LORRAINE KELLY vividly remembers trying on the most perfect party dress about two years ago. "It was by Prada and it was so simple. It was almost as if, as soon as I tried it on, I dropped a dress size.
It showed off my boobs, it covered the tops of my arms…" In other words, everything about it was amazing. Including the price. Because the frock that made her look a million dollars wasn't too far off that. "It was 900," she squeals. "I said, 'I can't possibly spend that amount on a frock. It's beautiful but I'm sorry, I can't do it.' It's this Calvinistic Scots attitude of mine. And you know what, every single time I go out I regret not buying that dress. It was such a beauty. It's the one that got away."
GMTV stylist Mark Heyes, who persuaded her to try on the frock in the first place, is unrepentant. "Honest to God, every fortnight she says, 'I wish I had that Prada dress.' And I'm all about the high street, don't get me wrong, but if you fall in love with something, when you actually work out how many times you'll wear it, sometimes it's worth splashing out on a classic, beautiful piece." Still, it is the same thrifty attitude of Kelly's that might explain why, this Christmas, the people's favourite (she recently walked away with a Scottish Bafta for best presenter) will be wearing a little black dress she's had in her wardrobe for ages. "I've got a great dress I bought years ago in Glasgow," she says. "It's an Anna Sui, and it was in the sale so it wasn't that expensive. But it's lovely, not hugely low-cut, but it has a V-neck, and it's very, very simple, crushed velvet. It's one of these fantastic dresses that skims your tummy and is stretchy, so when you've stuffed your little fat face you still look okay. And it's one of those that you put over your head – there are no zips – so that's even better.
"Usually I start off with my high heels on, then I have these wee sparkly slip-ons that I get on later when I'm relaxing with the family."
For all that she is seen on our screens in a succession of low-cut frocks and killer heels, Kelly confesses to finding shopping difficult and is not particularly interested in fashion. "I'm very guilty of staging SAS-style raids on shops. I buy a lot from Monsoon because it happens to be quite close to my daughter's school, so when I drop her off and have five minutes to spare I dive in there. Also, I tend to do that thing where I buy too many tops and don't have the bottoms to go with them."
So it helps to have a little retail angel to hand in the shape of Heyes, who has encouraged her to embrace her inner Karen Walker (from Will & Grace). "She's got boobs, she's got a bum, and there's also the height thing," says the pocket-sized East Kilbride-born presenter. "She wears little pencils skirts that kick out, and fitted jackets, that kind of thing. She's very sassy."
It's a word that could equally be used to describe Kelly, a woman lusted after by blokes, admired by women and adored by gay men. She has said of her status in the camp camp, "I think it's very funny and I'm very flattered," while Heyes, himself something of a gay icon, goes a step further in explaining her universal appeal – her breasts. "Her boobs are fabulous," he says. "She looks brilliant showing a bit of cleavage. She loves it, her husband loves it, the punters love it. Get 'em out for the boys, Lorraine, come on!
"When she had a bra fitting on TV, the woman from Rigby & Peller was saying, 'They're talking to each other, look at them!' They have a mind of their own.'"
Even actor Robert Downey Jr couldn't resist complimenting her two best friends when she interviewed him in 2005. "You look fantastic, you look really well," Kelly said to the actor, fresh out of rehab. "Thanks," he replied. "I was going to say that your tits look great too."
Praise indeed. But Kelly is essentially a real woman, with a real woman's curves and a real woman's hang-ups. "I think her upper arms are absolutely fine," says Heyes, "but I know how conscious she is of them so I always try to find little shrugs or tux jackets for her to wear."
"Mark's very good in the sense that, when he's out and about, and if he sees something he thinks I'll like or that would suit me, he'll get it or let me know about it," says Kelly. "I've had terrible fashion faux pas in the past because clothes are not something I've really thought that much about. Especially when I was a reporter, all you want is to be dry and warm. I'm not a girly girl who's interested in fashion at all. To be honest, I'm just doing my job and I'm more interested in the questions I'm going to be asking than what I look like.
"At home, I just have a tiny wardrobe – lot of shoes; I've been buying more shoes, so at least if the dress is boring the shoes aren't – but maybe just one dress that I'll wear to a charity do or something like that."
