From Where I Sit – What Not to Wear

Have you seen an episode of TLC’s new one-hour program called “What Not to Wear”? If not, you have no idea what you’re missing.

Here’s the premise. Someone committing serial fashion faux pas is secretly reported to the show. With the clandestine help of friends(?) and family, this poor schnook is secretly videotaped for two weeks committing one fashion crime after another. Case in point: 47 year old Donna wearing a homemade dickie and pumpkin theme sweater including white picket fence running right around her hipline! Or the guy with a dozen goofy hats buying in bulk at thrift stores. Or the old hippie gal going braless, with a wrap skirt and exercise shorts under it. The fashion offender is then confronted at some public function and “out-ed”. The shock and betrayal is softened with the promise of a $5000 fashion budget to be spent in New York, after they learn “the rules.”

All the while, stylists Stacey London and Clinton Kelly are offering commentary as they view and re-view footage and stills of the ugliest, shabbiest, most inappropriate stuff you can imagine. They are brutal in their analysis. Phrases like “the colour of baby vomit” are part of the blunt truth. The participant videotapes her feelings as the process unfolds. The pluckiness, defiance, and good-humoured resistance is truly funny. Despite the harshness of the stylists’ comments, the underlying message is true: many of us are wearing the wrong things for our body size and type. Those wrong choices make people look bigger and exaggerate figure flaws.

The one thing that makes this reality show scarier than all the others combined is the dreaded 360 degree mirror. Participants alternately justify their old clothing choices or are horrified by what they see. We can only imagine their pain.

The show includes the ceremonial dumping of all things ugly, some instructional tips with the use of mannequins and sample outfits, a two day shopping spree, hair and makeup consultations, a mini fashion show for Wayne and Stacey, and finally the “reveal” for family and friends. Without exception, the results have been quite spectacular. To the show’s credit they are picking real people as opposed to model types.

I suspect this is another BBC concept TLC has brought to North America. At Audrey’s the other day I spotted a “What Not to Wear” book. With typical Brit bluntness, it includes chapters entitled “Big Tits, No Tits, Short Neck, Saddlebags, Thick Ankles, No Waist”, etcetera. With full-colour photos it shows the worst and best possible styles for a particular figure flaw. Near as I could tell, there’s no advice for the poor slob with multiple problems. Peplums, wrap sweaters and dresses seem a common solution. Leggings and tapered pant legs should be outlawed. Boxy white t-shirts are suggested as dust rags.

For a brave, new look at your own wardrobe, this show is hot, from where I sit.

*Reprinted with permission