"When you look at the most popular size of women's sportswear, it's considered plus size," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group. "But the industry ignores it and doesn't go out of its way to supply it. You've got a very underserved market with a potential opportunity to be greater."
"The sweet spot is 12, 14, 16, 18," said Emme, the plus-size supermodel now hosting "More to Love," a reality dating competition featuring full-figured female contestants. "Michael Kors has incredible jeans for full-figured women, but no one knows that. No one knows that Calvin Klein has a whole plus-size line. They're afraid of what will happen [to their fashion-world credibility] if they publicize the fact that they're not just marketing to size 2s. If the designers do it right, they will make great amounts of money. But they have to own it. They have to accept that this woman exists."
The other side of the argument holds that fashion is about fantasy. Yes, bigger clothes exist on the back racks of department stores, but consumers want to see flimsy scraps of fabric hanging off flesh-and-bone hangers on the runway, on magazine covers, in advertisements. (Count how many plus-size models appear on the runways of New York City's spring 2010 Fashion Week later this month; see if it takes more than one hand.)
"Society right now, at this point in time, has decided that a certain shape is beautiful," said Kelly Cutrone, founder of fashion public relations firm People's Revolution, which produces runway shows for a host of high-end clients. "The fashion industry gives people what they want to see."
But, Cutrone concedes, designers in denial of diversity risk the death of their lines.
"The fashion industry is having to get very crafty about who they appeal to from a size point and a price point," she said. "They need to sell more clothes. They can't be elitist."
More images. More plus-size women landing major covers and campaigns. More options in the mall for sizes above single digits. For Miller, Dillon, Emme and their crowd, these are immediate goals, with a greater overhaul to come.
"I don't want to see it as a one-shot deal," Emme, 46, said. "I want full-figured models to be used in magazines, in catalogs, in department stores, in advertisements, along with the diverse beauty of other models out there. Diverse ethnicities, diverse shapes. Women who represent who we are. It's not one size fits all, absolutely not, in this country."