BIG, BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL WOMEN STOMP THIS WAY

Outsize, plus sizes, 16-plus - call it what you will - is a contentious issue. If you fall into the "normal" range of 10-14 you have no idea how frustrating it is for the majority of women who are size 16 plus to go shopping and find that what they like isn't in their size. To these women, shopping isn't a pleasure, it is a chore. Every "size 14 is the largest size we do, madam" from assistants reminds them that to someone high up in the design chain, they don't exist. To my mind, there is no excuse for not doing at least a size 16, and in an ideal world, I'd like to see all clothes available up to a size 20. But let us hand over to the shops and designers that dictate what we wear. We chose 15 non-specialist labels and asked them what sizes they make; if they didn't do at least a size 16 we asked them why not. Only one of those contacted, Kookai, proferred a "no comment". But there were also some pleasant surprises - such as the fact that Armani goes up to a size 18 and Jean Muir to size 20. Well done. A great deal of the replies cited "lack of demand" for bigger sizes, so start demanding. We are compiling a directory of places that delight in making bigger sized clothes. If you'd like one send a large SAE (with two first class stamps), after 15 January to me at the usual address - mark it "size 16-plus". Here's what the powers that be said:

WHISTLES (enquiries: 0171 487 4484): "From next winter we'll introduce a limited number of size 16s - we have done some size 16s in the past without much success, but felt it was worth another try."

RACING GREEN (enquiries: 0345 331177): "Since January 1996 we have offerred sizes 8-18."

JOSEPH (enquiries 0171 629 4774): "We've incorporated XL (size 16) into our collection for two-and-a-half years to meet the demands of a small proportion of our customers; we have not had a substantial demand for any larger sizes."

NICOLE FARHI (enquiries: 0171 287 8787): "The Mainline and Diversio ranges are available in sizes 8-16. All knitwear comes in S,M,L and, we produce some great "generous" items from cosy knitwear to fabulous A-line tunics."

JEAN MUIR (enquiries: 0171 409 2262): "From 1991, in response to demand from stockists and customers, we increased our size range on selected styles. Now virtually the whole collection is made up to a size 20. Our size 18-20 customers find that a Jean Muir looks as good on them as on a size 8. Above all, they love the fact that Jean Muir offers them special clothes that are easy, and that suit their shape."

GUCCI (enquiries: 0171 629 2716): "Gucci's ready-to-wear collection is available in sizes 8-16. However the demand in our shops is consistently for sizes 8-10. We have a very small demand for sizes 14-16."

ALLY CAPELLINO (enquiries: 0171 464 0768): "We have no size 16 as such, but the main line collection is very generous in fitting."

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD (enquiries: 0171 629 3757): "We offer a `made to order' service for ladies who are over size 14, or who are too tall or too small etc."

MONSOON (enquiries 0171 313 3000): "We have had size 18s in the collection since the start of the autumn/winter 1995 season because our research told us that there was a demand. Also, many of our `easy to wear' shapes suit a larger figure. For the forthcoming spring/summer 97 season there will be more size 18 garments."

GIORGIO ARMANI (enquiries 0171 235 6232): "We make sizes 8-18. Emporio Armani ranges from 8-16, owing to the smaller cut and a lack of demand for 16 plus."

FRENCH CONNECTION (enquiries 0171 580 2507): "Our main range is sized S,M,L - sizes 8-14. This season we've added a 16 to one of our key trouser shapes, the bootcut; the response has been good."

WALLIS (enquiries 0181 910 1333): "Wallis' main line ranges from 8-16s. We regard size 16 as integral to the product we offer. We recognise that size 16 is no longer regarded as specialist sizing."

WAREHOUSE (enquiries 0171 278 3491): "Warehouse have included sizes16 in its collection since 1994, due to feedback from customers. At present we have not got the shop space to offer 16 plus."

JAEGER (enquiries: 0171 200 4211): "Our size has always ranged from 6-18."

Top row (left): purple jersey shirt jacket, pounds 45 and matching skirt, pounds 36, both Seven from Evans, selected branches nationwide, tel: 0171 927 3806

Centre: forest green seamed tunic top, pounds 134 and matching trousers, pounds 125 both from Base, 55 Monmouth Street, London WC2, tel: 0171 240 8914

Right: bottle green chenille cardigan jacket, pounds 175, matching skirt, pounds 78 and black viscose t-shirt, pounds 42, all Sixteen, 47, 69 Gloucester Avenue, Primrose Hill, London NW1, tel: 0171 483 0733. Bright green pleated velvet scarf, pounds 59, Jan Lindsay, Fenwicks, New Bond Street, London W1, tel: 0171 629 9161. Hand-made tan leather boots, pounds 175-pounds 200, to order from Sam Doran, tel: 0171 771 2002

Bottom row (left): chocolate brown fake fur jacket, pounds 80, Rogers & Rogers, tel: 01923 474 400 for stockists

Far right: red lurex sweater, pounds 40, Evans selected branches nationwide, tel: 0171 927 3806

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