Helen Mirren's floral frock, three ways

The Daily Mail recently noted that Helen Mirren has been photographed in the same flowered Dolce & Gabbana dress at least five times since 2012. 

I applaud Mirren for not only her abundant talent, but for her realistic approach: if it's a great dress, give it a good run! We can learn from how she's styled it at various times.

The two earlier shots serve as a) a cautionary example, and b) an it-depends.

At left, what seems to be a matching jacket worn with the dress makes her look like a walking wallpaper sample. Her bland hairstyle makes even Dame Helen look like one of those matronly, carefully-coiffed women you see at charity events. The nude heels don't remotely go with the dress.

The pearl rope gives pearls a bad name and explains why some women avoid them: too high on the neck, creating a strangled, tight effect, and at the same time, drooping toward the famous bosom in oddly-arranged strands.

Sidebar: Dame Mirren does know how to rock pearls; here she is at the Geilgud Theatre in an ultra-long rope worn with wit and a marvelous grey-lace dress I would kill for:

On a second occasion (top right), she seems to have put herself in the hands of a stylist who thinks leopard plus floral plus bootie equals hip. The coat desperately attempts a pattern-mix, but the leopard bears no relation to the floral and its length looks haphazard: just shy of long enough, but not short enough to be smart. (Or perhaps the dress was altered to remove the sleeves and create a new neckline?) However achieved, the slight scoop is a more flattering cut and her hair is softer, less staid. The ensemble at least moves into the right decade.


The third time's the charm; finally, as seen above, the dress comes into its own. The cardi frames the print without competing, the box bag is chic, the leg is light, the shoe discreet and though not as edgy as the bootie, suits the retro-print dress. 

The only questionable note here is the necklace, which has a nice vintage feel, but seems to sit low. I think floral print plus flower necklace is a bit repetitive, but if I looked like Dame Mirren, I might try it.

Hair and makeup just superb!

A closer look at the necklace; what do you think?

As contrast, and part of my own internal might-I-wear-print-in-this-lifetime? dialog, I checked out Mirren's recent appearances in solids. Here she is in ecru, at a Women in Film pre-Oscar party (with Melanie Brown):

And in one of my favourite-ever Mirren evening gowns, an enchanting shade of green, at this year's Golden Globes:

She's wearing glamourous emerald earrings, and here's a closer look at her hairstyle, a vast improvement over photo #1, but maybe she was growing it; we've all been there

I'm thinking a solid shade lets the woman wear the dress, not vice-versa. 

Your take? 

PS. Upon receiving her star, placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year, Mirren said, “I couldn’t be prouder and more happy that I’m actually going to finally lie next to Colin Firth, something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time.”


Susan B said…
I prefer the solids on her too. I've always found wearing prints (other then in scarves) challenging to do my small stature. Prints tend to wear me rather than the other way around. I think the "statement" necklace is fine, but I might have opted for one with less filigree. And I want to reach over there and straighten it for her!
Susan B said…
That should be "due to," not "to do". ;-)
Anonymous said…
I enjoyed how you dissected her outfits. It's very useful as I am not good at this at all.
I could see why the pearls are too high up in the first outfit, but not why the necklace in the 3rd outfit is too low?
I wonder if statement jewelry like the 3rd necklace is similar to patterns on clothes. Very easy for the item to visually wear the person rather than the reverse.
LPC said…
I like her necklace. Keeps the outfit from verging into prim. And I usually don't like statement necklaces...Thanks for showing the several versions, fun to see the wins and not so goods:).
LauraH said…
I much prefer the solids. She often adds chooses dresses with lace and other textures which look wonderful on her. Prints are so tricky, I stay away from them except for scarves. I thought the statement necklace added a nice touch.

Seeing your analysis was fun and helpful, gives me some clues as to how to look at my own outfits.
LauraH said…
ooops, that "adds" shouldn't be there
Anonymous said…
I actually like the way the gunmetal floral spray of the necklace echoes the dress print, but agree that the large print itself is overwhelming on Helen Mirren. Those creamy white separates, on the other hand, with that gardenia--heavenly!--are timelessly chic, an outfit I'd love to wear. Ditto the gorgeous silky grey lace dress. After fifty, color becomes such an important component of one's look, and solids do seem to let colors speak more clearly.

Nancy K said…
the first dress is a disaster and when paired with those booties, even worse. It looks better the third time, but really it's like a sofa. I like the white dress, the gray and the green best of all. Floral prints are hard for most women to wear especially as we age.
sisty said…
Excellent analysis....and not just because I agree 100% with all of it. The first thing I noticed is how much better the dress looks with a lower neckline (I thought it was a different dress). Especially on a busty woman like Helen.

First outfit -- too Queen Mum
Second outfit -- trying too hard
Third outfit -- hits the sweet spot. The black sweater breaks the floral print up just right.

