Hannah Waddingham’s stylist on the secret to festive glamour (2024)

Certain women have that “I’ll have what she’s having” aura. Actress Hannah Waddingham, 49, is one of them. The star of Ted Lasso and Sex Education is having something of a fashion moment this season. As the face of Marks & Spencer this Christmas, she has inspired sequin midi dresses to sell at a rate of one a minute.

James Yardley, who has been Waddingham’s stylist for more than three years and who also works with Tess Daly and Tom Daley, describes her appeal. “She’s relatable and relaxed but she’s also 6ft 2in in heels and built like a goddess with this tiny waist and these beautiful hips,” he tells The Telegraph. “She reminds me of a taller Marilyn Monroe and makes my job easy because her shape means you can do anything: low back, cleavage, short skirt.”

Yardley has been Waddingham’s stylist since getting a last-minute call to dress her the night before the Critics’ Choice Awards in 2020. It was a rush job but the pair immediately got on. “When you first meet a client, it usually takes time to trust the creative process but with Hannah, what you see on television is what you get. She tells you what she thinks, which I love, and she’s willing to try fabrics and cuts she isn’t familiar with. So many people are set in their ways, but Hannah isn’t at all.”

Since that night, Yardley has been handed the stylist’s equivalent of a ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, working with Hannah on some of the glitziest, most glamorous events on the small screen, including the Eurovision Song Contest in the spring, which Waddingham presented along with two co-hosts.

“Wow, now that was a different beast,” he says. “You don’t usually come across shows like that, with 180 million people watching from around the world and all these incredible costumes. As a stylist you have to strike so many different notes: the outfit needs to be really visual and fun and colourful, but she also needs to feel great and be relaxed.”

The duo delivered via lemon Suzanne Neville chiffon dresses, and Costarellos rainbow lurex gowns. But their partnership is not all look-at-me extroversion. Earlier this month, Waddingham had a very different kind of assignment. The Prince of Wales approached her in the summer to ask her to present the Earthshot Prizeand because of the sustainability angle, Yardley knew he needed to find a dress made out of recycled material. Once again Suzanne Neville came to the rescue and he paired the resulting flowing green gown with vegan shoes and lab-grown diamonds. She also wore a Chupi green tourmaline and diamond ring.

Yardley, with his eye for colour and flair, is clearly the sort of man you’d like to help you get dressed for this year’s Christmas parties. Sadly, few of us can afford him, but in terms of brands, he suggests Mint Velvet, Reiss and Rixo at the more affordable end, and Vampire’s Wife for anyone prepared to spend a bit more.

What about his rules? He says that everything you buy should be versatile enough to rewear throughout much of the year and heels should always be comfortable.

“Women used to feel this pressure to wear ridiculous stilettos but I’m so glad that era has passed,” he says. “Even the women in And Just Like That are wearing flats and kitten heels. And who is to say a gorgeous flat boot isn’t as nice as a heel with the right outfit?”

In terms of colour, Yardley unsurprisingly loves anything bold, citing a pink velvet suit from Boden and a green party dress from Rixo as his two December must-buys. But he also accepts that not all of us can be the Hannah Waddinghams and Tess Dalys at the office bash.

“It would be hypocritical of me to insist everyone be extroverted and wear colour as I am in black 90 per cent of the time,” he says. “But I find that when I put on colour I do feel good. If you’re a bit shy, my advice would be to work from your base point of comfort and then go outwards. So a navy sequin or a deep brass instead of something really bright. If that feels too much then wear a black silk shirt and black trousers with a colourful shoe.”

In terms of skin-baring past 40, Yardley thinks everyone should just wear what makes them feel good but given Waddingham turns 50 next year and Daly is 54, he clearly doesn’t ascribe to the “no miniskirts after 40” rule. “God, no,” he says with a shudder. “I really do believe that age shouldn’t be any sort of impediment to wearing what you like.”

One thing he does know is that using an oversized dress or top to cover up the parts of your body you don’t like is a big mistake. “It never works, it just makes you look shapeless,” he says. Instead he suggests buying pieces that generally fit well and taking them to a tailor if they need to be taken in or out at the waist or around the bottom. “Women are far more critical of their bodies, but they are less likely than men to use a tailor when it is the one thing they can do to make their clothes more flattering,” he says.

And if you are lucky enough to bump into Waddingham at your Christmas bash, you’re in for the night of your life. “Oh, she’s super approachable,” says Yardley. “She’s one of those people that [everyone] loves – women, men (including almost every gay man I know), kids. I’m so grateful that I get to work with her.”

Hannah Waddingham’s stylist on the secret to festive glamour (2024)

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