Portrait: Lipman's test

Her mother's idea of good taste was to wear a green dress with eyeshadow to match. But today Maureen Lipman wears clothes with elegant ease (even if she can't resist the odd chicken costume)

In my early years I sensed disappointment. My mother, Zelma, had a nice blond boy whose hair she religiously twinkied, then she got a rather sallow, narrow-eyed, beige-haired girl, and she was mystified. She is the only woman I have ever met who is totally satisfied with the way she looks, and, to me, her bemusement conveyed the message: "You don't look like me, and I'm perfectly happy with myself. You look like your father." To this day, if someone gives me a compliment, I say, "Well, yes, I do scrub up nicely," because I have this belief that nothing about me is naturally good-looking, and I have to work at it.

To be a comedienne, you're supposed to have had a tough background, but the only thing I can really complain about is that my mother made me over- aware of matching accessories, to the point where I would just assume that if you had a green dress, you would get your shoes painted green, with eyeshadow the same shade. On my first day at drama school I was completely coordinated in green. Someone told me afterwards I'd looked like a blade of grass.

Zelma always had me "bandbox" neat. Every Yom Kippur I would have a nice new suit, but at the expense of several Saturdays in C&A or Hammond's of Hull, tearing each other apart. The suit I remember most clearly was navy - because navy's always best, isn't it? Navy and white you can't beat. It had a box jacket and pleated skirt, and I wore it with what we called my "dog's dinner" hat and patent shoes. But, like most of the clothes then - and often now, when I make mistakes - it wore me.

In the teenage years there was a lot of struggling in cubicles, and saying to assistants in bra shops: "She needs plenty of support," and me wanting to die. Then the Sixties bit, and I was on my own. I bought everything from Granny Takes a Trip, or Biba. My mother would come to meet me at Hull station, and she used to dread me getting off the train. But I was getting it together by now, because, bless her, she had given me a strong sense of fashion. On the whole, I do wear clothes well, and gradually, in my twenties, I developed my own style.

It's not just fashion; I love fancy dress. I'm incredibly happy in a chicken costume, I'm unable to resist something that makes me laugh. In America I bought a white cable-knit zip-front cardigan with fake-fur collar and cuffs, and pockets made like mittens. I thought, "Who will buy this if I don't?"

I've still got stuff from the Sixties that I can't bear to part with. I wore my wedding dress for my silver wedding anniversary. It was Gina Fratini, petrol blue, with a low neck and leg-of-mutton sleeves.

People used to try to persuade me to change my nose, but I wouldn't. I don't know if that was a bad decision. I should probably have had a different career if I had done. I've never been particularly happy with anything about myself: I had sticking-out-teeth, I'm short sighted, with not the best of noses. But I can put it all together into something interesting.

I have trouble with anything that takes any time. I hate sitting in the hairdressers, I never have a manicure, I stick to the grungy bits of make- up I've had in my bag for years. And I pay pounds 60 a month not to go to a health club.

In my forties I went through a good patch. I got that sort of glow you're supposed to get when you're pregnant (whereas, when I was pregnant I just looked like a distended emu).

For Aunt Eller in Oklahoma, I sponged the lines around my eyes so they looked sun-bleached, and I had broken veins and wonderful, grey hair. I loved playing the matriarch, but in real life I probably dress a bit younger than I should, and I may be about to become very neurotic. I shall start looking in the mirror a lot more, putting a lot more things on my face, and doing a lot more splashing of the breasts.

All the pictures of me as a child are tourist pictures. I'm astride a lion in Trafalgar Square, in Capri pants. Or at a birthday party, in a smock dress, blowing out the candles - ptthhhh! So I don't have an image of myself just being me. But occasionally, when I feel bad about myself, I try to think about the little girl in all the photographs, and to feel very warm towards her, because if you can do that, you're likely to feel better about yourself.

Maureen Lipman will be starring in a new stage- to-screen adaptation of `Oklahoma!', to be shown on Sky Premier, at 8pm on 24 September.

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
  • Get to the point
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

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions