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THE door opens, and Debbie McGee enters the room. It's that moment when you discover just what she's wearing...this time.

"I don't have any kind of evening dress you would call subtle," Debbie had said before she headed for her wardrobe.

"I just don't do subtle."

What about showing us one of her fashion disasters, then? "I don't have any disasters either," Debbie snapped, and that pert smile suddenly turned into a cross frown.

Who can blame her, though? A woman shows a daring sense of style, as Debbie did at a glittering showbiz dinner last week, and what does she get? Hoots of sarcasm from the fashion police.

They were scathing about her creation of black dots and white sequins, black mesh and lycra, just because it was, well, not subtle.

At the back, it was a mini skirt. At the front, an ankle-length see-through gown with bits attached here, here and here.

The look, depending whether it was coming towards you or going away, was either French tart or balding dalmatian.

Now the Sunday Mirror has thrown down the ultimate challenge to 43-year-old Debbie, the former ballet dancer who magician Paul Daniels used to saw in half before he turned her into his wife 14 years ago.

Show us what else you have on the hangers, we asked her. Bring some more surprises out of your wardrobe to stun us...

She has been in there for 20 minutes.

We're told to wait in the sitting room of the Daniels' sumptuous Thames-side home.

Debbie seems to be taking an awfully long time. We take in the light marble floors with the matching marble coffee table and the pictures of Debbie and Paul in cute pottery frames and a larger signed photo of their chums, the Michaels of Kent (another pair of style leaders, of course).

There are lots of paperbacks on the bookshelves, but a weighty tome has pride of place at the front - Paul Daniels, My Autobiography. Perhaps it's for people to browse while they're waiting for Debbie.

At last she's back, blonde hair freshly teased, smile newly reapplied...and what's the first outfit she has chosen?

It looks to me as if she has slipped into her dressing gown. But no, Sunday Mirror stylist Victoria Hogan, who's with me, claps her hands and says this is a glam casual look, something for the smarter party.

Then she lowers her voice, "A bit young," she says, but luckily Debbie, a perfectly-formed size eight, can carry it off.

We're looking at a belted coat in powder blue, she says, could be suede, could be pony skin, trimmed with blue fur, could be rabbit, could be fake, over a pale blue miniskirt and a beige top. High-heeled boots, beige with long tassels, finish it off.

Debbie smiles and twinkles. The effect is Barbie goes to Las Vegas. This is a new outfit, one she bought from the same place she got THAT dress. It was in St Tropez. One of her favourite shops - Safari.

"I don't shop like an ordinary woman," she sighs. "I don't buy things just when I spot them, I go out on expeditions and buy a few things at a time."

There's another little boutique she likes, Amber in Amersham. It's not always St Trop. "Oh dear, I know how that sounds, but I did travel on easyJet. More to spend at the other end, that's my philosophy.

"Actually it was Paul who found Safari for me. Three years ago we were strolling separately around St Tropez and he spotted this little black cocktail dress in the window that he just knew I would love. He came rushing to tell me, and I've been going there ever since. Isn't that sweet?"

You can just imagine it - Paul shouting excitedly: "Debbie, you are going to like this...not a lot. But you'll like it." Was Paul so sweet when the bill came in?

"Oh I'm so lucky, I have a husband who never, ever complains about the prices," Debbie says. "He will have a joke sometimes. They'll call me from Amber to tell me they have some new items I might be interested in, and Paul will answer the phone and say, 'What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?' He's so funny."

Another 10 minutes behind the closed door and now she's in a blue, beaded dress, slashed right up above the thigh on one side. Victoria says this is high glamour. It makes Debbie look like a showgirl. It turns out to be one of her own designs, made up for her by a couple of women who used to work in the BBC's costume department.

Next it's another beaded dress, slashed high once again, this time in red. Really vivid red. The choker matches, so do the satin shoes and the earrings. The whole outfit was designed specially for her by another chum from BBC days, Linda Wood.

Finally, the kind of thing she likes to wear when the occasion isn't so formal. It's a black, clinging catsuit. Underneath is a lacy see-through bodice. And underneath that, it's plain from a glimpse at the side, she's not wearing anything. Apparently it makes Paul's eyes light up. So what was his reaction to the dress that caused all the fuss? "He really, really liked it," Debbie says. "He said, 'Mmm, darling, that's really different'.

"And so if Paul likes it, that's fine. Of course I'll wear it again."

-NOW check out the verdicts on Debbie's outfits by Annabel Kerman, our M Celebs fashion editor...


SPOT CHECK: Paul and Debbie...with the eye-catching black dotted dress; M CELEBS ANNABEL SAYS: Long blue coat, beige- fringed boots (with 4in heels) and a micro-mini...all fine on their own but together? She looks more cow girl than wow girl.; ANNABEL SAYS: You've got a fab figure Debs, but no bra, flattens boobs. And save the nasty-looking nylon negligee-cum-French knickers peep show for Paul rather than the rest of us...; ANNABEL SAYS: Have you just had two outfits sawn in half and put back together the wrong way with a few bits missing, Debs? Padlock that dress in a box and never let it out again.; ANNABEL SAYS: We all know you used to be a dancer Debs, but I reckon you've been tango-ed with this little number. Foxtrot that outfit back into the dressing room.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 6, 2002
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