Fashion: How to become a movie star in six (not so) easy steps

Helena Bonham Carter wanted to look the part for the London premiere of her new film `The Wings of the Dove' on Wednesday. Tamsin Blanchard watched the transformation.

Photographs by Jillian Edelstein

4pm The Dorchester Hotel. Helena Bonham Carter, movie star and street urchin, is swigging water from a bottle of Evian, wandering from room to room in the palatial suite that is to be her dressing-room for the evening. She is wearing a pair of baggy trousers held on to her tiny frame by braces, an old jersey top and a pair of grubby white trainers. Her hair is sticking up all over the place and her finely-boned porcelain- pale face is without a single trace of make-up. She smokes in between mouthfuls of water.

"Let's see if it fits before we start," says Helena, stripping down to practical big knickers and a grey Calvin Klein sportsbra. She unzips the pink-edged clothes hanging bag to reveal a candy-pink taffeta corset top and long fish-tail skirt made specially for the star's London Film Festival premiere of her new film, The Wings of the Dove. Across the gold Vivienne Westwood label is another narrow label with the word "special" embroidered in gold thread.

Westwood's business in providing celebrities with gowns to wear to one- off events is growing. She dressed Elizabeth Shue for Leaving Last Vegas, and made another pink confection for Kate Winslet to wear to the Academy Awards earlier in the year.

Helena is tiny, but despite a fitting two days earlier, the skirt and top are even smaller. The dress was made in just 48 hours. It looks as though some some good old-fashioned knee-in-the-small-of-the-back techniques are in order. But then Helena is used to being squeezed into corsetry. She is also used to being dressed completely out of keeping with her own character. Her personal style is famously scruffy. She usually wears just "a bit of make-up with some zit cover-up", and is more interested in comfort than fashion.

Tonight she has just another role to play: "I'm dressing up and pretending to be a movie star," she says. Her comfy clothes will be stuffed into a plastic bag until the morning. The dress, with its decolletage neckline, impossibly small waist and Marilyn style fish-tail skirt with ruffles of glittery net underskirts is pure Hollywood glamour and just the thing. "I'm not innately glamorous. If it was left up to me, I would never choose to wear a dress like this. But this is fantasy time."

4.50pm Make-up artist Louise Constad sets to work while Helena sneaks another cigarette. Constad is a make-up artist to the stars and has covered spots and brushed powder on almost any celebrity you can name, from Faye Dunaway to Tina Turner.

"What a palaver," laughs Helena at the prospect of three hours of primping and preening. She might as well be back on the set of a movie, where she spends lots of time with make-up artists. "You both have to share a sense of humour and a taste in music because you have to spend a lot of time together - I like show tunes," she says. For Wings, Helena spent a total of 10 weeks between hair and make-up filming in London and Venice, where she spent most of the time feeling seasick from too many takes in a moonlit gondola.

Slowly, Helena's public face takes shape. Her eyes are dusted with dark blue shadow and a touch of sparkly glitter and her eyelashes grow thicker and longer with each wave of the mascara wand.

5.55pm "She's not a hairdresser at all: she's going to make a dress now." Helena's regular hairdresser Carol Hemmings is rummaging in a dressing- up box full of velvet flowers, threads of beads, feathers and ribbons. She pulls out a length of pink velvet ribbon, some seed pearls and a needle and thread. She then sets to work sewing short pieces of hair into Helena's own hair. It looks painful. "All that long hair I'm supposed to have, it's actually in Carol's box," says Helena, blue varnish being applied to her nails. The hair-pieces are trimmed to fit in with Helena's own and the tiny pearls are threaded on to single strands.

6.15pm "Hello my angel!" Helena's innately glamorous silver-haired mum, Elena, arrives to escort her to the premiere. She's already seen the film twice. She is dressed in a plum taffeta jacket and skirt made to her own design. Underneath, she is wearing a white ruffled blouse she picked up in Madrid. The suit, she says, is an old faithful. She has worn it to many a premiere.

7.40pm Hair and make-up done, it's time to get dressed. Helena breathes her last free breath for the night and the zip is forced closed. As she looks in the mirror and sees Helena the movie star, there is a ping. "I think something's gone," she cringes. "It might be your vertebrae," jokes Louise. The zip has broken but, thankfully, the buttons hold the corset together. Mum takes a needle and thread just in case and they step out into the cold night, the autograph hunters and the waiting limousine.

"Did she give you an autograph?" asks an onlooker. "No," I reply. "But doesn't she look fabulous?"

`The Wings of the Dove' opens 2 January 1998 nationwide

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
football
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
film
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Circles South East Youth Service: Youth Services Volunteer

    this is an unpaid voluntary position: Circles South East Youth Service: LOOKIN...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - OTE £30,000+

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading privately owned sp...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is require...

    Recruitment Genius: Logistics Supervisor

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest supplier to the UK'...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn