Helen Mirren's seven golden rules for timeless style

Helen Mirren’s seven golden rules for timeless style

The word “influencer” gets thrown around a lot these days, a catch-all term for anyone trying to get noticed on social media. But if you want to see a real influencer, take a look at Helen Mirren, who at 77 has more influence in the fashion and beauty industry than most young Insta stars could. never dream of it. Sitting across from me via a screen – Helen is in Cannes, I’m in London – wearing a green scoop-neck, fitted dress, hair slicked back in a modern ponytail, she’s all a idol. The actor has the kind of presence and confidence that appeals to anyone, whether they’re 17 or 70.

Still, she’s a charming, un-grand interviewee, making relaxed small talk. Her well-trained eye immediately focuses on my cheesecloth blouse: she squints and asks if it’s vintage (it is). She talks about the “very hot” weather in Cannes, and asks if the weather is nice in London as if we were old friends.

We’re talking the day before a red carpet appearance. Helen tells me she’ll be wearing a sparkly Jenny Packham dress and no, she hasn’t thought about how she’ll do her hair or makeup yet. (Turns out she had some hair extensions in to create an XXL half ponytail.)

Helen is as chic as she is charming. His irreverent and “so what?” attitude towards beauty are so appealing in this cookie-cutter world. A regular on the red carpet and the awards circuit, her fashion choices get bolder every year, which also makes her a frequent figure on best-dressed lists.

Whether she’s in a pretty floral dress enhanced by Russell & Bromley biker boots, as seen on The Graham Norton Show earlier this year, the slinky candy pink Dolce & Gabbana dress she wore to receive her Lifetime Achievement award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, or the bright yellow dress she sported at Cannes last year, her approach isn’t never shy. And L’Oréal Paris ambassador Helen (that’s her, below, walking in their 2019 show) is also up for the beauty adventure, trying pink hair, “bad eye” makeup -ass” and everything in between.

Mirren at the 2019 L’Oréal Paris fashion show.Credit:Getty Images

So who better to discuss her past red carpet looks than Helen herself? With a few photos at the ready, she tells me about some of the most interesting of the past few years and the seven beauty and style lessons that have made her an inspiration to women of all ages.

Being badass can be a lot of fun

In striking eye makeup at the L’Oréal Paris show in 2021.

At the L'Oréal Paris fashion show in 2021.

At the L’Oréal Paris fashion show in 2021. Credit:Getty Images

“I am very free with my make-up; I work with amazing makeup artists, so I let them do whatever inspires them. For this L’Oréal Paris fashion show, make-up artist Val Garland has just said: “I want to do something really, really extreme. People’s reaction to the thick, heavy eyeliner was a mixture of amazement and a tinge of horror, which is a good reaction as far as I’m concerned. I thought it was so much fun! And of course, I had an amazing outfit, so it all worked out. The whole look was very bad.

Trust your instincts – and take your skin care down to your neck

In a blue velvet Elie Saab dress at Cannes in 2018.

Cannes, 2018.

Cannes, 2018.Credit:Getty Images

“When it comes to the outfit I choose for an event, I’m really fast. I work with a stylist or a fashion designer and see what they have and what they can lend me. And I can see what will work immediately; I won’t bother. With that blue dress at Cannes, I had decided that I had had enough of the frills and the sequins and I didn’t want to shine that year. I just wanted something sculpted and tailored, and loved the slightly medieval feel of the dress. It was low cut, so my makeup artist did my makeup up to my neck. I always take my skin care down to the décolletage, even though I don’t tend to be so low cut anymore.

It’s all about balance

In a silky yellow Dolce & Gabbana dress in Cannes, 2021.

Cannes, 2021.

Cannes, 2021. Credit:Getty Images

“Sometimes the dress you wear says a lot. You put it on and that’s it, enough said. That’s why with this Dolce & Gabbana dress, I put my hair up in
a casual bun to balance the impact of the dress. It was so brilliant, and if you have an extreme you have to make sure you don’t go overboard elsewhere. What I loved about this dress was its buoyancy and the way the silk moved when there was just a little wind. I also like dresses that float.

Feel comfortable, look better

On the red carpet in Jenny Packham at Cannes, 2022.

Cannes, 2022.

Cannes, 2022.Credit:Getty Images

“For this year’s Cannes Film Festival, I chose a Jenny Packham dress. She is
a wonderful British designer whose dresses I have worn a few times. I don’t know how she does it, but she creates these amazing sparkly things and they are always very comfortable to wear. I’ve learned over the years that finding something comfortable is almost the most important thing. If it’s not the most glamorous item in the world, you can style your hair or wear beautiful jewelry. But comfort is extremely important, because then you will look like you are having fun. It makes a big difference to me.

Hair accessories add a “wow” factor

In a pink headband at the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

At the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

At the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards.Credit:Getty Images

“I only recently discovered headbands and have worn a few on
the Red carpet. I was always worried they looked a bit ‘Sloane Ranger’ so
a resistance to them, but now I think they add a lot to an outfit. I also like
a scarf tied around my hair, or a turban… and I liked hats. In 1995 I went to the Oscars the first time I was nominated and wore a hat – I don’t know what possessed me! I thought it was like going to an English wedding, or even Royal Ascot. I haven’t worn one on the red carpet since.

Don’t try to imitate someone else

At the 2011 Golden Globes.

Golden Globes, 2021.

Golden Globes, 2021.Credit:Getty Images

“I don’t have the easiest form to manage. I’m neither tall nor thin, I’m round and short, so only some things look good and some really edgy things just don’t work. And it’s good. There are people whose style I like but wouldn’t necessarily try to emulate because everyone is different. I love Helena Bonham Carter’s fashion sense and the way Kristen Stewart dresses. Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett also have plenty of style. They’re all women who are really pushing the boat – and that’s something I admire.

Hair and makeup are temporary, so take a chance

With pink hair in Cannes, 2019.

Cannes, 2021.

Cannes, 2021. Credit:Getty Images

“I like to be creative with my hair and my makeup, because nothing is permanent. A few years ago, I had this beautiful pink and gold Elie Saab dress. I thought, ‘Ooh, maybe I will make my hair the same color.’ It was completely my idea: hair can also be an accessory. Pink was wash-in, wash-out. At 6 p.m. I was my natural color, at 7 p.m. I was pink and at 11 a.m. the next morning I was my color again. Why not?”

Telegraph Magazine (UK).

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