Tuesday 27 September 2016

Saoirse Ronan's style evolution

The Oscars-bound star has been on a decade-long journey from red-carpet novice to A-list elegance, writes our fashion editor

Published 26/02/2016 | 02:30

Saoirse Ronan in Grecian elegance at the Golden Globes 2016
Saoirse Ronan in Grecian elegance at the Golden Globes 2016
2009: The premiere of the Lovely Bones in London.
2011: At the 'Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty' Costume Institute Gala at the New York Met.
2015: Wearing Helen Steele at the Irish premiere screening of Brooklyn.
2008: Saoirse Ronan in green at her first Oscars ceremony.

Saoirse Ronan loves fashion - but she probably won't like much of what she sees around her on the Oscars red carpet on Sunday night.

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The Carlow native has an ethereal style which she has honed with considerable success in recent years.

The actress Saoirse is brilliant at carrying off a statuesque red carpet dress - all helped by her acting skills and ability to go 'into character.'

But in fact, the 21-year-old who wears those designer gowns with aplomb is more comfortable at home in her jeans and Converse. Her favourite shop on the high street is Urban Outfitters. She likes a nosey around the discount label store, TK Maxx, just like most women her age, and loves Penneys too, a good friend told me this week.

Saoirse's been in the media spotlight for over a decade and in contrast to so many celebrities and actresses her age, she has a firm hold on how she wants to look.

She tends to sing from a 'less is more' hymn-sheet. So all those flashy/fleshy looks and sheer-net bodycon numbers we'll spy on the red carpet outside the 88th Academy Awards are the polar opposite of how she wants to look.

At the start of her career, she changed around quite a bit. Her debut red-carpet dress in mint green chiffon and lace trim at the Oscars in 2008 looked endearing, if a little 'debs meets prom dress'.

The following year, she turned out in mushroom pleated chiffon, and while that look was far more youthful and showbizzy, I don't know if she'd have a pair of sandals like that in her wardrobe now, so much has her style moved on!

As her career took off, Saoirse's acting talents merged with her developing fashion eye and she mixed it up so much, she had the ability to enter into character, changing up her looks as required whether it was a red carpet, lunch party, low-key screening or glamorous premiere.

Of course Saoirse has had help along the way, and she has become friends with Dublin stylist, Grace Moore, who shows a great eye for innovation and detail; so much so that she was invited to be part of Annie Leibovitz's shoot for American Vogue in Kerry two years ago.

Grace got to know Saoirse when she posed for Barry McCall's book of portraits for the ISPCC, and Grace was booked in case Saoirse needed help getting into her chainmail hood.

Saoirse's parents liked Grace's take on fashion and got in touch a few months later and Grace ended up dressing Saoirse for the premiere of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 in a Simone Rocha dress, fresh from her collection show.

The white cutwork dress looked beautiful, but Grace recalls how she was ridiculed for putting Saoirse out on the red carpet in a pair of brogues.

Those quick to criticise the men's footwear didn't get it - the shoots were key to Saoirse's hard V soft, masculine V feminine take on fashion.

Saoirse loved the look so much, she was back in more Simone Rocha the following year, choosing to wear a black, sheer-sided dress with crystal brogues at the 2013 IFTAs.

The actress still keeps in touch with Grace, who was thrilled to see Saoirse choose a Helen Steele dress that she collaborated on with the Co Monaghan designer for the Irish premiere of Brooklyn in Dublin last October.

With its big print and a loose fit, the green dress she helped to design was a million miles away from what Saoirse has been wearing for the current awards season in the US - but the Helen Steele collaboration was a clue to Saoirse's fondness for Irish designers.

And it's not just fashion, she loves Irish accessories too. Her favourite jewellery brand is MoMuse by Margaret O'Rourke and when Saoirse celebrated her 21st birthday last April, her friends and family descended on the MoMuse shop in Dublin's Powerscourt Townhouse Centre to buy up pieces that Saoirse loves.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Saoirse throws in the odd favourite MoMuse ring among all those borrowed diamonds on Sunday night.

Saoirse's recent red-carpet looks have been been exceptionally good.

She has looked radiant and those streamline silhouettes with thrown up, semi-messy hair and nude inspired, polished make up have set her apart on the red carpet and earned her lots of praise for her ability to look youthful, yet classic, in the midst of all that showbiz circus.

In her fashion corner she has celebrity stylist, Elizabeth Saltzman, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair who dresses Gwyneth Paltrow and knows a thing or two about Oscar fashion.

With her considerable influence in the industry, Elizabeth commissions pieces from the world's top designers. She was responsible for that ivory caped Tom Ford gown which Paltrow wore to the 2012 Academy Awards and which spawned more homages and bridal copycats than most recent red carpet frocks of late.

Saoirse and Elizabeth's union is a style marriage made in heaven. For this awards season, Elizabeth said she went for fun, whimsical outfits.

When asked to describe Saoirse's style, Saltzman said it was timeless, classic with a twist.

I was in two minds about that Yves Saint Laurent white grecian-style gown when I glimpsed it first at the Golden Globes because I thought, at a glance, that it looked a bit bridal.

However, on closer inspection, it really was quite appropriate. Our girl is all grown up.

Irish Independent

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