Curves are back in a big way

CHRISTINA HENDRICKS: The American Mad Men star says she is "not that famous".
CHRISTINA HENDRICKS: The American Mad Men star says she is "not that famous".

Size eight women need not apply. For the first time in Australia, a lingerie company is holding a public search for a plus-sized model to represent its brand.

The French lingerie house Simone Perele and BGM Models are looking for an unsigned model who is a size 12 to 16 ''curvy couture'' shape to star in the Australian campaign for the brand.

Darrianne Donnelly, the founder of BGM models, said, ''Clients want curvy-shaped models. Authentic, curvy women, not obese.

''Hats off to anyone who enters. They have to be comfortable in their bra and knickers. It will take someone with a strong, positive body image.''

One of Australia's first plus-sized models, Natalie Wakeling, will mentor the recruits. She worked as a model for 13 years and is now a photographer. She says the market for models size 12 and up is increasing dramatically.

''Advertisers have realised they are missing out on a huge chunk of the market,'' Ms Wakeling said. ''If the average Australian women is a size 14 to 16 and most designers stop at a size 14, they are the ones missing out on potential income. And it's damaging to your self-esteem when you walk into a shop and you can't fit into the clothes that you love.''

Sarah Cohen, the national marketing manager for Simone Perele, says using size 8B-cup models works against her brand. ''But when we use a size 14 model with a DD bust in our fashion parades, our sales instantly go up,'' she said.

Laura Wells is the face of Berlei Curves in Australia. She sees the model search as a positive way for women who would not normally consider themselves models to be noticed. She has just returned to Australia after spending three years modelling in New York and Europe. ''I refer to myself as a normal model. Sometimes I get funny looks off people as I'm not the traditional size 4 to 8 model. I'm a size 14 but I think that's normal.''

But even within the confines of the industry, there is no one way to refer to the models that keeps everyone happy.

''Debate will rage on and on,'' Ms Donnelly said. ''I've been in the business 17 years. I don't like the term full-figured. In fact, we want to remove the term 'plus-sized' from the industry. You don't call Jennifer Hawkins a skinny-sized model, do you? I like the terms 'real' and 'authentic'.''

The Butterfly Foundation, which promotes positive body image, suggests only health be mentioned, not weight or size.

Ms Wakeling said confidence is the key to this ''curvy couture'' model search.

''We don't want girls who have a lot of insecurities. We want women who are proud of their shape and their size. Celebrate that they can be healthy at size 14, 16, 18. Health doesn't just come in a size 8 package,'' she said.

- Sydney Morning Herald