STYLE ICONS // Mary McDonnell

Monday, 29 September 2014

All of my life I have always gone a different route to the other girls that I know. While they were shopping, getting manicures and dating, I was watching Star Trek, reading fanfiction and talking to my friends all over the world through the Internet and gushing over my idols. My idols differed greatly from theirs too. They loved Beyoncé, Keira Knightley or Victoria Beckham or whoever was on the front cover of the magazines and emulated their styles. I, however, adored the styles of actresses that would make them give me that look and say 'Who?'.

I'm going to start a new series off where I share the style tips that I have learnt from some of my idols. For the first instalment I'm featuring Mary McDonnell, an Oscar and Emmy award nominee and one of my favourite actresses of all time.

Fitted Jackets Are Best-Friends.
Every woman knows the benefits of a fitted jacket/blazer. They are extremely stylish and compliment any outfit (and keep your arms warm when it's a little chilly), they hug you in all the right places, giving you curves that you may not necessarily have or highlight the ones that Mother Nature gave you and honestly, they just feel amazing on.

I have yet to really embrace this style because I live in Ireland and there aren't many days when the weather cooperates for me to incorporate this into my wardrobe repertoire - unless they come out with a fitted rain coat (now there's an idea!). I have two of what I would call fitted jackets/blazers and I bought those while in America and I do adore them when going out for a night. 

Pointed shoes. That is all.
From my previous fashion oriented post you will have learnt that I am obsessed with pointed shoes - utterly obsessed. I wore my Tescos pair out on Saturday night on a night out and I couldn't stop looking at my feet. There is something so classy about a pointed shoe. They elongate the leg in such a seamless way that is pure class and flatteringly feminine. Some may believe that they make feet look larger than they are and some styles can do that but if it's done right, they can look very flattering. 

Mary can be seen sporting a pointed shoe in practically everything - her characters, Laura Roslin (Battlestar Galactica) and Sharon Raydor (The Closer and Major Crimes respectively), can be seen sporting this style of shoe, albeit in its simplest form - a black stiletto - and when you're playing the President and a police Captain in charge, you  have to bring a certain element of class to the position of authority and Mary does this flawlessly. You don't mess with a woman in pointed shoes. You just don't do it. Also when walking the red carpet, she has the most gorgeous shoes on her feet. She does wear all styles of shoe but pointed shoes can be seen more often than not. 

P-P-P-Pick Up A Pencil Skirt.
Now, I don't have a figure like Mary and I haven't found a pencil skirt to suit me in my entire time on this green earth. The last time that I wore a skirt that was even remotely A-line was in Grammar School and it was a dark-bottle-green shade and I hated it because it was my school uniform (who ever likes their uniform?). This woman, however, rocks a pencil skirt like no other person on the planet. I may be entirely biased and I'm not ashamed of it nor am even I denying it. She's bringing the sexy back to pencil skirts (and note the use of pointed shoes!!). 

For years pencil skirts were resigned to use in movies by the sexy secretary that would catch the eye of the lead character but in recent years they're gone through a fashion revival and are coming back even more stylish that ever. Mary has clearly picked up on this fact and has been seen rocking them in Battlestar Galactica, Major Crimes and the red carpet. She wears the most flattering length and she typically goes for a midi-length skirt than stops just shy of the knee or hugs just below it. Again, everything is so chic and classy.

Matching Bras and Shoes.
This can certainly be hit or miss. It can either look well or it can look hideously trashy. Mary was fairly daring with this look. For the EW Magazine and Sci-Fi Channel Comic-Con Party in 2007, Mary wore a satin-like sleeved black dress with white dots printed here and there throughout the design with a daring deep plunging neckline that feed into a ruched waist. 

That deep neckline gave a hint of cleavage that women half her age would be envious of and the slightest view of the red bra underneath. With a black dress, it would be safe to finish it off with a pair of black shoes, in no particular style because it would go with anything (even pointed ones!), but no, that would be too simple. With that hint of colour from the peeking through bra, she pulled out a pair of similarly coloured shoes and slipped them on, even painting her toe-nails the same colour, matched her earrings and thus pulling everything together so flawlessly.

Wear It Again.
There seems to be a societal stigma on wearing the same outfit twice. Some magazines make a point of showcasing when such-and-such wears a certain jacket again or wears a certain dress again. Why? We're all human and we have wardrobes and closets stuffed full of clothes that were made so that we could wear them over and over. Why can't we wear the same outfit to multiple events when it looks good on and it feels good on? I certainly wear the same outfit for another night out or to another event. But then, I'm just a little nobody from Ireland and nobody cares what I wear. But there are the same crowds that I know there and they'll recognise my outfit. Nothing wrong with that.

Mary is a woman after my own heart. 

The first jacket and skirt combo was first spotted at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Writers Peer Group Emmy nominee party in 2008 and then again in 2012 when she attended Acts of Love Parenthood Benefitting Autism Speaks. Four years difference (that we know of) and she changed the small details to take it from red carpet to function - swapping the shoes, accessories and hair style to fit the occasion. 

The second outfit is another example of how to dress up an outfit for a party and how to look fashionably smart for a runway show. In 2011 she wore this dress to a party celebrating the 100th episode of The Closer and then again in 2013 attending the runway presentation of Irene by Greg LaVoi's Spring 2014 Collection. She swapped the sandal heels for a pair of (pointed) black heels with toe detailing and added a fitted blazer to complete the transformation. You always wouldn't know that it was a dress and simply a printed skirt. The left has that party elegance whereas the right has a more fashionista and classy-chic vibe that anyone would expect to see at a fashion event. 

