The fashion month

Fat: the final frontier; It's that time again. The Fashion Month returns for its second round-up of who's who and what's what. We've ploughed through every tit-bit, interview, business story and fashion shoot to bring you the major trends and the fascinating minutiae of fashion. The main story looks at voluptuous curves, 'heroin chic' and Princess Di's dresses. What magazine featured anaemic models falling off gym equipment? Who gave up a 14-year modelling career to become a nun? Find out below ...
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May has been a well-rounded month for fashion. British Vogue, the bible of all things svelte and slender, has featured a six-page spread on 21-year-old Sara Morrison, a size 16 model with a 36C bust. A textiles student from Belfast, she was discovered by top photographer Nick Knight, who shot her in figure-hugging Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Versace (all were size 14).

The Times and the Guardian ran news stories on the spread. "Most British women are size 16," says Sara in the Times. "If they see these pictures it will give them confidence and make them think they would also look good in those lovely clothes."

Nick Knight is justifiably proud. "When I was doing the shoot I felt we were breaking some taboos," he says in the Guardian. "It's a very positive image. She's supposed to look powerful. I didn't want to make her look freakish."

According to Vogue, Sara has a "wonderfully voluptuous silhouette". So is this the new model look? "I wanted the pictures to be a kind of celebration of flesh," says Vogue's editor, Alexandra Shulman, "but we're not about to use girls that are size 16. This is a one-off."

Forty per cent of British women are size 16 and over, according to current Mintel statistics, but of the three designers featured, only Dolce & Gabbana go up to size 16 (Gucci and Versace falling short at a size below, although Versace has introduced a separate, larger size line that goes up to size 18). Your chances of finding their clothes in this size are slim. Browns don't have any in stock, neither do Harvey Nichols, while Harrods only stocks two suits.

So why are London's fashion stores so loathe to stock a larger size? "When we go to buy Dolce & Gabbana, we're very rarely offered size 16," says Montserrat Mukherjee, a buyer are Browns. "They do quite sheer, revealing dresses and we assume that a lady who is a size 16 doesn't want to show her arms or the rest of her body. From our customer database we can see that size 16 customers are more likely to buy Alberti Ferretti, because her dresses are long and flowing, and we do sell these in a 16. With Dolce & Gabbana you're looking at a very specific market."

Meanwhile, it's been a bad week for skinnies. Last Thursday, President Clinton hit out at large American fashion companies who use "heroin chic" - unkempt, thin models with dark circles around their glazed eyes. "This is not about art, it's about life and death," he said in a White House press conference, "and glorifying death is not good for any society."

The reason for Mr Clinton's outburst appears to be the recent death of 20-year-old fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti from a herion overdose. His mother, Francesca Sorrenti, has been campaigning against the apparently wide-spread use of drugs in the fashion industry. Sorrenti, whose other son is Mario Sorrenti, Kate Moss's ex, was interviewed in the Sunday Times 'Style' section. "It is time to establish rules that will protect children in a profession that has no law," she says.

Another American has been kicking up a stink this side of the Atlantic. Eileen Kadden, a size-20 fashion designer from Los Angeles, reckons she was thrown out of Harrods for being too fat, although the store maintains that she was "innappropriately dressed".

"It was complete discrimination against large women," said Ms Kadden. "I was looking classy and funky, and a great deal smarter than the other shoppers in their worn jeans and dirty tennis shoes."

The other big story features Princess Di and her 79 frocks which are all up for sale at a Christies auction in New York on 25 June. The sale will be preceded by two fund-raising evenings in London and New York where the princess will be present, although she won't be at the auction. Designs to come under the hammer include Catherine Walker, Murray Arbeid, Victor Edelstein, the Emanuels, Zandra Rhodes and Bruce Oldfield, who dressed Diana for a decade.

It's estimated the sale will raise pounds 4m for her favourite charities, the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund and the AIDS Crisis Trust. A leather- bound catalogue will accompany the event, costing pounds 1,250 apiece, and already over 100 copies have been reserved from a limited edition of 250. Inside, Di models various frocks from 1982 to the present for Snowdon while the remainder stay on mannequins photographed by the late Terence Donovan.

May's edition of US Vogue got first bite, reporting that the auction was Prince William's idea. Even Christies' standard 12.5 per cent commission, it said, is being used on a non-profit making basis to promote the sale and to produce the lavish catalogues, so that all the proceeds from them will go directly to the charities. It claims that Anna Harvey of Vogue weaned Diana off her Sloane Ranger tastes, and went into a lengthy account of the dress-donating habits of previous British royalty.

"What more could you ask for?" gushes Murray Arbeid in the 10-page spread. "Five feet ten, a pefect size 10, a princess and smashing - it was all there. If you had to descrbe your perfect client, she was it."

Snapping at US Vogue's heels was Suzie Menkes's page in the International Herald Tribune on 13 May, which included a copy of Diana's hand-written note from Kensington Palace, attributing the wheeze to Wills. Menkes charts the princess's journey, from "ingenue English Rose" via the "media-savvy celebrity in the 1980s glitz" to the figure "who finally sheds her velvet and sequins to emerge as a mature, independent woman". Menkes expects the auction to raise the same high prices as the Jacqueline Onassis memorabilia.

The Telegraph's Saturday magazine got third bite the following weekend with a cover story in which it attributed personalities to the gowns, from a "Shy Di" Emanuel fairy-tale dress to a "Dynasty Di" figure-hugging number from Catherine Walker. In the main paper it ran a taster under the headline "Princess's pangs over wardrobe weed-out" and interviews Christie's creative marketing director Meredith Etherington-Smith.

The next day, the Sunday Times reported that bids are to start at pounds 5,000 for each dress and that the sale of the catalogues is expected to raise pounds 1.85m alone for the charities. It said that the size 8-12 dresses were expected to fetch between pounds 150,000 and pounds 250,000 each.

The following Monday, the Telegraph again covered the event with a half- page spread including five of Snowdon's portraits.