while doing so, I am seeing old blog posts pop up without featured photos. I've been writing real-life style advice on Wardrobe Oxygen since 2005, so there are a lot of old blog posts in various conditions of format and content. As I go in to update the posts so they showcase correctly on the site, I am revisiting the content and updating it for current times. And I saw this 2014 post answering a reader's question, “Does plus size minimalism exist?”

We've come a long way baby, since 2014. In fact, I recently had a reader email me asking for plus size brands that don't offer “beige minimalism.” While plus size fashion is still lacking and often problematic, it has at least brought minimalism to those who wear above a size 10.

Minimalism in 2014

collage showing images of Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Victoria Beckham in 2014 wearing simple yet architectural minimalist fashion in shades of white, black, and navy
Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Victoria Beckham in 2014 sporting architectural minimalist looks.

In 2014, the reader was complaining about the over-embellishment and bold prints found in stereotypical plus-sized fashion. She desired clean lines, solid colors, and neutrals to create a small but hardworking wardrobe. At the time, I shared individual pieces I found at plus size retailers that could achieve the minimalism look of 2014.

2014 minimalism was Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jessica Alba wearing clean lines, neutral colors, and using drapey fabrics and architecture for embellishment. And in 2014, you couldn't find anything of that sort in plus sizes.

Universal Standard Changed the Game for Plus Size Minimalism

a 2019 press photo from Universal Standard showing three plus size models in edgy architectural fashion in the color black
A photo from Universal Standard's 2019 collection showing edgy minimalist plus size fashions.

A year later, Alexandra Waldman and Polina Veksler founded Universal Standard to fill that very need. Originally only available in sizes 10-32, Universal Standard expanded to offer more styles as well as sizes 00-40. And when one thinks of plus size minimalism, they likely think of Universal Standard.

While Universal Standard began with architectural details on simple garments, now the brand offers 2020s-style minimalism. Simple classic pieces, dress that transcend trends, and a base collection of black and neutrals that mix and match easily and are less likely to go out of fashion after a season.

While many longtime Universal Standard fans bemoan the lack of the brand's original edgy vibe, Universal Standard continues to offer size-inclusive minimalism and push the needle in the plus size apparel industry.

2020 Made Minimalism The Standard

In 2020, we all spent a lot of time at home. We worked from home, we worked out at home, and our social lives were through electronic devices. This change, even though it was relatively brief, transformed fashion. We desired multi-function, comfortable clothing and had less need for big closets packed with a range of styles. Minimalism stopped being a trend and became the standard, available everywhere from Target to Saks, and in most every range.

2020s minimalism is looser in fit and style. Fewer architectural details, style came from matched sets and on-trend colors. With the more relaxed and simple of silhouettes, labels were able to recreate the look for less, and plus size retailers embraced it. 2020s minimalism doesn't require bust darts or buttons, so patterns could be graded up to accommodate plus sizes. You could find match athleisure sets, ponte trousers, and cropped boxy cardigans at a range of retailers, not only achieving the Quiet Luxury look for less but achieving celebrity style in a broader range of sizes.

Where is the Quality Minimalism in Plus Sizes?

In a sea of clay-colored matched sets and poly blend caftans, it's hard to know where to find quality plus size fashion that has a simple, edgy, and minimalist vibe. These are retailers I recommend that provide high-quality staples in black and neutral colors with style and design that will look cool now and years from now:

  • Universal Standard: Especially since buying the luxury plus size brand Henning, Universal Standard is still the go-to for quality minimalistic style in one of the best size ranges available (00-40).
  • Talbots: I know many have preconceived notions about Talbots, but this retailers creates quality cashmere and cotton sweaters in classic styles, sophisticated suiting, well-fitting jeans, elegant outerwear, and more in sizes up to 24 with plus petite options as well.
  • Quince: Quince offers an extended size collection of elevated basics like silk slip skirts and cashmere sweaters. Check out this plus size Quince clothing review.
  • Pari Passu: A unique plus size brand that has three body types available as well as a broad size range, Pari Passu crafts high quality elegant pieces that are versatile, simple, but never ever boring.
  • Eileen Fisher: Offering up to 3X, this sustainable fashion label is the epitome of minimalist fashion.
  • See ROSE Go: tailored trousers, crisp button-front shirts, and elegant jackets available in sizes 14-26

This is only touching the tip of the plus size minimalism retailers available in 2024. If you have a favorite place to shop for plus size minimalism, do share in the comments!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

Did you like what you just read?

