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Tess Daly's stylist James Yardley on Strictly Come Dancing, shopping the high street, and his top styling secrets

James Yardley, celebrity stylist, talks all things Tess Daly and Strictly Come Dancing. (James Yardley)
James Yardley, celebrity stylist, talks all things Tess Daly and Strictly Come Dancing. (James Yardley)

Strictly Come Dancing has returned to our screens in a joyous explosion of sequins and body glitter, not least on our favourite double-act Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman. The pair are known for their bold outfits as they host each weekly episode of the show, with fans taking to social media to discuss and shop for their favourite looks.

The brains behind Daly’s flamboyant outfits is James Yardley, who works closely with the presenter to bring pizzazz and glamour to the dance floor. Yardley - who also styled Hannah Waddingham when she presented Eurovision this year - began his career as an intern at Attitude Magazine in 2010 and has since built an impressive portfolio of clients, including Tom Daley and Dustin Lance.

Read more: Strictly Come Dancing 2023: The couples, dancers and judges for new series (Yahoo Entertainment, 7-min read)

We sat down with Yardley to talk about how he and Tess collaborate to choose her Strictly looks, what his favourite brands are, and his top styling tips for everyone.

Do you and Claudia’s stylist co-ordinate on their outfits for every show?

Claudia Winkleman, wearing a black velvet jumpsuit, stands next to Tess Daly, wearing a silver-and-black jumpsuit, as they host the launch show of Strictly Come Dancing 2023
Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly's outfits are a big focal point of Strictly Come Dancing. (BBC)

Tess and Claudia are very different women, they don’t dress the same, so Sinead McKeefry and I don’t really co-ordinate. We do check that no one’s wearing the same thing across the board, from judges to the presenters, to make sure there’s no overlap. We also make sure that if, say, Claudia was to wear a sequin suit and it was a lot, then Tess wouldn’t wear something with a lot of pattern because they would clash.

What are the main factors that determine how you style Tess?

We collaborate very closely on what she is looking forward to wearing or finds comfortable. At the end of the day, her job does take her all over the set so practicality has to be considered.

I want her outfits to be interesting for the audience as well, and something that they would like, although I don’t always do what I think the audience wants, sometimes I do what Tess and I like. It’s good to push the envelope because I don’t want to do anything boring. We do adhere to certain weeks - for example, at the end of October, we’ll do a nod to Halloween, and we’ll do a nod to Movie Week or Blackpool.

The glitz and glamour really belongs to the dancers and contestants. Tess and I can have more fun with the fashion. We enjoy that process of trying different things. We do a massive fitting before the season to try and plan ahead, but I’ll find things along the way and there’s a lot of fun to be had.

How far in advance do you start planning outfits?

We did our fitting in mid-August. It’s not that far in advance because as you approach autumn and winter, styles change and you start to get longer dresses and suits, and silks and satins come in. We try a lot of things at these fittings, about 50 looks. I’ve never really known anyone like Tess who has such a love for clothes and she enjoys trying things on. We know what works and what doesn’t.

Read more: Tess Daly shares first 'Strictly' meeting with Bruce Forsyth: 'He made the perfect cuppa' (Yahoo Entertainment, 2-min read)

What’s the difference between an outfit that the audience likes, and an outfit you and Tess like?

When I first started styling Tess for Strictly, I came with my own point of view and direction. I think the show has become more modern now, so we can try more fun things beyond ballgowns, we still do glamour of course, but we can have a bit more fun with it.

Last weekend’s outfit, in which Tess wore faux leather trousers, received some mixed reviews, but that’s because I pushed things a little. The audience isn’t so familiar with those types of fabrics and cuts, but Tess and I loved it. I like when the outfits become a topic of conversation. When it comes to Movie Week and the viewer is expecting a big ballgown or a gorgeous dress, then we do that. But I would hate to be predictable and I’m unapologetic about my decisions.

