There is perhaps nothing so complex as our relationship with our bodies, and nothing like fashion and clothes shopping to make us feel all our inadequacies. Feeling good about our flesh and ourselves has become one of the challenges of modern life.
Our pages today are a celebration of women who didn't allow that challenge to defeat them. They committed to improving their lives, and succeeded in being finalists in Curves' Curvette of the Year 2010 competition. Curves is a women-only gym that advocates a 30-minute cardio and strength-training workout three times a week. There are no showers, no coffee shops, no reasons to dally. You do your 30 minutes and you leave. I, along with the women on our pages today, have been a member for years. I am a huge fan because Curves works on so many levels. You can improve your body's appearance, but, more importantly, the Curves workout improves your health and mental well-being, as well as toning you up and slowing the effects of ageing.
The Curvette finalists are from all walks of life and joined Curves for a variety of reasons. Yvonne Halpenny, 30, of Dundalk, Co Louth, wanted to lose pregnancy weight and get her vitality back. Laura Rafferty, 31, of Lucan, Co Dublin, lost 29lbs and 34 inches. She had stomach problems and low confidence. Today, she is transformed and loves fashion. Anne Davison, 48, of Knocklyon in Dublin, lost a relative the same age as herself to diabetes. Anne shed 14lb and dropped a few dress sizes. "My self-esteem was really low," she said. Now, she is shining with life. Sharon Gurry, of Galway, lost 56lb and 62 inches off her body, uses her inhaler less and has a new lease of life. "I was always wearing baggy, dark clothes to hide my body," she said. "Now, I've introduced colour to my wardrobe to accentuate what I have."
Sonya Lennon from Off the Rails styled the Curvettes using clothes from Debenhams, a wonderful shop for all ages -- up to size 22. "I believe women of all sizes have a beauty to tap into," she explained. "These women have tapped into their goals and it is the beginning of a new confidence."
Dympna Carthy, 67, would agree. She was diagnosed with osteoporosis back in 2006. "I had lots of health problems and had a hysterectomy at 46, with the result that I was on HRT for years. Before Curves, there were mornings when I couldn't even get out of bed because of the pain," she said. "I attend Curves three to four times per week and feel 100 per cent better, emotionally and physically. My husband also got a good deal -- a brand new woman!"
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREAS PETTERSSON
STYLING BY SONYA LENNON
FASHION EDITED BY CONSTANCE HARRIS