Scruffs up nicely

SHE often looks like she's just crawled out of a garbage chute, but when actress Helena Bonham Carter puts her mind to it she actually scrubs up well. The 39-year-old beauty definitely has a style of her own. And although the fiancée of stylishly perverse filmmaker Tim Burton wasn't offered a place at King's College Cambridge, because officials were afraid that she would leave mid-term to pursue an acting career, her style is not too far off student chic.

Eccentrically bedraggled, Bonham Carter has the strangest dress-sense in show business. Her black platform flip-flops, knee-length prairie skirt and black vest, may seem like a conventional outfit to wear around west Hollywood, but against her white porcelain skin and bed-head hair, Helena exudes otherworldliness.

Even when she's far from the golden glow of west-coast Americans, Bonham Carter still looks off-beat around Blighty. With her elfin features and cut glass accent she could never be classed as run-of-the mill.

Perhaps then, there's no one quite more suited to the role of Mrs Bucket in the forthcoming re-make of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Helena's penchant for over-sized cardigans is not an ironic Prada-esque statement, she wears them because they keep her warm. But while she strolls around in tartan pyjamas, brown brogues and pearls, her laissez-faire attitude to the red-carpet style of her fellow starlets is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Instead of the flesh-revealing dress you'd expect from a leading lady, Helena has chosen not to define her public image through mere sex appeal. In 2002 at the premiere of The Importance of Being Earnest in London, it was a shantung jacket tightly belted over a red lace tutu-style top, with a black 1950s-style dress underneath.

It was probably her status as an iconic actress rather than her demure charm (she smokes, drinks, swears and arm wrestles) that won her a contract as the face for Yardley in 1990. The cosmetic giant, and the producer of soaps, perfumes, and make-up for the Royal Family for more than 200 years soon severed the contract. Her admission to never wearing much make-up, apart from her ruby red lip stick, put an end to her role as English Rose.