Monday, 30 November -0001

Still Sensational at 62...

Modelling ‘grown-up’ lingerie, Marie Helvin, the original supermodel, looks better than ever.

Written by Sarah Chalmers
With her years of experience in front of the camera, it should come as little surprise that international model and former Vogue cover girl Marie Helvin looks relaxed in her latest photo shoot. But what is surprising is that Marie, who was once married to celebrity photographer David Bailey, is now 62, and the range she is modelling is not a sedate collection of twinsets or evening gowns, but some raunchy, albeit flattering, underwear.

Tossing her mane of dark curls over one shoulder, the striking half- Japanese model pouts seductively at the camera and shows that although she may be eligible for a bus pass, she can still give younger models a run for their money. For not only are her famously catlike almond eyes and razor-sharp cheekbones as striking as ever, but so too is her curvy body, showcasing a range of 1950s-inspired matching bras and large (but very pretty) underpants by Aliza Reger, daughter of Swinging Sixties slinkylingerie pioneer Janet Reger.


Although with trademark candour, Marie told the journalist Liz Jones, ‘Doing this lingerie shoot was not a piece of cake. Let’s be honest: when you’re doing swimwear or lingerie with any part of your body exposed, if you’re a certain age, it’s really hard.’

Born in Tokyo in 1952 to an American GI father and a local interpreter from the officers’ club, Marie moved to Hawaii when she was four. Hers was an unconventional upbringing, characterised by the Helvins’ laissezfaire parenting style. Her father encouraged her to skip school and send Christmas cards to Joan Baez in jail, and her mother developed an addiction to caffeine, which her doctor advised her to replace with marijuana – which she in turn let her children sample.

MarieHelvin-Jul03-03-176On a visit to Japan with her mother when she was just 15, the already stunning Marie was spotted by a scout and signed up as the face of Kanebo cosmetics.

Obsessed with London from an early age – after seeing Yardley adverts in the commercial breaks for her favourite television show, The Monkees – Marie was thrilled to relocate to the UK capital, where she was soon modelling for Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent and Versace by day, and partying with fellow beauties such as Texan Jerry Hall by night.

She met photographer David Bailey on a shoot for Vogue, and the pair wed when she was 23, becoming fashion’s most glamorous couple. The union lasted 10 years and produced a controversial book, Trouble And Strife, which features Marie naked, bound and gagged, and which she regrets.

A hippie at heart, Marie left the marriage with just £100,000 in 1985, but has remained good friends with Bailey, whom she has previously said calls her ‘all the time’. She is also full of praise for the wife he replaced her with, another model called Catherine Dyer, with whom he had three children. Marie has repeatedly said she never wanted any children of her own, and says her indifference to motherhood diluted her once close friendship with Jerry Hall, but also probably helped her retain her enviable figure.

Never shy about speaking her mind, Marie has always insisted she prefers living alone, but nevertheless enjoyed high-profile relationships with Drop The Dead Donkey actor Neil Pearson and the Duchess of Cornwall’s late brother Mark Shand.

Today, she lives by herself in west London with her two cats, and refuses to say whether or not she has had any cosmetic surgery. She does, however, reveal that she hasn’t smoked in more than 20 years and rises early to exercise four times a week. She no longer drinks alcohol – attributing a recent 10lb weight loss to giving up champagne – and doesn’t eat meat or many carbohydrates.

Long interested in Buddhism, Marie is also an advocate of strict exfoliation for both face and body, as well as using lots of moisturiser. And she recommends experimenting with new make-up and different hair colours, too.

MarieHelvin-Jul03-04-176When it comes to dressing at 62, she says, ‘I still show my arms, but my dresses are not as low-cut as they once were and my heels are definitely lower – nothing higher than four inches.’

Whatever her secret, it is clearly working, as Marie looks as beautiful and womanly as the day she first modelled Janet Reger underwear for a Vogue shoot in 1972. Now Aliza Reger is thrilled to have snagged the iconic model for her latest range, Always Aliza for JD Williams.

Aliza has followed her mother’s design sensibility in ensuring the range is both pretty and stylishly feminine, while accepting that grown women are rarely either super-rich or super-thin. The knickers come in sizes 12 to 32, and start at £12, while the bras start at £25 and are available in sizes 34B to 50DD.

She says, ‘I’ve designed the Always Aliza collection to fit and flatter all women. It’s for all shapes and sizes, but it’s particularly aimed at the over- 50s, who are now the new 40. Beautiful colours, beautiful shape and great structure are the perfect underpinning for being well dressed.’

And in a world obsessed with looks, youth and body image, Marie Helvin, who is neither an ingénue, boyishly thin nor outrageously tall, is surely the perfect person to model them – and give hope to us all!

Always Aliza is available from
Photography by JD Williams for Janet Reger

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