When the cameras stop rolling, dress to please yourselves

The fashion police have felt the frayed collars of two of Britain's best young actors. Melanie Rickey senses a miscarriage of justice

WHEN Helena Bonham Carter boarded Concorde to New York on Wednesday, onlookers were surprised, shocked even, to see her dressed in a mish-mash of most un-film-starry clothes, with tousled hair and not a hint of make- up.

Where was the cashmere wrap? The sunglasses? The leave-me-alone-I-am- a-movie-star demeanour? It was in exactly the same place as Kate Winslet's leave-me-alone-I-am-a-movie-star demeanour when she boarded Concorde last week wearing a mini-skirt with bare legs, boots, chunky socks and a black leather coat; put away until Oscar night on 23 March, when both women will look every inch glamorous icons of the silver screen.

The truth is that today's young actresses are an entirely different breed of women from the Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and Lauren Bacall types of the Forties and Fifties. Then, every detail of their clothing, make-up, eyebrows and hairstyles were slavishly copied to such a degree that most fashionable women of that era looked like clones.

In the late Nineties, we've got a diverse selection of supermodels for inspiration, and frankly we would rather look to Kate (Moss) and Helena (Christensen) for fashion tips, not our lovely actresses Kate and Helena who are all the better for their imperfections and remind us of our humanity.

Unfortunately this doesn't stop the bitching, sniping and deconstruction of their every fashion choice. Bonham Carter doesn't seem to care too much about fashion as her rather hideous patchwork jumper shows, but she doesn't really have to. She was the face of Yardley cosmetics from 1993 to 1996, and has done her time as a two-dimensional image.

Winslet, on the other hand, is the hapless victim of style bloodhounds, who revel in her weight problems and ridicule her style. Those chunky brown boots she wore last week do not represent her need to show her inner "tomboy" nor do they imply that her feet "are firmly planted on the ground" despite her rise to fame. That is utter rubbish. Kate Winslet is still, as she often points out,a 22-year-old woman from Reading and has probably worn boots like that since she was a teenager, no doubt with 501s and a leather coat - just like other women her age. Why should she wear Manolo Blahnik heels and designer dresses? She is not paid to be a clothes-horse, she is paid to act, and she is very good at it.

Last November, when Helena Bonham Carter was getting primped, preened and laced into a Vivienne Westwood gown for the London premiere of The Wings of The Dove, she commented: "I'm dressing up and pretending to be a movie star," and after changing out of her dungarees and trainers, donning the gown, and spending three hours in hair and make-up, she looked sensational, and assumed her part beautifully, just like Kate Winslet did in her Vivienne Westwood gown at last year's Oscar ceremony - and just as they will again on 23 March.

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