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New-look secret out of Cherie's closet

London, Nov. 21: Cherie Blair has been gathering approving comments for her sense of style ' and her new look, it seems, owes nothing to the erratic taste of her controversial 'style adviser' and New Age therapist, Carole Caplin.

'No, she is not involved,' said Eric Way, the South African-born luxury ready-to-wear designer, who is one of two key people responsible for Cherie's new-found glamour.

'It seems Cherie has found herself and she is not being influenced by other people ' people who are not qualified,' he added pointedly.

The other designer now figuring prominently in Cherie's wardrobe is Paddy Campbell, who also designs for establishment figures, including Camilla Parker Bowles and Sandra Howard, the wife of the Tory leader.

Cherie's 'regal' new look, Way said, was partly due to a recent dramatic loss of weight, which he estimated was 'at least a stone'.

He said: 'She is certainly not wearing a corset in my dresses ' she has definitely lost weight. I keep telling her, 'You look amazing'.

'She has found this inner confidence ' you can see it in her face. And why not' She is the Prime Minister's wife and she should be a style icon of the century.

'It seems Cherie has found herself.'

Way, 34, is the designer behind two of Cherie's Blair's most sumptuous gowns, believed to cost about '4,000 each.

She appeared in the first at the lord mayor's banquet in London on Monday ' a flattering off-the-shoulder plum-coloured gown, teamed with an extravagant faux-baroque necklace and matching chandelier earrings, both designed by Butler & Wilson.

On Thursday Cherie had planned to wear another Way creation: a beaded black chiffon gown with matching cape for the state banquet held by the Queen at Windsor Castle in honour of French President Jacques Chirac.

At the last minute, she opted for the plum gown again.

'We decided just to accessorise it differently,' Way said.

'At Guildhall, the opulence seemed right for the occasion but we wanted to keep it simple for the state banquet. We did not want to overpower the Queen.' The dress was designed to highlight Cherie's bare neck and shoulders, a look favoured by 17th century French nobility.

Way said: 'I wanted her to look regal. My inspiration was 1950s Hollywood: Sunset Boulevard, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo ' sexy and glamorous.' The designer, who moved to London eight years ago, counts Ivana Trump, Shirley Bassey and Susan George among his clients.

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