With more than 40% of women now considered plus size, Derry teacher Lorraine Murray hopes to be part of a new ‘curvy revolution’.
A teacher of Technology and Design at St. Columb’s College, the 33 year old has just signed to Ireland’s first Plus Size Model Agency - run by self confessed Plus Size Fashionista and TV3 commentator Vicky Mooney.
But Lorraine, who is a size 18-20, said the V Plus Model Agency is about so much more than creating clothes horses for designers to show off their wares.
“What V is about is really showing women and young girls positive role models who come in different shapes and sizes. It’s about being healthy and happy because of your size and believing you are beautiful despite the images the fashion industry puts in front of us.”
And Lorraine knows how tough it can be to deal with weight related issues. When she was younger she suffered from depression - something she believes was intrinsically linked to her weight and her self confidence regarding her appearance.
“I was never a size 10 - but looking back I was never that big either. But I was tall and I always felt awkward in my own body.
“I really lacked confidence - and I spiralled into a depression.”
But when she met her now husband, John, she started to feel more confident. “I have to say he really helped me to believe I was beautiful and he gave me a lot of confidence. He really told me to go for it.”
In 2006 Lorraine was a finalist in the Face of Simply Be competition and last year she made the finals of the Face of Tempted competition.
“Tempted is a boutique in Dublin which serves plus sized ladies and when I went to the competition, I met Vicky.
“Vicky is amazing. At her largest she was a size thirty, but with gastric band surgery she has slimmed down to maybe an 18-20. But she really has stayed true to her plus sized roots.
“She has worked as a stylist on TV3 and really has her finger on the pulse of fashion. Meeting her was amazing... and then when she decided to set up V, it was another step forward for me.
“Plus size is a fact of life. More than 40% of women are above a size 14 - that is too many to ignore. Thankfully fashion designers seem to, slowly, be taking notice and some have used larger models on the catwalk.
“Italian Vogue recently ran a spread with Plus Size models looking fabulous in corsets and figure hugging clothes. Being bigger can be beautiful.”
Vicky and Lorraine believe that all women should be able to have shared experiences when it comes to clothes shopping, regardless of size and with the advent of the Curvy Revolution she hopes more shops will cater for larger ladies.
Lorraine said: “Shopping is depressing. Generally it involves ordering clothes in bulk, because sizes differ so much, trying them on and sending some back. Or you are at the whim of shops who decide what we should wear - or print T-shirts with ‘I Love Chocolate’ on the front.
“Plus size women want to, and can, look as good as other women and should be able to dress to show off their assets.”
The most important thing about the work V Plus will do, according to Lorraine, is to show people that “there is more than one kind of beautiful”.
“I work with young people every day. I see kids get picked on for being different and I always say to them there is more than one kind of beautiful. We are all made from the same mould - and the same is boring!
“What we need and want to do is to create a positive body image for people of different sizes.”
But she is not naive enough to ignore concerns about health issues surrounding weight. She has been attending Slimming World and has managed to lose a stone and a half - slimming down from a size 22-24.
“Of course we want to promote being healthy as well - but healthy is not necessarily a size 0 model either.”
First for Lorraine with V Plus is a fashion show to be held in the Mansion House in Dublin in April when she will strut her stuff on the catwalk for a lingerie show.