Reality Television

What Not To Wear

Aired On: TLC

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            I was never a fan of makeover shows.  I always thought that these shows degraded the people who were on them, transforming them into something they werenít, simply because of a perception that everyone should want to look trendy.  Then one day, a friend directed my attention to a show on TLC called What Not To Wear.  ďOh no!  Not another one of those stupid makeover shows,Ē I moaned.  However, with nothing better to watch added to the fact that my friend seemed to really want to watch the show, I kept the channel tuned to TLC.  As I watched, I had to admit that this was not your average makeover show.

            Basically, friends and/or family send in a request to the show to help their loved one find a new style.  The reasons behind the requests are numerous and vary - a woman spends all of her time and effort on her kids and forgets about herself, someone starting a new business who dresses like a beach bum, a mother of two college students dressing like a teenager Ė you get the idea.  The selected parties are filmed in secret in different styles of dress.  The hosts, Stacey London and Clinton Kelly, watch the video footage, then surprise whomever it is that they selected for the makeover offering them a credit card worth a large sum of money to buy clothing.  The catch is that the selected individual will have to give up their old wardrobe.  Iím certain that some people turn down the offer, but I, for one, think you would have to be crazy to do so.  Think of it Ė a brand new wardrobe on someone elseís dime?!  Why not?! 

            Once the person accepts the offer, they are put through the ringer, otherwise known as the three-way mirror.  The person tries on various outfits from their wardrobe and enters the three-way mirror area so that they can see what they look like from all angles.  Usually, the person will say what it is that they like about the outfit.  Then, itís Clinton and Staceyís turn to critique, telling the poor soul just what it is that makes this outfit out of date, shabby, non-fitting or just not right for that personís body type.  Then itís back to the wardrobe, arranged neatly and hanging from numerous clothing racks.  Whatever Stacey and Clinton deem to be the wrong style for that person, gets tossed in the trashÖliterally.  There are some occasions when the hosts allow the individual to keep an item or two, but they are few and far between.

            While they are trashing the personís wardrobe, the two hosts begin to explain why it is that the items they are trashing are not the right style or fit for the individual.  They give the person styling tips that they believe will allow the individual to choose their own new wardrobe.  Then, the person is sent off to start shopping.  The first day of shopping is usually intense.  Sometimes the people balk at their stylized ďrulesĒ and actively defy Stacey and Clinton, buying items that resemble clothing that was trashed.  Some people stand dumbfounded in stores, struggling to find the right fits or outfits that will work together.  But many people realize the rules and tips they were given actually do make sense.  They are the successful shoppers that donít need as much help on the second day of shopping.  On the second day of shopping, Stacey and Clinton make an appearance, often surprising the shopper and catching them in the act of a fashion no-no.  The second day of shopping is dedicated to helping that person complete their wardrobe and reinforcing the style tips they issued at the beginning of the episode.

            Then, itís off to the hair stylist Nick Arrojo, who definitely knows a thing or two about hair.  It is here that many dramatic transformations take place.  These transformations are not always dramatic simply because Nick does a terrific job on the personís hair.  Some people are very iffy about getting their hair styled in the first place.  One poor girl even cried when Nick suggested cutting it.  But Nick doesnít just style your hair.  He explains the style and what products you need to use and how to use them to maintain the style.  Then, you visit Carmindy, the makeup artist, a sweet woman with over 15 years of experience in the field.  She will usually ask what sort of makeup the person wears and how much time they have to spend on makeup each day.  But you can tell that she already has an idea how she will approach each person that sits in her chair.  Carmindy has an eye for what subtle tricks will enhance features already present on the person.

            After hair and makeup, itís time for a small fashion show in which the individual walks down the runway showing off at least three new outfits for Stacey and Clinton.  The two hosts discuss why these outfits were such a good choice for the individual in question.  Then, itís off to that personís home town to witness them show off for the friends and/or family that put them on the show in the first place.

            What Not To Wear is different from other makeover shows in that this show is geared toward making the person selected feel good about themselves.  If you have problem areas, Stacey and Clinton give you tips on how to find a wardrobe that will work with these areas.  If you dress like a kid at work, Stacey and Clinton will give you tips on finding a wardrobe that has a more professional look and still contains that element of fun.  Nick and Carmindy always make it a point to let the person know that they are not looking to change that personís looks, but instead to enhance features that are already present.

            The people on n What Not To Wear donít just tell you how to dress.  They ask you why you dress the way you currently do and then find ways to help you dress better without forcing uncomfortable styles on you.  They teach you how to accessorize and to buy pieces that can be worn with other items, thus building a wardrobe out of a few choice items rather than choosing one suit or dress that you can only use for one or two occasions.

            Makeover shows are usually about the dramatic change in styles.  This show is about the dramatic change in which the person receiving the makeover experiences in the perception of themselves.  What Not To Wear shows the people featured on each episode that they contain their own beauty and how certain styles can help to enhance that beauty.  Instead of tearing people down, this show helps to build their confidence in themselves.  And they do this for both men and women, although lately Iíve seen more women than men on the show.

            Iím no fashionista, but I can honestly say that I have taken quite a few tips from this show.  When I select items for my wardrobe, I now make a conscious effort to find clothing that will make me look more professional, taller and more streamlined.  I used to just walk into a store and pick out a bunch of items off the rack.  Now, Iíll go to the store with friends or family and come out with some fashion advice or explain why a certain outfit would look better on someone.  ďWhen did you become a fashion specialist,Ē they ask, but they canít deny that I am onto something.  Should I tell them that I learned all my fashion tips from What Not To Wear?  NahÖlet them figure it out for themselves.


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