DAPHNE Selfe is enjoying a lifelong love affair - with clothes and fashion.

Growing up in a home where her mother Irene would make all her dresses, and needlework was considered an art form, she soon became adept at making her own garments.

What followed was a career in modelling for brands like Dolce and Gabbana, photo shoots with some of the acclaimed fashion photographers like Mario Testino, Nick Knight and David Bailey, and appearing regularly in newspaper and magazine fashion pages.

Since her return to the industry aged 70 she has worked non-stop and is busier than ever, appearing in adverts for high street chains like TK Maxx and helped with charity campaigns.

Aged 87, she is the world's oldest working supermodel and is touring the country telling stories of her life through her fascination with clothes.

Her memoir The Way We Wore: A Life in Clothes takes the reader on a journey from her party frocks as a 1930s child to the pages of Vogue and will be discussed at the Lewes Speakers Festival next month.

"I had great fun writing what I had done over the years. I always kept diaries so a lot of it was already there, "Ms Selfe said.

"I was 19 or 20 when I made my first dress. It was pink slipper satin, with a long skirt and sequinned body. This is something I will always remember."

She painstakingly sewed every single sequin on by hand, as it was long before strips of sequins went on sale. Several thousand were needed for the finished article and it took her several weeks to make during her spare time in the evenings. She is now so skilled she can make a dress in an afternoon if pushed for time.

Discovered as a model aged 21 after winning a regional competition to feature on the cover of the Reading and Berkshire Review, she soon found work. Weighing ten stone and 5ft 7in tall, she worked at a department store and a furrier, before following her ultimate goal and went freelance.

Snapped up by the Gaby Young agency she became the face of the Whitbread beer advert in 1952.

When she married TV and stage lighting director Jim in 1954 she assumed she would never work again - but was not satisfied with being a housewife.

The mother-of-three took jobs in film and television and was rediscovered aged 70 when she was cast to the catwalk for Red or Dead and then photographed by Nick Knight for Vogue.

Aged 83 she modelled underwear for an Oxfam donation campaign and appeared in Dolce and Gabbana's autumn and winter campaign a year later in 2012.

But she thinks the industry is tougher for young models now and to combat this she is launching an online academy with her daughter to train models and improve their look.

“People have to be so thin now, designers want very thing girls. This is a disadvantage to a lot of people. In the past you had to keep your figure of course but you weren’t punished – I was never a size eight.

“Some clothes can look better on a thinner figure but not rake thin. If you have good posture then there is no reason to decry people who have a little weight."

She does not believe in Botox, thinks young models following the ‘thigh gap’ trend should learn some manners and frowns upon miniskirts.

"People don’t dress well anymore. They don’t even dress up to go to work. On the tube I see a lot of black clothes all the time," she explained.

“I have black clothing too but I like to wear colours, particularly purples, mauves and pinks and other bright colours.

“In my day when you went to London for the day you always wore gloves, a hat and smart shoes. It was unthinkable to wear trainers.

“I don’t like it. Things like trips to the theatre are a chance to dress up.

“I don’t like very short skirts. I don’t think young girls should wear them unless they have really good legs. I’m not keen on people wearing beach wear in the town. It should be kept on the beach.

"People should also look at themselves in the back of the mirror as well as the front to see what they look like from behind."

Far from the size zero diet plan of starving themselves ahead of photo shoots, Ms Selfe’s health and beauty regime is simple and natural - sleep well, eat little and often, exercise and look after your posture.

She swears by the beauty range in Boots, opts for brands like Nivea in her daily skincare routine and stopped dyeing her hair aged 60.

She keeps her posture - a testament her dance training when she was young - by practicing her own form of yoga and ballet every day.

“Posture is very important and I think everything is good in moderation," she said. "Of course it is good to exercise to keep in shape.

“I eat cake, but I don’t eat it every day.

“I clean my face properly when I take my make-up off at the end of the day. I do wear make-up in the day because you need it to protect your face and skin from the elements.

“I do like the range in Boots. But special things like Clarins and Dior are nice too. I also think Liz Earle is good and has lovely natural products.

“It’s good to vary your products and I quite like having a change. You can get fed up."

Equally, she feels some of the glamour and value of fashion and clothing has disintegrated but could be reviving.

“People are getting more into dressmaking again now. When I was younger, clothing was quite expensive. It was always cheaper to make your own. And you would get something nice and different that you could not get in the shops.

“It was particularly good for special occasions."

The forthcoming film The Dressmaker, starring Kate Winslet whom she praises for her figure and posture, may be a throw back to this growing interest, she said.

Far from planning her retirement, Ms Selfe is continuing her tour of literary events and is particularly looking forward to Lewes Speakers Festival.

“I haven’t been to Lewes since 1947 when I went to a riding school near Findon so I am very much looking forward to visiting," she added.

*The Way We Wore: A Life in Clothes by Daphne Selfe is published by Pan Macmillan and costs £16.99.

She will appear at Lewes Speakers Festival on Sunday, December, 6, from 3.15pm and 4.30pm, at The All Saints Centre, Friars' Walk, Lewes.


1. Posture is very important
2. What you eat, because it shows on the outside and through your skin.
3. Sleeping well.
4. A little exercise regularly to keep in shape.
5. Everything in moderation.