Fashion: Any shape you choose is still beautiful in Babedom: Lisa Armstrong hears a philosophy of life that is absolutely brill
Thursday 17 September 1992
Ms Brill acknowledges that her talents are not always obvious. 'A lot of people ask me, as politely as possible, what it is I actually do.' In fact, these days she has diversified. She no longer sells clothes or designs men's suits ('that was Dianne Brill, Eighties version'). She sells herself - so astutely that in Germany she has a range of Brill-shaped chocolates. A Brill Bra, 'like the Wonderbra, but more', is also in the
In Britain and the United States there is also a line of Brill mannequins, modelled on her buxom dimensions, produced by Adel Rootstein - the company that makes most of the dummies in high street shop windows, and which nominated her the 'Shape of the Nineties' (an honour they conferred on an anorexic-looking Twiggy in the Sixties, so perhaps things have moved on). She is a frequent and funny guest on chat shows. She snaffles up the odd acting role and, despite being the proud mother of 15-month-old Keenan,, retains her position (self-appointed) as queen of New York's nightlife. On top of this, her twice-yearly appearances on Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier's catwalks are among the fashion highlights in Paris.
Her book's title is perhaps a bit too self-consciously camp for its own good. But scattered among the draconian dietary notes ('use extra-strength breath spray as a snack') and the Brillisms (good-looking men are GGs - great guys; good-looking girls, which is what you're supposed to be once you've read the book, are babes, and much is made of 'booballure') is some refreshingly straight talking.
Consider Ms Brill on being fat: 'Ignore what your family, friends and the glamourexic 'bulimic moderns' are pushing on you. I suggest trying on a few different shapes, a few different weights, to find the you of the moment . . . what I'm saying is you have about 10lb to 15lb of absolute leeway. And you can be at your most gorgeous and sexy at either end of the spectrum.'
In many circles, discussing vital statistics might be politically incorrect. But the concept does not exist in Babedom (her notion of recycling begins and ends with sharing boyfriends). Since they are far from immaterial to her success, for the record her statistics are 39-23-39. Once they were 43-29-39. 'Admit it,' she says, 'when you saw me I bet you thought: 'What's that doing on the catwalk?' But, see, that's what I mean about the power of positive thinking.'
Once - and only once - Dianne Brill tried to look normal. This was a major sacrifice because to her, normal is mundane. Normal is not wearing six-inch Vivienne Westwood heels to the launderette. It is not wearing newsworthy make-up to the news-stand at 7am (the best time to catch a man). And it is not chucking peroxide on your hair the millisecond you hit 14. Natural Brill style is not normal and the kids at her school in Tampa, Florida, hated her for it. So she dragged her mom to the yukkiest out-of-town discount store to buy the kind of 'vile quality' clothes everyone else in class wore. 'And you know what? They really liked me after that. But I was sooo depressed in all that gunge I could only keep it up two days.'
At heart she is a traditionalist: keen to please her man, a stickler for good manners and not swearing, and determined never to be caught in public without lipstick.
'Actually, rather than old-fashioned, I think of myself as a sister. You know, someone who plays up to women as much as to men. Someone who pokes fun at the stereotypes.' On this last point she is pretty evangelical - hence the spoofy tone of the book. 'Being a woman can be hard if you take it all seriously.'
Isn't that what Mae West, a figure with whom Ms Brill has often been compared, preached years ago? 'Yes, but somewhere along the way the fun went out of being a babe.' Ms Brill's life mission is to restore it - none of this Marilyn Monroe victim stuff for her. Hey, listen, she only wears high heels all the time because her instep is so high that flats feel uncomfortable. And if she were marooned on a desert island without her cosmetics, it wouldn't really be the end of the world - if only because she has patented a Brill technique that ensures make-up stays on your face for days.
'Boobs, Boys and High Heels, or How to Get Dressed in Just under Six Hours' is published this week by Vermilion, price 7.99.
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