Get tips on fashion for full figures.

TLC

Sandie Sabo prefers using the f-word when describing herself. "I'm fat," she says matter-of-factly. The 46-year-old clothing designer, fashion editor and occasional super-sized model, not to mention a media spokesperson for NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance), is educating me, a regular-sized person, on what it's like to be, well, fat.

I have called her at her home in San Diego under the misguided impression that large-sized women (those who wear size 16-28) and super-sized women (size 28+) have trouble finding hip and sexy things to wear.

"Oh, no," she counters. "The clothes are out there — you just have to know where to find them."

According to NAAFA, in our thin-obsessed society, an estimated 38 million Americans are significantly heavier than average. And even though the women who smile out from the pages of Glamour and Harper's Bazaar wear skimpy size sixes, the average American woman dons a more generous size 14.

Still, even with a, pardon the pun, surplus of larger-sized ladies, merchandisers are loath to recognize the plus-size market as a dominant one. According to Sandie, "The powers that be still see plus sizes as a specialty market and this is not true."

Sure there are old standbys like Lane Bryant, and Liz Claiborne's Elisabeth line. But today's New Economy has created a niche for private entrepreneurs, who are filling a need by catering to a larger customer. Thanks to the Internet, vendors like Sandie are opening up virtual stores and, according to her, "creating a real network in the size-acceptance community for women to find great clothes."

Designs by Sandie, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, is filled with great looking Lycra leggings and capris, coordinating T-shirts and flattering swing dresses. Sandie focuses on using vibrant colors, expensive-feeling fabrics and silhouettes that flow easily over the body. Currently, she is shipping to customers in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and, of course, America.

"I never thought I could do this until the Internet," she admits. "My boutique is in cyberspace, but my clothing is all in my back bedroom!"