Fashion: COTTON DRESSED AS LAMB

June Brown, aka Eastenders' Dot, talks fashion with Annalisa Barbieri
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The Independent Culture
June Brown tells me lots of things. That she's lazy about shopping, for one, but today she's been out and bought three dresses, a lovely mauve one, one with a fitted top and one with the shoulder on a slant. No, she won't say where she shops, but when she does, it tends to be sort of in bulk so she doesn't have to go that often. June doesn't dress anything like her EastEnders character Dot Cotton. In the days of wearing Afghans and long skirts she (as June, not Dot) wore just that, but her children (she has five) didn't particularly like it. No, June, unlike Dot, favours clothes that look as if they could have been worn in the Fifties.

On these pages, June wears denim which she does sometimes, although it makes her feel creaky: "I wear jeans, yes, but then I think, 'Why am I wearing these jeans that make me go ooh, ahhh, achey back?' when in leggings I can bop around, turn and twist and squat all over the place." In case things didn't fit her, June brought her own clothes along to the shoot, including a pair of original Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, oblivious that they now command cult status. But with her spectacular figure and completely flat stomach (despite having had so many children), she fitted into everything perfectly. Some garments, such as the vintage Chanel all-in-one (left) and the Diane Von Furstenberg dress, brought back memories for her: "I used to wear some just like these." Some, I think she rather fancied seeing in her own wardrobe, such as the impossibly high Gucci crocodile heels.

Dot Cotton wears court shoes and carries brown boxy handbags which June buys for her from Oxfam. June often buys things that she thinks Dot would like - a little scarf or pearl studs, maybe an apron. And for her part Dot, despite having a son who has tried to kill her, varicose veins and more worries that one woman and a headscarf could possible cope with, is always regal. "That's Dot's idea of herself," says June, "she thinks she's a cut above, that things aren't what they used to be." With standards slipping all over the place, Dot would never allow herself to slob out - the furthest that she'd let her sartorial standards slip is to an ensemble of nightie and hairnet.

The regality is helped by Dot's posture, always broomstick-straight. This mirrors June's own deportment: "If you keep your diaphragm up then everything else falls into place," she advises. "But Dot has a sticky- out bottom and when I come out of character I walk around with my bottom out for a bit. I have to remember to tuck it in." Why does the gossipy, hypochondriac Dot stick her bottom out? "I don't know, the way Dot thinks is different to the way I think and it affects her body."

June has played Dot for 13 years. She's left the series a couple of times and is currently away from Albert Square until September. In the beginning, June met with Julia Smith, the programme's original producer, to discuss Dot's look. "Julia said, 'I want her to be matching but not matching,' and I've stuck with that. If it's something I don't think Dot would wear I say 'oooh no'." June doesn't let Dot have too many new clothes, partly because Dot just wouldn't and partly so she will be recognis-able. Hence the signature camel coat Dot wears in winter: "It's far, far too big - a size 16 - which is why it droops in that terrible way and is so very tiring to wear." There's the belted off-green mac for summer and for special moments "a really awful navy Crimplene blazer". June doesn't wear trousers much and Dot, never. Absolutely not, she leaves that to Ethel.

June tells me more. It takes five rollers along the back, two at the front and sides to give Dot's funny burgundy coloured hair its signature "do". June's shoe-string strap wearing days are long gone now that her arms aren't pretty any more, she says. June has a mobile phone, a Nokia - the pronunciation of which she's not certain. It took her six months to be able to answer it but now she's au fait with all the buttons. June doesn't miss Dot when she's not playing her, like she missed Catherine after The Taming of the Shrew. But something is causing June to fret on Dot's behalf. "The storyline coming up rather worries me ... about Dot's clothes."

She will not be drawn further. !

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