By Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the middle of New York Fashion Week, typically filled with skinny models in slender garments, it was a celebration of the full figured and fabulous when lingerie maker Bare Necessities launched Bare Plus -- a new line catering to the rising numbers of plus-size women.
"The new American woman," says Jay Dunn, chief marketing officer for Bare Plus, noting that more than 60 percent of American women wear a size 14 or higher.
"They are no longer the minority. You would never know that by looking at media, advertising and entertainment, but they really are the majority," Dunn said.
Weight and questions of what constitutes a healthy and attractive body image have been flashpoints in fashion for years, of course. After two anorexic Latin American models died in 2006, countries including Italy and India banned underweight models from the catwalk as part of an effort to promote a healthier image of beauty.
France did not, but the style-conscious country did introduce an awareness campaign. Yet critics still say the fashion industry contributes to eating disorders in young women.
Bare Plus champions the idea that size 8 or 10 is average. Indeed millions of American women who are considered plus size fit into clothes often not found in many stores -- usually size 14 and up.
Away from fashion week's main runways, a mini catwalk of Bare Plus' lingerie showed off many animal prints, as well fabrics of lace and satin. Designs by Hanky Panky, Calvin Klein and DKNY will also be available through Bare Plus.
The lingerie collection will soon be part of a "Curvy Fashion Show," at the next New York Fashion Week in September. That show will include six individual designers and feature apparel, sleepwear, swimwear and lingerie.
"There are millions of plus size women around the world who have a voice and a style that up until today nobody has heard or seen in the proper light," said Jeff Grinstein, the Curvy Fashion Show's creator.
In the audience of the Bare Plus event were several plus-size women who said they liked what they saw.
"Plus-size fashion has been the step-child of Fashion Week and of fashion in general for just too long," said Maryellen Kernaghan, a 53-year-old blogger who has been working as a plus-size model for several decades.
"A plus-size woman, just like any other woman, wants to feel great. And lingerie really does support a woman in more ways than one," said Kernaghan, adding she fully intends to purchase some of the under-garments ahead of Valentine's Day.
(Editing by Christine Kearney and Bob Tourtellotte)