Claudia Winkleman, wearing a sheer black shirt with a white collar and cuffs, over black trousers, stands next to Tess Daly, wearing a white shirt and black suspenders, with black faux leather trousers
Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly presenting the first 2023 episode of Strictly Come Dancing. (BBC)

Shop the faux leather trousers Shop the ivory cotton shirt

Tess’s trousers, and the whole outfit were from Mint Velvet and the shoes were from Dune.

Do you purposely put in high street brands into Tess’s looks?

Before I started working with Tess, she wore a lot of gowns that were made for her or from designer labels. But I remember seeing things on the high street and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s exciting, maybe we try that’.

I’ve travelled the world now as a stylist and I think we have one of the best high streets in the world. You can go to Zara or Urban Outfitters, depending on what age you are and how you like to dress, and you can pick up some really amazing things. Sometimes Tess and I will say, ‘Wow, that’s great, let’s do a full high street look’. It’s not actually intentional, but I do think it is nice to do something where someone at home can look at it and say, ‘Oh I’ll wear that to the Christmas party’ or ‘I’ll buy that for my child’s wedding’, it’s more relatable.

Tess Daly, wearing a silver wiggle dress, attends the red carpet launch for 'Strictly Come Dancing 2018'
Tess Daly attends the red carpet launch for Strictly Come Dancing 2018

I remember a quote by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour from years ago where she said fashion scares people, in reference to the fact people often feel like they can’t relate to fashion because it’s so unattainable in a lot of ways. But the high street is so obtainable and you can go and dig up anything you want. That’s what I like. Sometimes, some of the stuff from the high street is better quality than some designers, so…

Where do you like to shop?

Both Tess and I love a bargain, so we love the Net-a-Porter sales. That’s where I’d go for higher-end labels. When it comes to lower-end brands, we’ve used everything from Dune to Kurt Geiger for shoes. For clothing, we’ve leaned very heavily before on Mint Velvet, Karen Millen, Coast, Topshop, Reiss.

Read more: Tess Daly shares behind the scenes Strictly snaps with co-host Claudia Winkleman (Good Housekeeping, 1-min read)

What’s in your stylist kit?

One of my favourite things is a belt puncher. When you buy a belt and you’re at the mercy of their sizing, you can put your own in and it’s also great for heel straps. It’s such a good tool and they’re not even that expensive.

The other thing we like are stain removing wipes. There’s always a makeup artist who’s going to drop a blusher on something, or swipe your shirt collar with eyeliner, it’s a nightmare, but stain removal wipes are the best thing we’ve discovered.

Oh, and the best thing that I can’t recommend enough to everyone is a portable steamer. They’ll change your life, and the best ones are by Steamworks from Argos. It’s incredible, I’ve brought it absolutely everywhere. Irons don’t work, they just ruin some fabrics so a steamer is really good and they have different attachments which make them really useful.

What fashion trend do you think is overrated and underrated?

I hated Barbiecore. It’s just not for me. I love pink, it’s one of my favourite colours, but the trend was an assault on the senses. But of all the trends I really dislike, boho is the top. It’s one of those trends that is very hard for all women to wear, it’s very much just for one type of woman and I never really liked it.

Jedet, wearing a pink latex dress, winks and poses on the pink carpet for the special screening of the movie 'Barbie' at the Gran Teatro CaixaBank
The Barbiecore trend saw people wearing the colour pink everywhere when the film, directed by Greta Gerwig, was released this summer. (Getty Images)

I always tell clients, there’s no point being a slave to fashion because some trends might not work in your favour, fashion is about finding things that work for you. That said, I think colour-blocking is really underrated. When done correctly, it’s one of my favourite trends because it’s a statement, but not too much, and it can also do really great things for both men and women. It can elongate your body or your legs, or allow you to wear a very simple outfit and the belt and shoes speak for themselves.

My top advice is to play around with your wardrobe. Fashion is meant to be fun and everyone forgets this. It has become a little bit serious. People suffer for it rather than just enjoying it.

Read more: Strictly 2023: The couples hit the dancefloor for the first time - As it happened (Yahoo Entertainment, 1-min read)