Something about Mary
TV presenter Mary Kennedy dresses for the occasion and for her own comfort, discovers Joanna Kiernan
Name: Mary Kennedy
Occupation: Broadcaster, author and 'Nationwide' presenter
Marital status: Divorced. Mother to Eva, Tom, Eoin and Lucy
Appearance is everything in the world of television, and nobody knows this better that renowned broadcaster, mother and author, Mary Kennedy.
"I would describe myself as somebody who likes to dress for the occasion," she tells me; "I suppose it was drummed into us when we were kids. You'd look on it as a mark of respect to the people that you're going to be with, that you dress appropriately."
While no one can deny Mary's age-defying beauty and style, there are two sides to the woman who beams out through our TV screens on Nationwide, RTE One's popular magazine programme.
"I am blissfully happy in tracksuit bottoms and a sweatshirt because I love being in the garden and I love the looseness of the clothes," she muses, "I'm not a great shopper. My favourite shop is Woodies!"
When Mary does shop, she treasures bargains, and indeed the hunt, but that's not to say she always needs to wear something new.
"I don't care about wearing something more than once," she says, "I think that day is gone. Style doesn't have to be expensive."
But it's not always just about what you have on. Mary believes grooming is just as important.
"No matter how nice the dress is," she explains, "I don't feel good about myself if the hair isn't right. That's probably because I don't have good hair. I have very fine hair. So that really gives me a boost having the hair done nicely. Gary Kavanagh of Peter Mark always does the cut and colour."
At some stage or other we all find ourselves in the changing room, torn between making the move up a size or pouring ourselves into the size we want to be regardless. Mary advocates choosing an eye-pleasing reality over the sausage-like alternative.
"It's just not worth it. I think people look better when clothes fit well," she adds "as my brother says 'there's nothing worse than looking at somebody who is bet into an outfit!' It just doesn't work. That would be my big tip, don't leave the shop saying: 'Oh, I can wear spanx or something!'"
In her youth, Mary spent a year teaching English in Brittany. The French style and attitudes to clothing have stuck with her.
"The French have this expression 'bien dans sa peau', which literally means 'good in your skin'. That's to do with how you are mentally, obviously, and in your spirit, but also in your clothes, so that they're not kind of fighting against you."
According to Mary, maturing stylishly is all about comfort.
"I'm much more comfortable with myself now, because I used to try and wear things like trousers that were too tight because I wanted to be a size 10," she tells me with some satisfaction.
"I did go down the very colourful and fussy route for a while and then I just think you look in the mirror and think this is too much, less is more."
Mary's latest book, Lines for Living, is a collection of musings, quotations, sayings and blessings, woven into chapters which cover what Mary refers to as "the middle stage of life".
"The empty nest, diets, exercise, menopause, middle age, the changes in your face, the lines," she explains. "Getting used to that, and getting to a place where you're comfortable with that, because when that starts it can be a bit of a shock."
Mary believes that good style is dependent on embracing such changes. "For a while you're looking backwards trying to recapture what has gone before instead of living here and now. You rail against it, but it is actually a very lovely stage in life if you embrace it, because there is wisdom, there is that lack of trying to impress and there is the knowledge that it's the lucky people that get to that age. The important thing is to embrace it and to work it," she concludes.
And "work it" Mary Kennedy certainly does.
'Lines for Living' by Mary Kennedy, published by Hachette Books Ireland, is out now, price €15.99
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