Like my last post, this one is TV inspired. I don’t have a TV in Spokane, so I’ve been binging on cable while visiting my folks. Well, mostly just TLC. OK, mostly What Not To Wear. (Photo above of co-host Clinton Kelly is from tlc.com).
WNTW has been an important part of my fashion formation. It’s a dream to have hosts Clinton and Stacy give me a shopping tutorial and a $5k gift card for an NYC shopping spree (though I hope I’m in less need of an intervention. I’ve given up my Tevas, my embroidered muumuu dress, my bedazzled Earth Mother skirt, and most of my novelty tees. That must count for something).
Why do I love What Not To Wear?
I love the ritual of the show: The client (target? subject guest? specimen? What to call these women?) exhibit convincing surprise that they’ve been nominated for a wardrobe makeover. They’re abashed by the secret footage of their billowy coverups or tragic plaid. These women range from receptive to recalcitrant regarding Stacy and Clinton’s fashion counsel. In all of this soul- and closet-searching, there’s usually some high-voltage emotional material. WNTW tries to bring these self-esteem blind spots to light, in hopes that these women can see their own beauty. At this point in the program, I might be crying.
Then these women shop, on camera. They soar, or they crash and burn (in which case Stacy and Clinton intervene). They get a new haircut (not revealed until after a commercial break) and a primer in cosmetics. These women return to their native climes and wear a sexy number to a party with their friends and family to reveal their new look. At this point, I am clapping.
(Photo of What Not To Wear crop art is from this article about the 2011 Minnesota State Fair.)
I know that reality TV is an oxymoron, but the emotion does seem real to me. It’s hard not to sigh and celebrate when the effervescent science teacher sees what a cutie she is underneath that reindeer sweater and bank teller haircut. I can relate to the women on the show.I’m not a mom who’s given up on her own looks, or a cute girl hiding behind her fairy wings. But I can symphathize with their insecurity. I, too, have felt overwhelmed in a store. I, too, have wept in a fitting room.
“Clothes are magical,” said the subject of a recent WNTW episode. Clothes allow you to see ourselves differently, affirmed Stacy and Clinton. Clothes allow us to project something about ourselves, to send a message even before we speak.
WTNW is a reminder that style touches the surface, but it’s also more than skin deep.