Our lady in red has an eye for style
It's time Britain's royal family took a leaf from the McAleese book and had a makeover, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan
One of the most fascinating TV phenomena of recent years is the makeover -- makeovers of both our houses and ourselves. From 10 Years Younger to 60 Minute Makeovers; Ladettes to Ladies to simple updates of clothes and hairdos on morning and afternoon shows; we are totally absorbed.
Undoubtedly, the most compelling of these shows have been those by Susannah Constantine and Trinny Woodall, who have bullied and cajoled extraordinary numbers of the Great British public into undressing and baring tits and ass in the name of self improvement.
Trinny and Susannah are as the Two Fat Ladies were to the cookery world -- the two skinny ladies of the fashion world. Not only are they themselves stunning, with an unerring eye for what suits people, but also they are so awfully posh, and of the old English school that brooks no nonsense; everyone does what they say. They are amazing.
All they need to do now is get their hands on the royal family, who are beginning to look more and more like royals from the fictional monarchy of Ruritania.
We know that as well as having their breakfast cereal served in Tupperware boxes, the royals do watch TV and may, on occasion, have had a good laugh at makeover programmes.
Even if they weren't interested in the clothes, they might well have been curious about Susannah alone, who used to date Princess Margaret's son David Linley. Anyway, not much of it seems to have rubbed off!
Watching and waiting for Queen Elizabeth to leave Buckingham Place for the Trooping of the Colour, I said to my better half: "I bet she wears turquoise." She did. It seems to be the colour of choice favoured by the queen on many occasions -- that and yellow. The royals and other people in the public eye generally choose solid block colours so that they can be recognised easily in crowds.
Their hemlines are always weighted also, so their skirts don't blow up, like the famous Marilyn Monroe moment when she walked over an air vent during the filming of the movie The Seven Year Itch.
And, last week at Ascot, the queen wore yellow, hot pink and, the favourite, turquoise.
Some of us may recall that when Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson, every female member of the royal family was dressed in some variation of blue -- but the bride's mother, Susan Barrantes, was in canary yellow. Could they not have communicated with each other or were they trying to blend together?
Princess Anne has stepped out in clothes that she wore 20 years ago, and the yellow and navy silk collar and cuff number she wore to Ascot last week looked straight out of the 60s. There is vintage and vintage.
We don't have that problem here, for our own Head of State, President Mary McAleese, who also favours block colours, has been knocking the socks off us recently with some fabulous outfits in stunning jewel colours.
It's quite a transformation for an academic for whom clothes and fashion have not been a priority in the past
Initially, Mrs McAleese wore a lot of beautiful outfits by the designer Miriam Mone, who had an unerring eye for the president's style but, very tragically, died at an early age in 2007.
There was a little period afterwards when the president's wardrobe was not quite as sharp but she has really upped her game of late.
Mrs McAleese has been wearing really sleek fashionable daytime outfits by Aideen Bodkin, Deborah Veale, Louise Kennedy, N & C Kilkenny, the English designer Paddy Campbell, Tyrrell & Brennan and Paul Costelloe.
This summer she seems to favour the hot colour of the moment -- pillar-box red, or what I call 'Special K red'. Maybe she spotted that TV ad while having her cereal from her Tupperware.
However, you need to be brave and perfect to get away with that colour, and she is, for she wore this red in a suit by Louise Kennedy at the JFK Library in Boston on her visit to Massachusetts and looked wonderful.
The real test of presidential style is the evening dress and here she shines. In October, on a State visit to Norway, Mrs McAleese wore a sensuous old gold evening dress with a form-fitting sexy lace body and vampish bias cut silk satin skirt, which certainly seemed to put a twinkle in the eye of King Harald at the State dinner.
Recently, too, at the IFTAS she wore a beautiful blue gown, but last week, at the re-opening of Cork Opera House, she delivered a real 'Special K' knockout -- a vibrant red long-sleeved, deep V-plunge evening dress, which stopped everyone in their tracks.
All of these evening gowns have been by Irish designer Lorcan Mullany at Bellville Sassoon, who certainly knows all about form and flattering women, and the wow factor.
Bellville Sassoon Lorcan Mullany is an elite couture and ready-to-wear London fashion house founded in 1953 by Belinda Bellville (coincidentally, the year Mullany was born). Lorcan Mullany joined in 1987 and brought a young, fresh influence to their ready-to-wear designs.
Now 56, Mullany trained at the Grafton Academy in Dublin and subsequently worked for Bill Gibb, Ronald Joyce and the queen's couturier Hardy Amies, before joining Bellville Sassoon.
Their list of clients reads like a who's who and includes Madonna, Helen Mirren, Melanie Griffith, Shakira Caine, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Miranda Countess of Iveagh, and the late Princess Diana.
Among them, our lady in red is doing us proud.