Fashion / 16+ / Outsized fashion

Big is beautiful, and for the fashion business big is a beautiful market, too. But they just don't get it
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Big bottoms, rounded tummies, handsome hips, fulsome breasts, and generous thighs, are all words whispered in hushed tones, or not at all by most fashion designers. But most women have them; some are blessed more than others.

There are women who scoff at fashion models like little Kate Moss and concave Jodie Kidd. There are women for whom round is a natural and becoming state. Most designers try to overlook the fact that 47 per cent of women in the UK are size 16 and over; certainly there are not enough designers who bear them in mind.

Anna Scholz is one who does. She left Central Saint Martin's last year and now makes luxuriously textured, modern clothing, for sizes ten to 28. The 26-year-old German-born designer, herself 6ft 1 in tall and a size 22, spent six years modelling for larger sizes before applying to Saint Martin's. She refuses to be pigeonholed by convention. "I find it difficult to find anything in my size and to my taste," she says. "Women don't want to go to shops with names like Big Balloon that sell conservative, unsexy clothes. And designer ranges end at size 14."

The traditional home of "outsize" clothing is Evans - a shop that many larger women avoid for the very reason that it has an outsize tag. But as from this winter, customers have had a treat in store with a collection designed exclusively for Evans by Ellis Flyte and Richard Ostell, two designers who have just announced that they are going their separate ways and will no longer design together under the label Flyte Ostell. Fortunately, their collections of elegant and simple contemporary clothing (tunics and wide-legged trousers) for Evans will continue. "These clothes are not ageist, sexist or sizeist," says Ostell. Sizes go from 16 to 24. "We wanted to do the range for Evans because there is a huge market, and why should larger people be discriminated against?"

The fundamental problem of clothes sizing is that standard dress-making bears no relationship to the size and shape of real women today. The busts are too high to reflect those of most women over the age of 30 and the waists look as though they have been nipped in by a corset.

The market for clothes (fashionable, designer clothes as opposed to tent dresses and extra-large T-shirts) outside the fashion industry's norm is ever increasing. Dawn French and Helen Teague have recently introduced a range of expensive clothing for expensive women (prices for evening wear hover around the pounds 1,000 mark) which has proved remarkably successful. The French & Teague label sells alongside other designer labels at Liberty; not banished to a room of its own with extra-wide doorways and larger- than-life changing rooms. The designers aim to break down the barriers between what is seen as specialist "outsize" clothes and designer clothes for the size 10 to 14s.

Their collection goes up to size 28, and since its introduction last year, it has outsold all other collections at Liberty, from Galliano to Gucci. If proof were needed that women over size 16 are just as willing and able to spend pounds 1,000 on a single garment as women who are smaller than a size 12, this is it

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