For the love of fashion: Embrace sense of style over fashion
Presenter Sonya Lennon makes the distinction between seasonal spending and lifelong ownership, writes Joanna Kiernan
'I like to go cupboard shopping, as I call it -- find stuff that you haven't worn for ages," says Sonya Lennon, costume designer, TV presenter and mother, as she stands before her vast wardrobe. "There are culls. I add to it by stealth as opposed to kind of changing it regularly, so there's stuff in there that's maybe 20 years old or older."
Apart from a mild addiction to nude-coloured shoes and a huge love for vintage, there is no one label you could put on Sonya's personal style.
"I would be very conscious of dressing my body and my body shape, but I would also be conscious of dressing to amuse myself and having a bit of fun with it," she says. "I love colour.
"In many ways, that's the great thing about Off the Rails, because the expectation is high, you do push yourself and then it is quite self-perpetuating. The more you get on top of it, the easier it is to keep on top of it."
Sonya's most reliable piece is an outfit made for her by Irish designer Tim Ryan, but she has a problem picking a favourite piece overall.
"I have a pair of Prada trousers that I bought in Italy -- I got them maybe four years ago -- and they're like totally now. They're really high wasted and they fit perfectly. They're a great piece. I'm small -- when you can find a pair of trousers that really fit you, it's a great feeling."
But then another favourite springs to mind: "There's an Ib Jorgensen dress I have that is extraordinary. I bought it because I loved the dress, but I was never really entirely sure it was right for me."
This same gown is to feature in an upcoming retrospective exhibition of couturier Ib Jorgensen at the National Museum.
But with Sonya's vast collection of vintage clothing, she could almost have her own retrospective. She credits her time spent working in retail with her ability to visualise what clothes can do for a person.
"I spent seven years working in retail, so I have a great understanding of what something on a hanger will do on a body," she says. "It's very helpful for doing my job and dressing myself." By way of example, Sonya pulls out a two-tone jumpsuit, which might make a less-style-confident individual run for the hills.
"The bottom half of it belonged to my mother," she explains. "It's a kind of a disco suit from the early Eighties. It's amazing on. I had the top remade. It was like a boob tube and kind of perished."
Sonya is all for the high street, but remains cautious of "trend rushing".
"Open your eyes and have a quick look around and see if there are five or six people in the room wearing the same thing as you," she says. "Nobody needs the same six bold statements in a room."
Body perceptions are, according to Sonya, a huge obstacle to style.
"The main problem is that people don't really recognise themselves for what they are," Sonya tells me.
"They either have an unrealistic vision of their own body, or they have got themselves into a kind of a trap where they repeat the same actions over and over again."
Sonya's most important style advice is to make a distinction between fashion and style. "It's knowing that fashion is sort of an elite mechanism for making you spend more money on a seasonal basis," she says. "But style is something you can own and adapt and grow throughout your life, and it's something that you can be proud of."
Style, for Sonya, is a powerful tool. "It can make the difference between you walking out with confidence and not," she concludes. "That's really powerful.
"Whether it's to amuse yourself in the fashion sense or whether it's to feel comfortable in a work environment, whatever it is -- it's a great weapon to use."
Off the Rails -- The Complete Collection will air on Wednesday on RTE One from 8.30pm
Name: Sonya Lennon
Occupation: Stylist, costume
designer, TV presenter
Marital Status: Married to
David Smith, with whom she
has two children Evie and Finn
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