This paper presents an outline of the development, verification and application of a new model of crack tip stress fields in the presence of a plastic enclave around a growing fatigue crack. The approach taken rests on capturing the effects of this ‘plastic inclusion’, comprising the crack tip and crack wake plastic zones, via elastic stress distributions applied at the elastic-plastic boundary. The model is therefore independent of the mechanisms of plastic deformation and potentially applicable to a variety of materials. A Muskhelishvili complex potential extension to the Williams crack tip stress field is found for four stress parameters representing a K-stress, a T-stress, a crack retardation stress and a compatibility-induced shear stress at the elastic-plastic boundary. This model is validated via full field fitting to photoelastic stress fringe patterns, obtained from epoxy resin and polycarbonate specimens. It has also been extended to the strain fields measured in digital image correlation techniques, which allows its application to metallic alloys.