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Inside the fashion industry

Size zero could be banished to the back of the wardrobe under plans to encourage future Alexander McQueens to design clothes for real women.

Fashion students will have to use size 18 mannequins under a new Government-backed proposal.

Those behind the initiative hope it will force designers to remember the average woman is a size 16-18.

The idea came from the modelling trio of Erin O'Connor, Caryn Franklin and Debra Bourne.

It is just the latest salvo in a two-year-old campaign to stamp out fashion's obsession with size zero.

The first institution to promote the new approach is Edinburgh College of Art - home of the new All Walks Centre for Diversity, which wants fashion to recognise that clothes are worn beyond the catwalk.

Mal Burkinshaw, who heads the college's fashion course, said that linking students with real people was like "switching on a light".

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"There has been a disconnection between fashion students and the person who'd be wearing their clothes - the consumer," he said.

Lynne Featherstone, the Minister for Equalities, who spearheads the Government's body-confidence campaign, said: "I want to shine a light on initiatives that celebrate a range of body images as diverse as the society we live in."

The Arts University College Bournemouth and Southampton Solent University have added body-shape projects promoting diversity to their courses and more colleges are now expected to follow suit.

Success for the campaign would bridge the divide between the fashion industry and its critics, which culminates in regular global hand-wringing at images of emaciated models during fashion weeks in London, New York, Milan and Paris.

Psychologists said banishing size zero would have important repercussions for the population's mental health.

Phillippa Diedrichs, of the University of the West of England's centre for appearance research, said: "It's really refreshing that this is coming from within the fashion industry, suggesting it understands the need for more diversity."

New research has shown women are five-times more likely to have a bulky, rectangular-shaped body than the stereotyped hour-glass curves of a Marilyn Monroe.

Clothing-fit analysts Alvanon based its findings on 3D imaging technology to measure 50,000 women across the UK and Europe.