The earth seemingly falls out of orbit and all heads turn the moment Helen Mirren steps on any red carpet, but the 70-year-old Oscar-winning actress says achieving confidence in front of the cameras is hard work. "Now I see other girls on the red carpet and I know they're feeling the way I felt the first time, which is basically terrified, shaking with fear, because it's very intense," she told InStyle Wednesday night inside Bergdorf Goodman for the release of Badgley Mischka's new tome, American Glamour. ($65; rizzoliusa.com). "I've learned to enjoy them. I find the whole thing just so funny. It just makes me laugh, it really does."
The Trumbo and The Queen star knows exactly what works for her, which may explain why she repeatedly nails it on the carpet. So what's the secret? "Comfort. Absolutely. And I don't mean dowdy comfort. It can be incredibly glamorous, but comfort," she says. Despite her ability to shine in any dress, Mirren still finds the awards season frenzy comical. "All the publicists running around and the black phalanx around any movie star. It's like the ship of death coming along, pushing everyone aside," she quips. "We're all staggered back as Tom [Cruise], Nicole [Kidman], whoever it is walks through. It just makes me laugh. I mean, it's great and everybody dresses up. It's sweet. It's funny, it's great."
Mirren also admits she definitely has had unfavorable red carpet moments. "I once wore a Donna Karan dress, which was incredibly comfortable, but it was very low cut. It was down to [my chest] and I felt uncomfortable about that. I felt I couldn't move naturally. I was conscious of it even though I was stuck down and everything. And you know what? You have to wear something you can move in," she adds. "I learned early on, because you have to sit for hours at the Oscars, you have to sit for four hours, so you can't have things sticking in to you."
By now, the star has mastered her own style philosophy, but she has words of advice for Hollywood newcomers. "If you don't think you look good in it, don't wear it. Don't listen to people who say you look fantastic. Really, don't listen to them because they don't know. They really don't," she says. "When you look in the mirror you say, 'Oh, I look great!' Just go with that—and always look at yourself from behind."
Sage advice from the dame.