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Larger woman's self-image gets boost from celebrities

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Celebrities are helping to raise the profile of large-size women. Rosie O'Donnell, Roseanne, Linda Ronstadt, Kathy Bates and Wynonna have changed the way we think about glamour.

Former talk-show host Carnie Wilson hopes to do more and start her own clothing line:

"I want to reach the people who shop at Wal-Mart. [The fashion industry] is in such denial. It's like giving heroin to an addict. 'If we give you fat sizes, you're going to stay fat!' "

Delta Burke (who played Suzanne Sugarbaker on "Designing Women") has an eponymous collection for sizes 14 to 28 in stores around the United States, including J.C. Penney.

Personal appearances often become bonding sessions with customers, proving that body image and clothing are inexorably welded. "When one woman thanked me for giving her her dignity back, it was really moving," Burke recalls. "I remember that's how I felt -- I wanted my dignity back."

Burke's very public weight gain years ago sparked catty comments and tabloid gossip, eventually becoming the subject of a landmark 1989 "Designing Women" episode, "They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?"

After coming to terms with her larger self, Burke decided to launch her own clothing line, offering women styles she couldn't find: floaty dresses in sheer fabrics, tailored suits, short sets and jeans.

"Mainly I was finding big old boxy things," she recalls. "I'd see cute clothes in a magazine, and [designers] just assume that once you hit a certain size you don't want to wear anything like that, that you lose your sexuality, your brains and any personality you have. You become a nonentity. I knew these ladies didn't want that. "

Pub Date: 12/26/96

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