“What Not to Wear” is one of my favorite TV shows ever.
It really was a modern day “My Fair Lady”: hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, all proper annunciation and sharp duds, plucking a disheveled “Eliza” from her feral fashion habitat to groom into a trained on-trend lady, ready for her “big reveal” to family and friends at the local Olive Garden. Not exactly rags to riches, but definitely rags to tailored trousers. And a $5,000 shopping spree.
It was so fun going along for the ride, although bumpy, through swanky Soho boutiques, Nick Arrojo and Ted Gibson’s salon chair, and Carmindy’s contouring. The final result often left both Eliza and me in tears – mostly happy, but sometimes “holy shit – what did you do to me?”
As much as I loved the show, I always had mixed feelings about what it did and represented. While many of the women clearly benefitted from replacing their tube tops and acid-wash with simple white T’s and dark denim, I felt others were not only stripped of their fishnets and Flashdance sweatshirts, but also of their personality.
It all came from a great place and something me and Jslow strongly believe in which is this: What we wear has the power to give us self-confidence and make us feel great. But here’s the thing: most times what gives me the most self-confidence is a baggy pair of old Levi’s and a men’s wife-beater, hardly an outfit that would fly on this show.
I get that for many of the women featured on the show, upping their fashion game was critical to helping them be taken more seriously at work, and helping them gain self-confidence to excel in all areas of their lives.
But being the rebel that I am, I’ve always resisted conforming to certain norms in order to “climb” in the world.
Back when the show was on the air, I often wondered if Stacy and Clinton were hiding behind the rack of sequined jeans I was riffling through at Barney’s, ready to pounce and rid my closet of my collection of platform sneakers and cut-up tanks. On paper, my attire would give them a coronary. There would be no gleeful gasps of “Shut the Front Doors” coming out of their mouths. More like silence, followed by the thud of combat boots and cat-tops hitting the floor.
I’d forgotten about What Not To Wear until the other day, when my friend Suzee forwarded this great piece published September 1 on Refinery 29, written by Stacy London, titled, “How I Moved On From My “What Not to Wear” Style” which can be found here. The wonderful photo below was taken by Nick Onken and accompanies the article.
At my age, if you aren’t Oprah or a man, the stigma of getting older starts to take shape. I’m 47. I am seriously and officially middle-aged. Like, deep into it. I’m here, but heck if I know how I got here so fast. I certainly don’t feel it.
Because she doesn’t have a husband, kids or normal “job”, she’s not surrounded by the middle-age things we were once taught to aspire to. She feels young inside and spends most of her time with younger people, whom she tends to have more in common with. She has gone from being the best-dressed in the room to the oldest in the room (and most likely best-dressed too.) I don’t know about you: I have a husband, but no kids or “normal job”, and am always the oldest person in the coffee shop and conference room. It all seemed to happen over night. It freaked me out. But like Stacy, I’m getting used to it — hell, I’ve had many more years of practice!
She goes on to talk about how she didn’t really think about her age until she realized certain clothes just didn’t feel appropriate for her (like her pink tiered halter mini-dress). And that the way she dresses now aligns with who she is NOW, not who she used to be. Gone are her pencil skirts and “girly looks” from her What Not to Wear days and “rules”, replaced by leather, suits and jumpsuits, reflecting her more “androgynous” style. She has evolved from a rule-maker to a rule-breaker, emboldened by her age and the continued confidence that has come with it. In my humble opinion, she looks better than ever.
Read the full piece. I can’t do it justice.
Her parting words, which will become my middle-aged mantra:
AT 47, I’M FINDING MY TROUSER POCKETS ARE FILLED WITH FEWER AND FEWER FUCKS.STACY LONDON