On my wedding day, aged 25, I was chubby with wonky teeth. Now at 41, I'm a dazzling blonde. Here's how I did it...

Svelte: Vicky has gone from a chubby brunette to a stunning amazonian blonde

Svelte: Vicky Ward has gone from a chubby brunette to a stunning amazonian blonde

'Who is that girl?' I wondered when, a few weeks ago, The Mail on Sunday ran a picture of a brunette in a wedding dress.

She was a bit overweight. Not much but a bit. Terrible dress. Really terrible.

This young woman's waist was frighteningly wide for someone who had not yet had children, and her dress emphasised this.

She also had ghastly posture. If she hunched her shoulders any more, her head might lean so far forward she would actually topple over.

She had a peculiar head accessory in her frizzy, messy hair, which looked a bit greasy .  .  . and then that smile  . . . wait, I knew that smile, I knew those big buck teeth that crossed over – it was me!

I was 25 and working as a journalist in Britain. I would move to New York two years later, in 1997.

I groaned. I hoped readers were thinking about Libya or Afghanistan instead that Sunday.

Things that actually mattered. They weren't. The phone rang. 'Not your finest photograph,' my mother said to me somewhat drily but with a bit of a giggle.

Actually, I had to laugh too – it is pretty funny when you look better 16 years later than you did on the day when, according to saccharine myth, you are supposed to look your best ever.

Generally, it is accepted that women in their 20s look better than women in their 40s.

Men are always attracted to younger women. At least that's the theory: that's what has been ingrained in us women for generations.

But in my case – er, well, the reverse is true. Men pay me a great deal more attention now, when I'm 41, than they ever did when I was 25. I get stopped in the street, in restaurants, in shops.

Pierce Brosnan once said that a woman only becomes interesting when she hits 35.

When I think of who I was prior to that age, I realise how ridiculously immature I was, both in terms of intellectual and emotional security – and with that immaturity came total ignorance about what looked good and what didn't.

I most certainly did not look my best that day in 1995. I thought perfection was what everyone else told me it was.

So the reason I looked so hideous in my wedding dress was because I chose the same dressmaker as many of my Sloane Ranger friends and followed their advice like a lamb in a herd.

So I wore white tights. White tights? Did I think I was in a Charles Dickens novel? The shoes had square heels. I must have been channelling Jane Eyre.

Frumpy: Vicky Ward on her wedding day in 1995

Frumpy: Vicky Ward on her wedding day in 1995

And, to top it all, because all my friends had big skirts, what did I do? I wore a puffy skirt that hid my best feature – my legs.

And where was my bust? Oh yes, that's right – I didn't have one – and the dress made sure to emphasise that along with the big waist.

What was I thinking?

But at least I did not stay that way. I grew up. We can all breathe a sigh of relief. Or at least my mother can. She now has a few better photographs to look at.

Since my wedding day my transformation has been slow and laborious. But in hindsight there was a definite moment when it was manifestly complete.

That was a few years ago, after I'd been living in New York for almost a decade.

A great friend of mine, Lela Rose, a very talented Texan designer, decided she would host a party in Dallas with the theme 'The Seven Year Itch'.

'Y'all have to wear the actual wedding dress you wore on your wedding day,' she said at dinner one night.

The other women were all game.I wanted to scream: 'But what about those of “y'all” whose wedding dress would drown them they were so big, and further act as a quilt in the 100-degree Dallas heat?'

Glamour: Instead of wearing her own dress to party, Vicky Ward went for Pippa Middleton style gown

Glamour: Instead of wearing her own dress to party, Vicky Ward went for Pippa Middleton style gown

'Believe me, no one wants to see my wedding dress,' I piped up.

'It can't be that bad,' they all said.

'Oh yes,' I said. 'It was.' I didn't add: 'And so was I.'

Because Lela was so insistent, I made a token gesture and foraged for it at the back of the wardrobe.

I put it on and, yes, it was like wearing a duvet – a super-king-size one at that.

Here in America they make something called a Snuggie – a long, tent-like blanket which you slip over your head and wear like a jumper while you watch TV on the sofa.

This was a white silk Snuggie.
To remake the thing would cost a fortune.

Instead, I nipped around the corner to a vintage clothing store where I found a fabulously sexy body-skimming ivory negligee that would just about pass as a wedding dress if one was getting married on the beach – which happens quite a lot on this side of the Atlantic.

It was cut on the bias – like Pippa Middleton's bridesmaid's dress. It clung to my backside, as did hers, and the material was so light that I could not wear underwear – which has, by the way, since led me to wonder, did she?

It cost £187. I bought it on the spot.

It was an instant sensation in Dallas. 'Wow, you must have looked amazing in that at your wedding,' I was repeatedly told.

