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Fashion Week embraces size diversity

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High fashion has never been a welcoming place for women above a size 12, but the tide may slowly be turning.

Model and body positivity campaigner Ashley Graham has debuted her own lingerie range at New York Fashion Week, a collection created for the sizes persistently ignored by designers.

As well as showcasing covetable undies, she brought a much-needed change of pace to the models we usually see on the catwalk.

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Ashley Graham, left, modelled her own designs

The 28-year-old Australian, who was the first size 16 model to appear in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, took to the catwalk herself to show off her collection for Canadian brand Addition Elle.

“Every woman in the show has a completely different shape and we wanted to show diversity of shape and ethnicity and that’s what curvy women are,” she told Time.

Graham, who has previously discussed her disdain for the term ‘plus-size’, used the hashtag #IAmSizeSexy to promote the show online.

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No just lingerie: Models on the runway for Ashley Graham's Addition Elle line

Graham's was the first NYFW range dedicated to catering for “bigger” women, but there have been hints of a more open-minded approach to body shapes this season.

Project Runway finalist showed a collection dedicated to sizes that fall outside what fashion has deemed mainstream, while in London, Riane Ward held a ‘Plus Size Fashion Week’.

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A model on the runway for Ashley Graham's Addition Elle line

While the average size for British women is 14-16, the models for the world's most high-profile fashion designers are more usually size 0-4.

Consequently, high-end online retailers label size 12 as a ‘large’ and anyone browsing for a designer dress in size 16 is faced with being told they are ‘XXL’.

Project Runway

A model on the catwalk for a 'Project Runway' finalist's collection

And it's not just a case of making the same clothes in bigger sizes. Designers create their collections with a size zero model in mind, so even when the outfits hit the rack in an ‘XXL’ size 16, it's pure luck if the outfit works on an entirely different body shape.

Plus Size Fashion Week UK

Models on the catwalk for London's Plus Size Fashion Week UK

Actress Melissa McCarthy launched her clothing line Seven7 earlier this year after struggling to find an Oscars dress she liked. The range sold more than 1,400 pairs of jeans in its first two hours online, proving there is a demand for clothes designed for more realistic body shapes.

Of course, Graham should really lauded for the quality of her clothes rather than the fact her collection is dedicated to certain sizes, but until designers make high-end fashion for a wider range of women, we need catwalk shows like Graham's to remind us that they are not.

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