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Wanted: character with curves

For years, it has been an industry dominated by teenage girls with waif-like figures and gaunt looks.

Now, however, the good times have arrived in the modelling world for the more mature woman.

Hundreds of women have started modelling for the first time in their thirties, forties and fifties as the demand for attractive middle-aged women with character and curves has reached record levels.

Several new model agencies have opened with older models on their books in response to the growing demand for “real” faces and rounder figures in fashion shoots, clothes catalogues and advertisements.

Famous models, too, are back in demand in their forties and fifties, many years after they retired from the catwalk. The modelling careers of Twiggy, Jerry Hall, Iman and others are thriving because of the growing demand for the more mature look.

The greater spending power of fashion-conscious, middle-aged women means that older models can earn up to £3,000 a day, even if they have little or no experience.

Francine Bloom, 59, began her modelling career four years ago: by chance just as her daughter, Nathalie, then 28, was about to end her career as a model in order to start a family.

A new and unexpected opportunity began for the French-born grandmother when her daughter encouraged her to enter a modelling competition. She won and her career has never looked back: she often works for three days a week.

Bloom, from Maidstone, Kent, had worked as a bilingual secretary before starting a family but was looking for a new career opportunity after her children left home. “It has given me a new lease of life. It’s strange that my modelling career has taken off as my daughter’s has ended but it’s meant that Nathalie could give me advice,” she said.

She has been chosen for a variety of work, including being the international face of the Viagra advertising campaign last year. “I love my work and I am fortunate that suddenly there seems to be a big market for older models,” she said.

Bloom is on the books of Close Management, a west London agency set up seven years ago by Harriet Close, a former model. The agency decided to specialise in older models because Close was convinced that the trend for young girls and the “heroin chic” look would end.

“I could see that there was potential for older women to model but the demand wasn’t being catered for because everyone was always wanting to take on young girls. So I started up my own agency for women of 25 upwards — initially operating from my spare room at home,” she said.

Today Close’s agency is thriving and she says the demand for older models has never been higher. “My business grew very quickly and today I now own my premises and represent nearly 100 models, most of them in their thirties. A lot of girls on my books modelled before, stopped to have families and have then come back to modelling. But I also have older girls who have never modelled before.

Twiggy, Jerry Hall and Iman are among the older models with Models 1, one of the best known model agencies in the world. Sandra Howard, the wife of Michael Howard, the Conservative Party leader, who launched her career as a model at 18, still remains on the books of Models 1 as a striking and elegant 63-year-old.

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