I just nodded and said: 'Thank you.'

The men stared open-mouthed at my bottom. Only Lela seemed to know better. 'Cheater,' she said.

'I KNOW you didn't wear that at your wedding.'

But we knocked back the cocktails and hit the dancefloor. Frumpville had been left behind long ago. It felt like a bad dream.

So, let's get to the big stuff – apart from Libya and Afghanistan, that is.

The other really pressing issue of the day is this: How did I change from the cross-teethed, mousey-looking creature in wedding dress A to the blonde Amazonian creature in wedding dress B?

Well, obviously the body wearing the two dresses went through rather a dramatic shift over the years.

And on top of that was the emergence of something called 'clothes awareness' and a dramatic rise in self-belief.

Chubby: Vicky Ward in 1997

Chubby: Vicky Ward in 1997

First, the teeth. The first thing that went when I landed in America was the crooked teeth.

I found myself wearing train tracks on my 30th birthday and, like a teenager, dreaded the quarterly 'tightenings', which hurt so much I couldn't speak for 48 hours.

But the New York dentist warned me that if I didn't do something about the criss-crossed teeth then eventually they'd push each other out and I'd have no front teeth at all.

So I got through braces only to find I had a receding gum that required surgical grafts to build it back.

I had this procedure done summer after summer after summer until, for me, the very word summer was synonymous with gum surgery.

My teeth cracked under the weight of the train tracks, so I had to have new clear braces, and eventually veneers on the front teeth.

My jaw was misaligned too, it transpired, and I had to wear a weird apparatus at night to put it back into position.

Not only did I feel like a freak, I felt like a pauper by the end of what was a ten-year process. I am still paying the dentist.

Then there was the hair. My hair is monitored by a hair Nazi named Kieran McKenna.

He has cut off all my hair twice, each time with the lame excuse: 'It's fine, it's lank and it's in terrible condition.

'Stop swimming in chlorine. Stop bleaching it. No blow-outs for parties. Rest it.' God.

There have been moments in my life when I have really hated Kieran.

Especially during one haircut when I was vomiting into a plastic bag while suffering morning sickness and he said with a smile: 'I wish you were always pregnant – your hair is so much better.'

Still, the result is that my hair slowly got longer and thicker – and it is highlighted very, very gently and only on the roots.

I get it cut with fascist-like discipline every six weeks because, as Kieran has told me: 'The secret to long hair is to trim it regularly.'

As for the rest of my body, it turned out I was a little overweight because I suffered from a minor hormonal imbalance called polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Age gracefully: Kim Cattrall and Helen Mirren have both said they feel more attractive as they get older
Age gracefully: Kim Cattrall and Helen Mirren have both said they feel more attractive as they get older

Age gracefully: Kim Cattrall and Helen Mirren have both said they feel more attractive as they get older

There's a pill for that. I took it and the weight fell off. I was always a runner, tennis player and swimmer anyway, so I didn't have to try very hard.

The posture? I got rid of the slouch only after I'd had my babies.

For the first time I got a personal trainer – a dancer who told me that my posture was making me look fatter than I was.

If you really want to give a woman an incentive to do something very fast, just tell her there's an easy way for her to look thinner than she is – and she'll do it.

So I did ballet-like exercises and slowly stood up better.

Then there are the clothes. Well, once you're thin, you can wear anything.

And when you can wear anything it becomes much more fun allocating your budget to 'fun' items that will date fast – and classic clothes which will not.

The latter are worth investing in; the former not. The same goes for shoes. So slowly you build a collection of clothes, bags, shoes and, just as with art, you let it evolve. You sell some you don't wear, you buy some more.

And you make sure that your figure remains ready to wear every item in your wardrobe.

People have often asked me: Would I still look so different if I hadn't come to America?

The answer is I don't know. What I do know is that here, when a man you've just had lunch with says: 'Right, I am now off to the gym' – you don't think, 'Skiver' or 'How odd' or 'Is he propositioning me?', which is what I think I might have thought if it had happened in London.

This is certainly a 'lookist' culture and everyone is expected to look their best.

Have I had surgery, I have been asked. The answer is no – not yet. I haven't ruled it out because I don't rule out anything.

I did visit a Park Avenue doctor to ask him about my bust. Post-childbirth I was lucky in one respect – I had a completely flat stomach because my poor babies had appeared far too early.

But then I had breast-fed two babies simultaneously for more than six months. I had no bust.

When the surgeon described what was involved in breast augmentation, I could not believe that so many of my friends have actually had this done.

I was told: 'They'll look different, feel different, can't quite say how – there'll be some pain and you won't be able to work out for six weeks.' I was out of there like a bullet.

In that department, at least, I will be sticking with what God gave me.
* Vicky Ward is a Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair

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