Forty outfit changes, a gallon of fake tan and a potential wardrobe malfunction? All in a night’s work for Tess Daly. The new series of Strictly Come Dancing kicks off tonight and we're treating our Twitter followers to a first look at Tess' ensembles. Yes, stay glued to @Grazia_Live when Strictly airs over the next 12 weeks as we'll be sharing an exclusive snap straight from the presenter's dressing room. So what to expect?
‘I like to wear a show stopping designer gown to set the tone,’ Tess told us of her TV wardrobe. Last year, it was a sheer polka dot number by Stella McCartney, the dress of the season, as worn by everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Kate Winslet. As for what’s on her wishlist this year, ‘I’ve got my eye on one of Victoria Beckham’s gowns’. You hear that, VB?
So how does the 44-year-old presenter Tess Daly handle the pressure of dressing for Saturday primetime? ‘Up until five minutes before we go live I’ve got rollers in my hair, one set of eyelashes on and I’m walking around in my slippers. For me, it’s like being at home,’ Tess says.
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Glitterballs and sambas aside, one of Strictly’s biggest draws is Tess, who’s fronted the show for its entire 10-year run, emerging as something of a style maven. Not that she sees it like that: ‘I have so much going on that I don’t want to worry about what I’m wearing.’ Her relaxed approach is pretty impressive considering the myriad of potential wardrobe malfunctions.
‘There have been times I was being sewn into my dress as the producers were counting in my ear and playing the opening credits,’ she remembers. ‘As soon as I’m on the staircase, I know there’s no going back. I’ve come on thinking, “Oh my God, the strap is coming loose” and I’ll have to breathe out through my ribcage to stop the dress falling down.’ It’s little wonder then that Tess undergoes extensive fittings two months before the show starts filming: ‘We mock up a fitting room at my home and my two daughters tell me what they like. Usually it’s the princess gowns!’ Tess’s husband Vernon Kay stays well clear.
Although she gets to view designs months in advance, some outfits are held back for specific shows: ‘If we do a Halloween special this year, I have this fabulous Alberta Ferretti dress made of acres of chiffon.’ Designers, from Alexander McQueen to Dolce & Gabbana, loan pieces with some being made bespoke for the show. But it can still be tricky securing two jaw-dropping outfits every weekend on a tight budget: ‘This is the BBC so my stylist has to be a very clever magician.’
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But Tess admits there have been a few fashion disasters, too. ‘Of course you make mistakes and look back and think, “I look the size of a house, how did I not think that at the time?”, but my style has evolved. Some colours pop on camera, so I wore a yellow jumpsuit recently that I could never pull off in real life. You can’t wear stripes because they strobe on TV. We do a camera test for each garment.’
Tess also expertly treads the line between looking glam and staying pre-watershed appropriate. There’s one simple rule: ‘If I’ve got a dress that shows cleavage, I avoid a really short number and vice versa. I want to keep it elegant and cool without showing too much.’ Still, there’ll always be criticism. Just ask Holly Willoughby who was attacked for showing too much flesh on Dancing On Ice. ‘It’s ridiculous,’ says Tess. ‘Holly looks hot and if she’s got it, flaunt it.’
And what does she make of Holly claiming the wardrobe team encouraged the flesh-flashing? ‘The clever devils! A striking outfit can certainly bring up the ratings and get the show talked about.’ With Strictly on our screens for the next 12 weeks, will Tess’s dresses do just that? We bet our sequinned leotard they will.
See Tess' greatest Strictly style in the gallery below >>