And though she has come under fire for her choice of clothes on more than one occasion, she says it never bothers her when the press has a pop. In fact, she almost wishes she was under more pressure to dress in a particular way. "That way I might not make so many mistakes," she laughs. "It's just not a big deal at GMTV. Obviously you couldn't be sitting there in your rollers and your pyjamas, but it's all about looking fine, looking okay; there's no pressure on you. And in a way that's lovely because then you can concentrate on the interview. But in other ways it would be quite good. And that's where Mark comes in, because he's like Jiminy Cricket there on my shoulder, helping me along.
"When I was pregnant I wore some horrendous outfits," she adds, "the most disgraceful things. In my defence, if you're on telly five days a week every single week, it's difficult to make sure you wear something different every day. I wore one horrendous jacket that was all panels – one side was pink, one side was another colour, the lapels another. It was awful!" Heyes says, "She took me through her wardrobe in the early days, and I was gobsmacked! I remember seeing her wear some of those things. That jacket with different primary-coloured panels! In some ways it's a design classic, and I hope she holds on to it."
Since 2000, when the pair started working together, Kelly's style has developed from the safe and predictable – "It was always those little Whistles jumpers with three buttons at the top in different colours; she had them in colours I didn't even know existed," says Heyes – to becoming "a bit more style-savvy. Lorraine has never declared herself as some kind of fashionista, but she knows what she likes and tends to stick to it. She's really embracing her shape."
And the feeling is mutual. But if Kelly is the archetypal frugal Scot, Heyes isn't afraid to splash the cash. "I love the way Mark dresses," says Kelly. "He does push it sometimes, and he is a label-Mabel – he loves his designers, but then, why not?"
He confesses, "I had my wardrobe photographed recently, and they asked, 'How much do you think this is all worth?' I couldn't say because I'd have my arse kicked by my mum. Probably my biggest splash-out was my Dior tux. It was 1,400, which is a huge amount of money, but I have worn that so many times. Not just as a tux, but using the trousers or just the jacket. It probably won't go a week without me wearing some part of it, so it has been worth it. At least that's the lie I tell myself!"
But Kelly says she can't resist him in a kilt. "He has a fantastic black leather kilt, which is great. It's so cool. And he wears it that way I like men to wear a kilt, with thick socks and hiking boots."
I may be mistaken, but I think I can hear her purring as she speaks.
lowdown on lorraine
• At the Scottish Baftas last month (inset), Lorraine Kelly won the award for most popular TV presenter, pipping Carol Smillie and Gordon Ramsay to the post
• Her role as gay icon was cemented when she appeared as a co-presenter on The Friday Night Project in 2006 and on The Paul O'Grady Show in both 2006 and 2007. She boasted of having enjoyed al fresco sex (albeit with her husband, cameraman Steve Smith) in gay magazine Boyz, and even posed as a New York cop, complete with truncheon, for the mag Attitude
• Kelly played herself in the Scottish soap River City, popping in as a special guest at Gina and Archie's wedding in 2006
• In September 2006, the editor of LK Today was forced to resign after mistakenly sending an abusive text message about Kelly, intended for someone else, to its unfortunate subject
• She has made several appearances on the topical quiz show Have I Got News For You, and presented it once in 2005, while her more serious side was demonstrated as a guest on Question Time
• Kelly has her own appreciation society, but says she would never show off her famous assets, even if she was offered 1 million. "They are just for Steve and myself," she says. "I really don't know why there is this fascination."
festive tips from Mark heyes
well-endowed women should always wear a V-neck, according to style guru Mark Heyes (right). "You actually have to show cleavage to make the best of it," he says. "I don't like it when it goes too low, but a wee sneaky peek is absolutely fine."
Swap your LBD for an LRD. "The little red dress is a big story at the moment," says Heyes. "If you really want to make an impact at a party, that's a great trick – walk in wearing a red dress and all eyes will be on you."
If you want to cover your upper arms, leave the pashmina at home. "It can look a bit mumsy," he says. "Go for a little tux jacket instead, which will update last year's party dress and does a great job at nipping in the waist."
Don't be afraid to hold it all in with a pair of magic pants. "There's some amazing sculptural underwear. I love the Aristoc Bodytoner ones," says Heyes. "They don't go down to the knees, which is good because you don't get that piping bag effect, and they're less elasticated at the edges. They don't so much take sizes off you as just sculpt you and give you a more svelte appearance."