Get Back Bangs!
During my first year of university, I was swept away in the trend of sweeping my bangs back and securing them with a few kirby grips - it was all the rage. There is no real age-limit to this look as long as you do it properly and you don't have a massive heap at the top of your head. The layers that are cut into Mary's hair allows this look to be effortlessly beautiful with her bangs subtly adding height. The messy waves accentuate the look perfectly. I personally wore it with straight-ish hair because that worked better for my face. Sometimes I have pinned my bangs back with the natural soft kinks of my hair and I find it makes me look a bit more put-together when my bangs just aren't cooperating with me.  

Layer Up.
Like any fan of Mary McDonnell, I always have to take a moment to admire her hair. It is an entire entity onto itself sometimes. From the penultimate seasons of Battlestar Galactica, her hair has evolved so beautifully. Throughout her career and, naturally, throughout her life she has changed her hair style like any woman - from short hair to medium length to sitting-on-when-you-sit-down length of hair. You name it, she's probably had it.

The main thing that I have noticed that has gone a long way to the vivaciousness of Mary's hair is that there are beautifully feathered layers in it. My hair is layered but my layers are not like hers. The top layer of Mary's hair stops just past her shoulders whereas mine is more concentrated at my ends. The length of her layers compliment and frame her face superbly. Layers add such texture to her hair that it always looks on par.

Never Shy Away.
If you've got, flaunt it. Like a previous point, this can either work so well or be a disaster but Mary executes it impeccably while keeping it classy. With fashion being so accessible and so encompassing and women of every age and body-type shopping in the same stores e.g. New Look, H&M and Zara, to name but a few, they're all wearing the same items that are typically aimed at a particular demographic, depending on the store and brand. But if you like it, why not wear it? That's where we can run into the ultimate ageist phrase, 'Dress appropriate for your age'. What is dressing appropriately for one's age? That is one can of worms...

Mary McDonnell is over 60 and she has a perfect set of pins and I am completely envious of them - along with practically every fellow fan. She is by no means shying away from showing them off. Outside of photo-shoots that are styled to showcase her legs, Mary dresses very conservatively and appropriately for her age (but then again what's appropriate?) and shape and uses her legs as an accessory to her outfit. Costume designers are also fully aware of her amazing figure and use that knowledge when styling her in each episode of Major Crimes or whatever project that she's working on. They dress her in flattering and fitting dresses, skirts, trousers and blouses that compliment her fabulous figure - she has beautifully subtle curves - and finishing the look off with a tailored jacket/blazer and classy shoes. 

She's also adorably humble about her looks and says that one of her sisters is far more attractive than she is. Girl, if I had your looks...

Specs are Spectacular.
I have been wearing glasses since I was around five-years-old (over twenty years now) and I've been called every name under the sun for wearing them. What can I say? I wasn't born with amazing eyesight. I need glasses to see. For the longest time I was very self-conscious about them because I wore them all the time and they weren't particularly fashionable back in the day. I was the only one in my Primary School class that wore glasses and I still needed to sit at the front of the classroom. I was paranoid that whenever I talked to someone that they would just see my glasses and how thick the lenses were and not see the girl behind them.

Mary McDonnell wears glasses and she uses her own glasses on her projects (unless the character requires a particular type) and she takes them off and puts them on whenever she needs them and does it effortlessly. For me, that is so refreshing to see. To see an actress that is so comfortable with her glasses, the need for them and whose glasses are so easily incorporated into a character was so inspiring to me and continues to be today with each new episode of Major Crimes. I do wear contact lenses from time-to-time but at the beginning and end of each day and all the hours in-between, I still reach for my glasses. Mary has, for me, rejuvenated the wearing of glasses and has made it attractive to wear glasses. I wear my prescription with pride. 

Don't Be Afraid to Get it Wrong - Because You Will.
Everyone has an opinion about what you wear. You will get it wrong with some people and you will hit the nail on the head with others. Don't be afraid of getting it wrong because that's just a part of life and fashion. I haven't included an accompanying graphic to demonstrate 'getting it wrong' because it is such a subjective topic, nobody can be objective about it. I may think that a particular outfit is "awful" or "wrong" and another may have thought that it was "flawless". That's just the roll of the dice. If the trend at the time is that style, try it. Don't be afraid of fashion trends and the changes in fashion. It is constantly changing. We will all have a faux pas now and again.

Mary's career has spanned several decades and the fashion trend changes with each season, never mind changing with the year. You can get it right for that year but when looking back, it can look so wrong. It was right at the time. Just pour a glass of wine and laugh at yourself farther down the line and don't take yourself too seriously. We're all here for a good time, not a long time. 

Now you've met one of my style icons and remember, these are all my opinions and thoughts and what I have taken from over a decade of following her career. I know that some people don't and won't agree with any or all of these points but as I said, it's all subjective. It's simply what I think. That being said, who are some of your style icons? I would love to know!

* All photos used are sourced at Mary-McDonnell and MostlyMary. All graphics are made by me.


  1. your posts are so detailed and well written! you put so much time into your blog its great! id love it if youd comment back xx

    1. Thank you so much, Amy. This post was a particularly important one to me and I spent a lot of time putting it together as I wanted to do it justice. Thank you for commenting.

  2. I love Mary too! She's inspired me to get nude heels and cat-eye glasses. What is your opinion of Mary wearing pants vs. skirts? I know the Major Crimes fandom goes nuts when she wears nice jeans!

    1. They do go nuts when she wears jeans, don't they? For me, she suits all three and appropriately wears all three for the occasion. I love Raydor's pencil skirts because they really flatter Mary's figure. Whenever she wears dress trousers they definitely flatter and they also show that she isn't going to take any nonsense. Jeans though, there is something about seeing your favourite character/actor in jeans. It makes them seem more human and relatable away from the work attire. With jeans we can say 'hey, I have a pair just like that', you know? It's an easier outfit to mimic with jeans, if that makes sense.


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