How a $39.99 Dress Saved Helen Mirren After a Wardrobe Malfunction

Helen Mirren’s red carpet style is chic, classy and all her own.

In just the past few weeks, the 72-year-old star of Leisure Seeker showed off her signature elegant fashion sense in custom Reem Acra and more than $3.8 million worth of Harry Winston jewels at the Oscars, made a case for bright color-blocking in orange-and-pink Sachin & Babi at a L’Oreal event and proved that shoulders are agelessly sexy in off-the-shoulder Rami Al Ali at the Berlin Film Festival.

“I’ve got it down,” she told PEOPLE of her gorgeous choices, often made with the help of stylist Lee Harris, in the newest issue, on newsstands Friday. “I’m pretty careful nowadays about wardrobe.”

That said, even the perfectly polished Helen Mirren is not immune to a wardrobe malfunction.

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“I did have a problem a long time ago where a zip got stuck and I couldn’t get in or out of the dress,” she tells us. “I was a half an hour late already to hit the red carpet. That was a major malfunction.”

Of course, the resourceful Mirren had a plan: “I went in my closet and found a dress that I bought on sale in an outlet store that had cost — it still had its tag on it — it was $39.99 that I’d paid for it, and I’d never worn it. I put that on and I was on about six best dressed lists! ”

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As of right now, the exact event she wore the $39.99 dress to is a mystery. But Mirren is quick to point out that she learned her lesson since then.

“I’m pretty careful nowadays about wardrobe, I’ve got it down,” she says. “I know how to avoid that. You’ve got to be really careful, sort of sit in things and bend down in them and just see what happens. So I’m quite good at that.”

For more from our new interview with Helen Mirren, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

— With reporting by Julie Jordan

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