For love of Versace

For his devotees, the best memory of the fashion designer is the perfection of his tailoring
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Donatella Versace, sister of the murdered Gianni and likely heir to his empire, has had her hair styled by the Nicky Clarke salon. Both the hairdresser and his wife, Lesley, return the compliment and embody the Versace look. Here, Lesley Clarke describes what wearing Versace does for her

My first Versace dress was green and asymmetrical. I wore it to 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister about four years ago. It was daring, mint green, and didn't leave anything to the imagination. It stood out among the grey suits. John Major was a bit gob-smacked, I think. He said I looked very nice. There was a queue going up the stairs - they were all wearing grey suits or twinsets and pearls, and everyone just stared at me. It didn't even occur to me that I was not appropriately dressed. It was a private event, so there were no pictures in the papers the next day. Since then I have bought about half a dozen atelier dresses.

I wore a short red-and-turquoise dress and matching coat to a Tom Hanks premiere about six months ago, and he came up to me and said, "You look wonderful tonight." I almost fainted. He made a beeline for me; my chin hit the floor. I was a bit embarrassed.

Does Versace empower women? I don't need a frock to make me feel powerful. Power comes from within. I've seen lots of women wearing Versace who look glamorous but don't necessarily look powerful - rich men's wives. I'm a size 8 to 10 and I go to the gym. There are some Versace dresses that you don't need to have a perfect body for. They are exquisitely made and give you a perfect figure. I don't think you want to see a size 20 woman in sparkly Versace, though. I feel great in Versace. It makes me feel like a million dollars. They are result dresses.

I don't think that just because he's dead, we have to treat him like a god. He's not the only designer who's made dresses that give that kind of impact. Antony Price definitely used to have that glamour in the Eighties. We have some great British designers, too. I have worn a Pearce Fionda dress to the premier of 101 Dalmatians. It was more sensual and slinky - not as drop-dead glamorous as Versace - but it made the papers all the same.

Versace dresses certainly create impact. I wore a long catsuit to the opening of Planet Hollywood. I had to pour myself into it, and got into it with great difficulty. Versace clothes are quite hard to get into and out of. The dresses all have inner bodices that zip up underneath the dress. I've never felt faint in one of his dresses. Once you've got them on, they feel fine. The inner bodice is the secret. That's what squeezes you in and pushes you up and flattens out whatever needs flattening. I have one white dress that I cut the bodice out of and I have to rely on my own body. I can't eat in that one. To dress in a Versace evening frock, you need help to get in and out of it. Anyone can help - you just need another pair of hands to hold it together while you zip it up like a corset. My daughter helps me. They're passion-killers really. If you wanted to slip out of it into something more comfortable, you'd need to go and ask someone to unhook you firstn

Interview by Tamsin Blanchard

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