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Fitting Solution to the Large-Size Problem

Several months after Nancye Radmin gave birth to her second child, she went looking for cashmere sweaters, silk blouses and gabardine pants. Not an unusual shopping list, if only Radmin had been the usual shopper.

But during her pregnancy, she had gone from “an Anne Klein Size 4" to a Size 16. Her search for new clothes was mortifying, she remembers.

“I was laughed out of every store in New York. One saleswoman asked me: ‘What does a fat woman like you want with cashmere sweaters?’ ”

Radmin was mad. She returned home, asked her husband for $10,000, rented a store on Lexington Avenue and opened the first of 12 Forgotten Woman stores that now stretch from New York to Beverly Hills. (A 13th store will open in Manhanttan’s Rockefeller Center next February.)

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Although Radmin confides that she thinks it would be marvelous to take a pill and wake up thin the next morning, she adds that she wasn’t born thin, and keeping her weight down has always been a struggle.

Unwilling to give up the kind of designer-quality clothes she once wore, she has found manufacturers to supply her not only with silk, cashmere and gabardine but with furs, leathers and suedes.

Judging from a show of her shop’s fall fashions in Los Angeles recently, Radmin’s women are anything but forgotten.

Offered imported leather skirts and trousers, Missoni-inspired woolens, Chanel-style suits, lavishly beaded dresses and reversible fur coats, they appear to be downright pampered.

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Radmin says her celebrity clientele includes movie, opera and soap opera stars as well as Saudi Arabian royalty. She closes the New York store when the royalty comes calling, she explains, “so they can shop in seclusion.”

But all her customers receive another kind of special treatment. The minute clothing arrives in the stores it’s labeled according to Forgotten Woman standards: a Size 14 becomes a Size 1, while a Size 26 becomes a Size 7.

“The system,” Radmin says, “allows a woman to come in and ask for a 5 instead of a 22. That’s especially nice if she’s with thin friends.”

After eight years of persuading manufacturers to provide “forgotten women” with the same designs as their smaller counterparts, Radmin’s roll call currently includes her own Nancye collection along with familiar names such as Evan-Picone, Givenchy, French Rags, Mercedes & Adrienne and Nancy Heller. Prices range from a $40 sweater to a $14,000 fur coat.

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Radmin believes that there are no large-size rules and no taboos--"except for polyester pull-on pants, which are a no-no.”

The one mistake large women make, she says, “is not shopping enough. They will spend days shopping for their children or grandchildren, but when it comes to buying clothes for themselves, they lose interest.”

Radmin’s choice for her Los Angeles appearance was a colorfully appliqued black suede top, worn with black suede trousers, a salmon-colored cashmere turtleneck and black accessories that included a small gold-trimmed bag. The size of the bag might bother some large women who worry about the question of proportion.

But not Radmin: “The only things I think should be in proportion are diamonds.”

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