STYLE : FASHION : The Big Picture

Reed-thin models still grace the fashion pages, but when it comes to real life, more and more designers are acknowledging large-size women. For good reason: One-third of American women are size 14 or larger. So in addition to labels such as Versatile by Gianni Versace, Jones New York Woman, Elisabeth by Liz Claiborne and Paul Stanley Woman, large-size women will find new designers catering to their sizes this fall--En Plus by Givenchy, Izod Woman, Caron II and Big Fun by Mondi.

Likewise, retailers are paying attention. When Bullock's opened free-standing Bullock's Woman stores in Woodland Hills and Palm Desert in 1987, the move made minor history. Now another one is set to open in Burbank, and other department stores are joining the market. Nordstrom has added Encore departments for sizes 14 and up in some of its L.A. stores. Saks Fifth Avenue is launching Salon Z boutiques in Costa Mesa and Woodland Hills next month.

Specialty shops such as Forgotten Woman are on the move as well. Spiegel, which for years has produced a large-size catalogue called For You From Spiegel, is opening stores by the same name. Lane Bryant, once the lone large-size outlet, has more than tripled the number of its stores in 10 years. And smaller stores include Great Changes in North Hollywood, Jill Sharma in Brentwood and Rose of Sharon in Costa Mesa.

"Large-size women used to feel that they didn't deserve to have nice clothes," says Diane Specht, publisher of the trade magazine Plus Sizes. Now they demand better merchandise, similar in color and detail to regular-size lines, and the industry is listening. Adds Carole Shaw, founder of the fashion magazine BBW (Big Beautiful Woman) and a size 22: "You don't have to be a size 9 to be an attractive or valuable person. Beautiful clothes help you get rid of garbage in your head so you can go do important things in life."

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