Consider tapping here to buy me a coffee in thanks. The best gift you can give a content creator is the gift of sharing. Consider sharing this article on Facebook or Pinterest. Thank you so much for your support!

Similar Posts


  1. Can anyone please tell me the names of the items in the above picture?

    I’m starting my capsule fall wardrobe for the fall.

    Thank you.

    1. Do you mean the exact brands or descriptions for similar pieces? This post was written a couple years ago so these exact items will no longer be available in stores. A few descriptions:
      – Dress is fit and flare style (fit at waist and fuller skirt), and a wrap style (wraps across the bodice, often an actual wrap style dress like a bathrobe)
      – The two pieces below it are tunics
      – The pants are ponte knit, which is a tightly woven heavyweight knit that can look professional but is very comfortable. A straight or slight bootcut is well liked for balancing a larger upper body but is subtle enough for the workplace.
      – The jeans are skinny jeans, but the trend is getting fuller so these could be replaced with straight or slight/baby bootcut jeans
      – The skirt is a midi length (knee to calf), and gathered
      – The black drapey/crossover top is often called a surplice top
      – The blazer is also of ponte knit to make a suit or wear on its own
      – A pointed toe flat will elongate the figure
      – The boot is called a Chelsea boot
      – The bag is the Rebecca Minkoff… I think Moto Satchel. It’s a satchel style bag.

      Hope that helps!

  2. My daughter is minimalist because she hates shopping for clothes, and doesn’t enjoy spending time deciding what to wear. A large busted size 16 and barely 5′, little in the shops really fits well. Her wardrobe comprises 5 dresses, 2 cardigans, a belt, a scarf, a necklace, a coat, a pair of boots and a few pairs of shoes. As well as dresses fitting better than separates, they require little co-ordination and provide plenty of variety in style and color. So often the outfits put together from larger capsule wardrobes of separates look ‘samey’. The main problem with this minimal wardrobe is that the items tend to look washed up and worn out fairly quickly, so buying better quality is important. There is no reason why larger women cannot be as minimalist as slimmer women, if they are confident in what they want to wear.

  3. I’m a size 16 and have been doing a 35 piece capsule wardrobe for the past three months…and I’m loving it! Plus sized women can be minimalists for sure!!!

  4. Once in awhile, I get on this kick where I want to have a very minimalist closet. I never really accomplish the goal although I give it a good try. Somehow I always end up junking up my closet again with, well—junk. So once again I am inspired to buy quality pieces and to really think about what I am doing before making a purchase. I actually have a pretty good grasp on a minimalist fall/winter closet. It’s the summer and spring that gets me. Everything out there just seems cheaply made and does not look good on me. I really hate how I look all summer long! It’s too hot to wear anything tailored and nice. One day I hope to figure that out.

    1. I go from tailored classic with a bit of a rocker vibe in winter to boho style in the summer because I feel you on how hard it is to look polished in the summer. I’ve just accepted the fact that my wardrobe has multiple personalities!

  5. Love, love, love this question and your response Allie! I too am struggling with this issue. I’m an Australian size 16-20 (yep, it varies that much between labels and styles), 157cm / 5 foot 1 inch, no kids and a full-time government job. While my office doesn’t have a strict dress code I’m required to look professional and neat for work. My ‘down time’ attire has been pushed aside and mostly consisted of unflattering shorts or jeans and easy t-shirts, or the ubiquitous black tube maxi that did nothing to flatter my frame. Since trying to reduce my spending, and my wardrobe, I’ve been heavily inspired by your blog (and my Angie over at You Look Fab) to find versatile items that I can wear for multiple purposes. This post has reiterated that and given me even more handy hints. Thanks so much Allie 🙂

