Instagram sensation Eileen Smith, 80, stars in RTÉ’s new fashion series. She talks to Rowena Walsh about helping people find their style mojo
Every night, before she goes to bed, Eileen Smith lays out her clothes for the next day. She even knows what shoes she is going to wear. Such attention to detail won’t come as a surprise to Eileen’s legions of fans, who adore her style. She is known on Instagram as EileenStyleQueen and her 56,000-plus followers include Roz Purcell and Pippa O’Connor.
What really makes Eileen stand out in the world of social media is that she is just a few weeks away from celebrating her 81st birthday. And she shows no sign of slowing down.
The octogenarian has teamed up with Suzanne Jackson, another social media sensation who knows her way around a wardrobe, in a new RTÉ show, The Style Counsellors, which aims to help people find their fashion mojo.
Eileen, who spent her first pay packet on a pleated accordion shirt and white embroidered blouse back in the 1950s, says she’s still a blouse person. She loves a good fitted coat too and is passionate about the power of accessories to lift an outfit.
Her Instagram account is filled with pictures of her demonstrating her classic pared-back style, whether she is out and about with friends, playing bridge or golf, gardening, or baking for her family.
She and her daughters used to share pictures of their outfits and eventually one suggested she set up an Instagram account. Daughter Suzanne gave her the name EileenStyleQueen, which still causes Eileen a degree of embarrassment. “I don’t consider myself a style queen,” she says, “but I do love style.”
She is a firm believer in buying good-quality clothes but not too many of them, happily mixing and matching items that may have been in her wardrobe for over 20 years.
Her attitude — the antithesis of fast fashion — may account for her appeal among women aged 17 to 26, who make up her average demographic. “If I’m out and about in Dundrum Town Centre or somewhere like that, the people who come up and talk to me are all young ladies.”
She is stunned by her newfound TV stardom.
Eileen’s Instagram feed gives a peek into what she describes as a very normal life, but certainly an authentic one, and one that is lived in the best possible fashion. “I know my own style,” says the mother of four. “I know what I can’t wear, which is more important than what you can wear.”
To that end, she stays away from black, which she says makes her look like a mafia widow. While she thinks that younger people can follow fashion slavishly, she says, “At my age, you have to dress your age. You have to find a style that suits you and stick to it.”
She has been married to Larry for 59 years; they lived in Dubai for 12 years where Larry’s job as a pilot for Emirates meant they went out to a lot of functions. Eileen says that was her reason for going shopping and that it was fantastic there.
Larry, like his wife, has a very positive attitude. Eileen says her whole family is like that: “We don’t allow ourselves not to be.”
She keeps a piece of paper with her, which says ‘Get up, get dressed, get out’. “I think that even just going for a walk is good for people of our age because it’s so easy just to sit down and watch television or Netflix. We have to look after ourselves as we get older.”
For Eileen, with her zest for life, age is simply a number, but she stresses the importance of looking after your health. “My husband is diabetic so our diet is very good. Over the last few weeks, I’ve lost a bit of weight from all the running around, but I can’t afford to be skinny at my age because I’d look very gaunt, so I’m feeding myself up. But don’t tell him, I’m hiding the biscuits in different places so he won’t see them.”
The Style Counsellors, RTÉ One, Tuesdays, 8.30pm