I think the necklace is fine, but definitely crooked. It's probably heavier on one side than the other.

I'm in the minority, but I'm not a fan of nude shoes. I know, I know, they're supposed to lengthen the legs and all that, but I find that a dark outfit looks unbalanced with light shoes on the bottom.
sisty said…
on closer inspection, I think the jacket is one of those boxy collarless styles that close at the throat, covering up the much nicer neckline of the dress
frugalscholar said…
You are really good at this! Now I know why I stick to solid colors with maybe an occasional strip.
Anonymous said…
This is another great post....very helpful to be able to look at an outfit and decide whether it works and not, and why.
I see so many oversized prints in fashion magazines, but I've wondered how many people can wear them??? Maybe not many at all. For me, I agree with Une Femme, they do tend to "swallow" me up and all you see is the print ....
Helen Mirren looks soooo lovely and chic in the solids and in the dress with the cardigan! "if it ain't broke...."guess this is where personal style comes in.
Cathy Wong
Anonymous said…
Agree the lower neckline gives better balance. Although she is not short, her features are fine and a narrow skirt might work better instead of all the fabric in the swishy full skirt.
The outfits with plain or textured fabrics are certainly much more flattering.
Sometimes though, we just love a particular piece and wear it even though it is not our most flattering look and good on her for that.
Jill Ann said…
I do love Helen, and have for many years. Wish I could ever be as cool as she is! Love that emerald gown, although one of my all time faves of hers was the deep claret gown with the silver beaded sleeves, worn at the Oscars (I think!) a couple of years ago.
Dr. V.O. said…
Wonderful commentary on Dame Helen's looks. I find myself not loving the retro print dress -- at our age it seems non-ironic and just dowdy -- although I agree that the third outfit is a vast improvement on the others. I tend to find myself going for the columnar look -- one solid color or related solid colors arranged vertically (like her aqua dress) to create a harmonious line. I don't want to disappear into mixed prints and hectic textures. My concern about retro dresses at our age has escalated upon seeing the Uniqlo Ines de la F collection with its yawn, I mean, lawn dresses. What do you think of the IDLF collection, Duchesse?
Duchesse said…
Pseu: I think she and you could carry a tiny print, but agree this scale can overwhelm a petite woman.

LPC and LauraH: I think it's a bit askew and an inch and a half too long, but agree it suits the dress.

C.: Not only do prints date, they are also memorable: 'that' dress again. The ecru ensemble melted me.

sisty: Great summary; nude shoes (a warm pinky beige) do not go with everything and are in fact more limited than we are told.

frugal: Freudian slip, love it!

Cathy Wong: I think it's a young/thin look, what InStyle represents. But on a scarf, bag or umbrella, a well-composed floral is so pretty.

Lilibet: That's so true, and her many outings in the dress suggest she's fond of it. And really, how 'bad' can Helen Mirren look?

Jill Ann: She has an innate elegance in evening gowns. Some women can just wear them.

Dr. VO: LOL! Ines is recycling classic French good taste, but for those clothes to sing they have to be of the best quality, which Uniqlo's are not.

I used to study her first line (maybe a dozen years ago?), which used very good fabrics. She is doing for French BCBG style what Ralph Lauren did for high WASP style, but I'm not sure if there are as many aspirants. But unlike Lauren, she designs for her build, period, so if you have much bust or hip, forget it.
Susan said…
I don't think she always has a stylist. At least I hope the first few photos are not a stylist's work. And yes, I prefer her in solid colors. Generally, I prefer to wear solid colors myself.
Anonymous said…
I am a bit younger but have exactly the same complexion and hair colour as Mrs. Mirren. While I like the patterned dress in itself, I would never wear a dark, high-contrast print that clashes with my light colouring. That dress, no matter how accessorized, "wears" her. You almost do not see her pretty face.

I love all her solid-coloured outfits, thanks for posting the photos !

Duchesse said…
Susan: I read some reference to a stylist who works with Mirren but do not know about this particular dress.

Ève: I see what you mean about the palette; a floral in more 'blonde' colours would be better, but it is still harder to wear than solids. I have always loved her in cream, which can wash out some blondes, but looks terrific on her.
Eleanorjane said…
I just love that floral dress, but I suspect it's because it would suit me, not because the colours really suit Dame Helen. I think she looks about 7 or 8 out of 10 in the final photo in the floral dress, but the cream outfit is around a 9 or 10/10, I think.
Unknown said…
She is a good role model. I particularly like the colours she wears.
Thanks for you lovely comment on my perfume post.
Mardel said…
I prefer the solids too, but it is not the fact that they are solid, so much as my feeling that the black is too strong for her coloring. The statement necklace is what the dress needs to keep it from being a bit grayish, but it is a smudge too long.

The posts with the most