LONDON — It’s been dubbed Lippygate, after a notorious lip brush, and the star of the controversy is none other than Cherie Blair, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife, a top lawyer and mother of four. In the September British Marie Claire, Blair lets it all hang out — her lips and her knickers — in a piece called “A Day in the Life of Cherie.”

The pictures show Blair presiding over a living room strewn with her youngest son Leo’s books and toys, while the story describes her dressing room table as overflowing with cosmetics, underwear and tights. (Cherie tells the journalist she’s not “into” tidiness and neither is her husband.) But the photo that has everyone talking is the one where she’s sitting on the pillow-strewn marital bed while her friend — and image guru — Carole Caplin applies lipstick to Blair’s mouth with a brush.

This story first appeared in the August 19, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

This is the same Caplin whose ex-boyfriend is convicted fraudster Peter Foster. A former topless model, Caplan is now a New Agey life coach for professionals and celebrities.

Not surprisingly, the whole affair has generated debates on everything from Blair’s sense of judgment to her choice of friends to her dress sense. Designers she has worn in the past include Ghost, Betty Jackson, Zandra Rhodes and Caroline Charles.

“To choose to be snapped in a messy bedroom with your controversial style svengali hovering by your side can only semaphore an unbelievable naïveté or a desire to seem I’m-just-a-girl-like-the-rest-of-us loopy,” wrote Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, in The Daily Telegraph recently. Shulman later told WWD she’s stumped as to why Blair, who has consistently turned down photo shoots or interviews that would have focused on her, has suddenly changed her tack.

And while many laud Blair for sticking by Caplin, many agree the guru has got to go.

“Caplin’s forte is cleaning out people’s cupboards and telling them about healthy eating. She’s not in a position to be telling Cherie Blair how to dress,” said Susannah Constantine, the co-author of “What Not to Wear” and co-star of the BBC America television series of the same name. “I have huge respect for Cherie. She is such a busy woman and style is not high on her agenda — which is why she’s passing the decisions to this woman. The result is that Cherie is trying too hard. She has that classic, bottom-heavy English figure and bad legs, so she should wear more trousers, more A-line shapes, boots and long skirts.”

London-based stylist Babette Kulik, the owner of the Mayfair agency, which specializes in wardrobe consulting, leapt to the defense of Blair and Caplin, though. “There’s been an improvement — she’s less lawyer-looking, conservative and frumpy now — so you could say that Caplin did some good,” Kulik said. “But Cherie’s jackets don’t fit properly, she has too many collars outside the jacket, which is not chic. I think she should simplify and wear better-cut clothing.”

Rita Konig, a budding home-style guru whose book, “Domestic Bliss,” will be published in the U.S. in November, said Blair needs “proper” image and p.r. people around her. “Caplin clearly isn’t doing Blair any favors,” Konig said. As for the shambolic state of the Blairs’ household, Konig was more understanding. “They’re intellectuals, they’re not supposed to have taste.”

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