How Do I Look?: Orla Brady, actress, 46


Orla Brady was born in Dublin on 28 March 1961. She trained in Performing Arts in Paris, before starting her professional career in Blinded by the Sun at the National Theatre. Currently based in Los Angeles, she is a regular in US drama series World of Trouble and NBCs Revelations. Other television credits include Nip/Tuck, Proof, Absolutely Fabulous and Lawless. She is currently filming American legal drama Shark and stars in Mistresses on BBC1 this month. She lives with her husband and they divide their time between LA, Dublin and London.

I'm not at all one for playing it safe with clothes. I remember my sister and I finding a quote from Simone de Beauvoir when we were 15 or 16, which essentially said: "If something is beautiful, why can't you just wear it? Why should you put it away and only wear it for a ball?" The principle was you could wear velvet in the daytime, if you wanted to, and that really stuck with me.

This was way back in the late Seventies, early Eighties, and clothes were generally, if you like, very modern. But my sister and I were going in a different direction, towards very flamboyant, vintage clothes. There was a theatrical costumiers a few doors from where we lived in Dublin, and we used to go there and beg for sale clothes and buy gold shoes and fur collars and things like that.

There's a stage from 13 onwards when you start having a say in what you wear, and at that initial point clothes are often all about hiding. I was in that phase where you wear huge woolly jumpers and jeans and clumpy boots and you kind of want to disappear inside the clothes so you always buy things two sizes too big and think maybe you look more diminutive inside them. Now you look back at photographs and think: "Hmm, I just look like I'm in the wrong size." Like a lot of teenage girls, I was very self-conscious about my body and just wanted to cover it up.

I went to Paris for a year in 1986 to study theatre; there was a lot of clowning around, buffoonery and fencing. It was then that my own style kind of blossomed. I had a favourite bowler hat that I wore for the best part of that year. It was my thing and I felt it would draw attention away from my body somehow.

The idea of being in costume was very liberating. I loved the idea that you put a costume on and you try out a different personality, you become somebody else. If I wore a riding jacket, say, which was a great favourite of mine at the time, it just made me feel that I was exploring different parts of my personality, if you like; a new persona.

The notion of costume has stayed with me. I'm more comfortable dressing up than I ever am casual. It's more of a problem now because there's an emphasis on dressing down, particularly in LA, which is obviously very hot, so you have to expose a lot of your body if you're going to stay cool. I've never been comfortable with that. Then and now my ideal look has always been a gorgeous jacket, chunky boots and a huge scarf. I like being covered up, in rich and interesting textures and fabrics.

I was a bit overweight as a teenager, which may be why I'm more comfortable playing with clothes than showing my body. It's less of an issue now; as you move on in years you get more comfortable with yourself, but you always have a tendency towards something, and mine is to cover up. Clothes are interesting and they're there to be played with. I like the idea of costume rather than fashion.

I admire the very people who get slammed by the press, like Bjork in her swan outfit; I think "why are we so reverent about clothes?" We think we kind of have to restrain ourselves and flatter our bodies. Why not just have fun with clothes? We should be more light-hearted about how we dress, how we look. If you experiment you can go wrong, clearly; but you can have a wonderful time doing it!

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • 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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own