Saturday, January 30, 2010
250 Lessons in What Not to Wear
Whenever SVH & I are together, inevitably we'll be sitting in a coffee shop or parading through town arm-in-arm and we'll comment on what certain people are wearing, noting those who look good and those who easily could change their wardrobe with some simple steps to look better. It may seem bitchy, but everything we know we've learned from 7 years of watching fashion consultants Stacy London and Clinton Kelly on TLC's What Not to Wear. (Yes, we love them, and I keep hoping one day I'll bump into them here in NYC, and hopefully not act like a crazy fan.) Last night the show celebrated its 250th episode, which has to be a milestone in the history of television makeovers. NPR even interviewed Stacy London about their accomplishment. The show is based on a British version, which I had seen before, but those women were just mean (much like, say, chef Gordon Ramsay, who can be brutal). Stacy & Clinton are hilarious with their NYC sarcasm. Not everyone can take it though, and they've had serious challenges from some guests, but in the end almost all of the participants get it and do make the great transformation that one hopes for them.
For those who have never seen the show before, a woman who is a fashion disaster is nominated by her friends and family, secretly filming her for 2 weeks in her hometown in all her clothing nightmares, highlighting horrors from her closet, etc. Then with the woman's family and friends, Stacy & Clinton ambush the woman and offer her $5000 to shop for a whole new wardrobe in NYC based on their rules, but they have to turn over their entire wardrobe for disposal. Inevitably the person says yes, there is a lot of cheering and crying, then they watch the secret footage, which is frequently humiliating. The best part of each episode is always when the person tries on a few of their own outfits and Stacy & Clinton verbally assault them with their acerbic wit about everything wrong with what they're wearing. (Case in point from last night's episode: with silver moon boots and a pillowcase-turned-skirt, they called the woman a homeless person from outer space, and asked if she sleeps on an A-line skirt.) They in turn offer alternatives for their body types and challenge them to step out of their comfort zone.
The is followed by the disposal of the clothes, which often proves to be a traumatic experience for these women. What one discovers is how many people use clothing as a protective shield because of how insecure they are about themselves. It's a very real phobia. We all really do want the same thing: for people to be able to approach us and (dare we say it?) like us. And if you deny this, then you're lying to yourself, and you know it. It's human nature for us to be social and to want people to like us. But these women are not changing their appearance for other people, but for themselves. In a rather ironic twist, it turns out that when you feel more confident about how you look, you no longer care about what people think of you. As your self-confidence increases, inevitably people liking you comes naturally. That is perhaps one of the most fascinating lessons so many of these women learn.
Then comes the shopping experience, which on the first day is traumatic, and on the second day is successful with Stacy & Clinton's help. They also get a hair and makeup redo, and in they end they parade their new look and they look fabulous. Now, of course, as reality television, all of this is very formulaic and a bit of a farce. But it's still a lot of fun because of the personalities and the humor. Some of the funniest episodes are the "hoochie-to-hottie" shows, where women who wear inappropriate, skin-tight, barely-there outfits learn how to dress sexy-sophisticated, coming to the realization that you don't have to sell your body in order to get attention and that covering up a bit can give you the respect you really want from others.
So cheers to Stacy & Clinton for helping everyone dress better! In closing, I thought I would share 5 lessons SVH & I have learned from Stacy & Clinton, some of which do apply to men as well, so pay attention:
1) Your body isn't the problem, it's the clothes that stores sell. Not everything you buy will fit perfectly. Tailoring may be needed, and that's perfectly acceptable.
2) An hourglass figure on a woman is hot. Wear clothes that accentuate your curves, like a wrap-dress that cinches at your waist, and you will be amazed at how it makes you look.
3) Dress age appropriate. Nothing ages you more than dressing like you're 20 years younger than you are.
4) Wearing dark colors and baggy clothes will not make you look thinner. Instead, you look like you're wearing a tent. Go for clothes with structure, like fitted jackets and A-line skirts, that fit with your body's natural shape.
5) It's worth investing in a few higher-priced, well-made pieces that you can wear frequently and with many outfits (e.g. dark-wash jeans). The more frequently you can wear it, the more value you get for your money. Then, you can easily pair it with less expensive clothes and come up with a a wardrobe you can keep mixing up throughout the year.