  6. Thank you for this post! It made me post my first comment, and I’m the type of blog reader that normally hides in the shadows and keep quiet. 🙂
    I’ve recently started playing with minimalism in my wardrobe and I’m on my second turn on Project 333. I love this post, and your blog over all, I’ve learned a lot about style and quality from you since I discovered your blog this summer. Thank you so much!
    Now I have a quality question for you about knits. I’m a student in my thirties, a casual girl (studying to be a teacher for the after school program) but I like to look grown up and put together and my go to look is nice jeans, a short sleeved top and a v-neck cardigan. I usually buy cotton/lycra cardigans, because any kind of wool (and some fuzzy acrylics) makes me itch like crazy, so I can’t wear even a mix with as little as 5% wool or angora in it directly on my skin. But cotton knits wears out and looks bad really quick… Or have I just been buying too cheap? What material should I look for? Do you have any suggestion? And I would very, very much appreciate it if it’s a mix if you could give the proportions, I’m from Sweden and textile words are too tricky for google translate (I still haven’t really figured out what ponte might be called here, for example!). Thank you in advance!

    1. A bit about Ponte knits: https://www.fabric.com/apparel-fashion-fabric-knit-fabric-double-knit-fabric-ponte-de-roma-knit-fabric.aspx but they’re a heavy weight polyester as for cardigans, cotton can do well if it’s high quality, washed on gentle or by hand and dried flat. I have a cotton cardigan from Lands’ End that is 10 years old and looks almost new because I am careful with it and it is good quality cotton. I have also had luck at Boden for cotton cardigans. I hope I help you! I just had a call with a man from Sweden for work this morning, it is true Google Translate only helps a small amount!

  7. sigh…the “Similar Looks” on the scroll below look NOTHING like your examples. The pants are wide-legged (elephant leg pants) not skinny, no cute short sleeved dress like the one you show…they’re the usual “fat woman” clothes, not stylish.

    1. Here’s the link to the original Polyvore set: http://www.polyvore.com/fall_winter_pared_down_plus/set?id=138360637 I make the collages before I look for similar pieces, my goal with these capsules is to give an idea. I didn’t even used to share similar links because the goal is never to be literal with a capsule concept but find your own look. And the pants in my similar links are the Taylor suiting pants from Halogen, I have a pair and they’re a clean classic silhouette and not at all elephant legs.

  8. I have to disagree with showing clothing items on a white background–I don’t think it’s that wonderfully helpful. Even in your blogs and in the magazines, I really want to see the clothes on people…but real sized people and many differently shaped ones!! I like to see how the item drapes and pulls as opposed to being 2-dimensional!

    1. I hate when online shops only have the item and no model, I agree with you about needing the drape and see the fit. But for collages and concept pieces having the body makes it hard to make the image, it can be distracting. I often contact brands asking for high-res images in white backgrounds for my collages and it seems the smaller sizes have them and the plus size brands never do. I think it’s helpful to have both for different purposes, and having a photographer husband I know it won’t be too much of an investment 🙂

      1. I want both when I buy–too often the model is contorted, so while I like seeing how the item moves, I still want to check the silhouette. I love that Lands’ End gives actual product dimensions now. From my eBay shopping, I have determined what dimensions work for me, and knee length on me is mid-calf for most, say.

  9. Love this, Allie. I follow Gretchen now, too, thanks to your link, but she ADORES Everlane, which stops at a ridiculously tiny size. I wrote them about it, and got back a polite response about keeping manufacturing costs down–without acknowledging the point I made in my letter that the AVERAGE American woman is too big for their clothes! James Perse is a tad better, but still…. Her Minimalist Closet, though, is indeed inspiring. She led me to Jennifer L. Scott’s TEDx talk on the Ten Item Wardrobe, inspired by her time living with a “chic” French family. I will have more than ten pieces, but her book has inspired me to “step up my game” in terms of quality of life and wardrobe!
    I also recommend Marie Kondo’s book for anyone in search of joyful minimalism in wardrobe and life.
    You are the best source of practical advice, though. Keep on bloggin’

    1. Everlane contacted me wanted to send me some merchandise and I sent them an email about their lack of sizes and how I and most of my readers wouldn’t fit in their clothes. I got a similar response and they sent me their Weekender tote and a wallet for Karl. Very nice, but it would be nicer if they recognized that the average American woman is a size 12 so larger sizes can equal larger number of sales! As an aside, I worked with LiveTheLook.com and told them their sizes weren’t broad enough and they just shared that they now go up to an 18 thanks to my feedback. So keep on giving feedback, some brands do listen!

