Real Women: Fashion editor Deirdre McQuillan on finding consistency in chaos

Once, fashion became less of a concern to women the older they grew. Not anymore. Every month, IMAGE Magazine chooses a selection of real, fabulous women who demonstrate how relevant, rewarding and fun clothes can be whatever your age. This month we had the privilege of meeting fashion editor – and style icon in her own right – Deirdre McQuillan


I find it utterly impossible to imagine the petite, effortlessly stylish Deirdre McQuillan, fashion editor of The Irish Times, as an “overweight teenager”. But apparently, this was the rather unceremonious beginning of her relationship with fashion. Today, she’s nothing less than a doyenne of the industry. “When I started writing about fashion, I knew nothing of it,” she explains. “I decided that if I was going to do this job, I had to learn everything about fashion, so that’s what I did.”

She describes her personal style as “consistent in its chaos”. Again, nothing about the chic separates she arrives wearing on the morning of our shoot, or the gently curated outfit she chooses to be photographed in suggest anything close to chaos. Deirdre knows exactly how to dress her small frame, and understands that clothes are intrinsically linked to mood. “I like wearing white shirts; they cheer me up,” she reveals, and indeed she chooses a chic high-neck white Prada shirt for our shoot. “I believe in a good jacket, and in good tailoring,” she adds. “And I like tweed. I have a Magee 1866 tweed coat that I like very much, which I wear with a Stable scarf.”

Photography by Barry McCall

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Deirdre believes in dressing for the life you lead. She’s an avid cyclist, so trousers and jeans are a big part of her wardrobe. Like every woman of every age and size, she admits that finding the right colour and fit of denim is difficult. “But I’ve always thought denim was a wonderful thing to wear, whatever your age. I remember getting into a bath when I was younger wearing my Levi’s in order to shrink them,” she recalls with a smile. She admires women who put together unlikely pieces successfully, like co-founder of Tropical Popical, Andrea Horan, whose over-the-top style Deirdre loves. “Some women are afraid of their real selves,” she says. “Kate Middleton, for instance, plays it so safe,” she adds.

She attributes her own inherent sense of style to her grandmother and mother, both of whom she says were incredibly stylish, and well groomed. “Being well groomed was important to my mother. She didn’t spend a lot on clothes, but she always looked wonderful.” That’s a lesson women of every age can take away.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of IMAGE Magazine. Words by Marie Kelly, videography by Niamh O'Donoghue.

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