A Fond Farewell to the Bloodsport of 'What Not to Wear'
Clinton Kelly and Stacy London on "What Not To Wear."
After 10 seasons of advising women (and some men) about the social stigma of light-wash jeans and the saving grace of a well-cut jacket, "What Not to Wear" closes its 360-degree mirrors. The final season returns Friday, August 9.
The show, which carried notes of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Scared Straight," debuted in 2003 on TLC. It didn't just survive the transition from wholesome, scrappy, DIY programs like "Trading Spaces" and "Junkyard Wars" to fertility freak shows like "Jon & Kate Plus 8" and "17 [then 18, then 19] Kids and Counting." TLC's longest-running series steadily amassed more than a million viewers each episode, including its experimental "live" shows or celebrity specials. ('80s icon Tiffany has body issues! "American Pie" hottie Shannon Elizabeth's a whiner!)
The Deliciously Cruel Home Schooling of "What Not to Wear"
The home course "What Not to Wear" borrowed from the closet of the BBC original. For those unfamiliar with the premise of this American version, it was a Pygmalion boot camp without the accent training: Friends and family nominated a terrible dresser who was secretly taped for two weeks. Hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly (the Jewish princess and the gay blonde) ambushed said dresser, then forced her to view this recording with the above-mentioned plotters, exposed as gleeful vipers in her bosom. The dresser's chance for rehabilitation: a $5,000 shopping spree in New York, on the condition that most or all of the offending wardrobe be surrendered.
Get an exclusive sneak peek at this week's "What Not to Wear" season premiere right here:
As in all Cinderella stories, there must be elements of delicious cruelty. The dresser stepped into a small space surrounded by mirrors three different times, in three different hideous outfits, and had to justify each one. Each time the funhouse of mirrors opened up, the hosts entered with horrified expressions and lambasted the woman for her dereliction of fashion duties. The hosts also sorted through each article of the woman's wardrobe, making catty (and often dead-on) remarks.
Often the most intense Greek drama was in the hairstylist's chair. This was the last stand for many, whose hair was shield, security blanket, curtain, symbol, a link to one's youthful past — anything but what it truly was: a renewable resource that thinned and grayed.