The fashion industry isn't renowned for promoting a wide range of body shapes, but a decision by US department store Saks Fifth Avenue to stock plus-sized womenswear by top brands could hasten a change in attitudes.

The New York landmark has worked with "well-known designers" who have created autumn/winter pieces up to a US size 16 or 18 (a UK 20 or 22) in some of their branches.

Cutting-edge designers such as Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi and Yves Saint Laurent are rumoured to be involved in the project.

A spokesman for Saks said: "After recent review, we concluded there are customers who desire designer clothing in sizes that are not currently available in our stores. We are especially proud to be leading the way in meeting the needs of this valued clientele."

The move will be welcomed by women who feel excluded by fashion's focus on small dress sizes. Many high-end brands do make some styles in a UK size 18 and larger, but they tend to be in short supply. Chanel produces clothes up to a UK size 22, but at the label's store in Brompton Cross yesterday the largest size available was a 16.

The founder of the Plus Size fashion label Anna Scholz believes that the fashion industry's "unhealthy attitude" is changing. She said, "You can see this over the last six months in particular with the launch of websites such as Vogue Curvy fronted by the plus-size model Crystal Renn."

Of course changes in the industry's attitude towards size are most likely to be prompted by commercial concerns than ideological ones. It's possible that designers are realising that alienating anyone over a size 16 just doesn't make good business sense.