      1. I really love their style and quality ethos. Stupid short-sightedness. I mean just a couple more sizes and a huge market would open up!

    1. Unless you’re willing to cut Allie a cheque for her style advice, you get ads, that’s how free stuff on the internet works. Chill out.

  10. So here’s a question for you ladies – how do you ladies keep your wardrobes pared down as fashion bloggers? I’m not a blogger but I’m a fashion aficionado and half my reader is filled with fashion blogs. Then there’s my inbox – daily emails with links to fabulous clothes ALL. The. Time. How do you ladies resist the constant temptation? My guess is that the answer comes down to quality and is there a need in your closet. But for me, I have the mindset of “I can’t have too many flattering shirts” or “I’m kind of loving this right now.” Make sense?

    1. 1. Unsubscribe. That was the best thing I ever did for my style was to pare down the inbox. It’s so easy to justify it being ONLY X price. I mean, i still do it on occasion but not as often.
      2. Put it in the virtual shopping cart and come back three days later. If you still LURVE it, then try to make it work with three things you already own for legit outfits you would wear.
      3. Learn from history. Don’t forget those purchases you made that you swore would change your style and wardrobe. Write about them, photograph them, remember how that money was lost or how hard you worked to style it.
      4. Stop with the more of the same. A couple years ago I bought a drop-pleat skirt from Talbots that was so pretty, so flattering, and so six months later I owned 8 skirts of the same style. And I still only wore the Talbots one because none of the others were ever quite as magical. Just because a cut or color is a good thing doesn’t mean you need to binge buy. Things lose their magic when they’re not unique any more. Nothing wrong with having signature pieces (easier on the mind than being fewer), being known for wearing that amazing dress to weddings, how well you style that phenomenal leather jacket, and how your single pair of jeans just seems to be custom made for you with a better fit each time you don them.
      5. Create a mantra, create a list, and stick to them. Style comes from quality, not quantity!

      1. Bridgette Raes (another link from you) calls those duplicates you never wear benchwarmers. You always wear your favorites before you wear these.
        Sorting your closet thoroughly can help you identify what is a benchwarmer.

        1. I get suckered into buying another when something that is hard to fit on me, like pants, works–but then my body or lifestyle or taste changes….I love NYDJ, too, thanks to you, and they seem to have a consistent product line, so…

  11. Thanks for the mention! I think it’s important for us ALL to embrace a more minimalist approach to shopping and getting dressed, insofar as minimalism is a focus on personal expression, high quality, and trying our darndest to have a more modest effect on the environment and on our fellow women who sew “fast fashion” in deplorable conditions. You, Gretchen and I should be proud of what we’re accomplishing, and press on into the future with the same bright ideas!
    big hug,

  12. oh my gosh! thank you so much for mentioning me, i’m honored 🙂
    i get so frustrated when i hear people say that certain sizes, income levels, body types, etc., can’t be “minimalists” – as if there’s ONE way to be a minimalist. but like you said, minimalism is what you make it, it’s what fits your lifestyle, your body, and makes you feel “right.” not what anyone else says it is.

    i get it though, because there’s a perception that you have to have a certain body type to dress “minimally” – and that’s because most of the minimalist designers seem to produce more for tall, straight body types, and their lookbooks, etc., always reflect that aesthetic.

    but don’t forget that minimalism essentially is just about having fewer more meaningful things, it doesn’t mean you have to dress all in one or two colors. again, it’s what you make of it.

    1. Amen! Ack clicked submit too quickly! I love your posts on minimalism because they’re not about some ideal of minimalism, but what works for you. I think a feminine romantic, a quirky artsy type, a prep, a punk, we can all be minimalists if we just analyze our closets and lifestyles more carefully!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *