Lately I’ve been hooked on watching “What Not to Wear” on TLC, hosted by style gurus Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.
How the show works: Friends and relatives nominate a chronically fashion-challenged friend who’s ambushed by Stacy and Clinton who hand her a Visa card worth $5,000 with her name on it to spend on a new wardrobe in New York City.
The catch: The woman has to hand over everything in her closet and agree to follow Stacy and Clinton’s shopping “rules.” (Also, she gets her hair done over by Nick Arrojo and a make up makeover by Carmindy Acosta.)
Before that, everyone watches secret footage of the woman wearing her hideous clothes. One woman liked to wear a raccoon tail pinned to the rump of her too-tight pants everywhere she went.
Most of the women jump at the opportunity to spend $5,000 on themselves, but when they arrive in New York they often have second thoughts, especially as Stacy and Clinton start tossing their clothes in the trash can.
Almost all the women get pretty defensive as they lobby to keep some of their favorite things. They cry to hold onto ratty jackets. One woman who made sweaters out of rabbit and horse hair contended, “Since I know the animals’ names, I should keep the sweaters.”
They wrestle Clinton for a skirt or sweatshirt or try to bargain with Stacy, to no avail.
After all the fashion victim’s clothes are thrown away, Stacy and Clinton show her mannequins wearing complete outfits using pieces best suited for the woman’s build and coloring, and they explain what they want her to choose during a two-day shopping spree.
Next, a film crew follows the woman as she shops, capturing her angst and her mostly bad clothing choices. Meanwhile, Stacy and Clinton watch via hidden camera, making comments, adding entertaining snark but also offering insight on why things are or aren’t suited for the woman.
They also comment on the woman’s strong points and say things like, “Doesn’t she see how beautiful she is?” and “Why does she want to hide that body underneath too big clothes?”
On the second shopping day, Stacy and Clinton “surprise” the woman mid-shopping and help her spend the rest of her $5,000, building a wardrobe out of basic pieces that fit and flatter.
Many of the women are so used to wearing thrift store finds and hand me downs that they balk at spending so much money.
By the end of day two, the women start feeling more confident and they begin to realize that their old wardrobes and all that they represent as far as how they feel about themselves and who they, indeed, are as individuals, aren’t worth what they had once thought.
When it comes time for the hair and make up, generally the women have little fight in them. They see that change is good in the hands of people who care and have great skill.
The show ends with the glowing, transformed women returning home to a big “reveal” party with the same people who originally nominated them as bad dressers and everybody screams with joy.
What strikes me most about the show is how fiercely the women fight to hold on to their old ways. Even those who say they want change get angry and cry. It’s hard to let go of things you equate with who you are.
But in the end, even the most rebellious say they never want to go back to the way they were.
It’s a frivolous show, but not really. It’s really about potential, restoration and transformation, and it reminds me of how often, as God sets about changing my life, making me better, I cry because I want to keep on wearing a raccoon tail pinned to my rear and hold onto a life that’s basically rags.
I fear change and forget that the end result is a better, happier me.
God isn’t mean when he takes away our raccoon tails. He’s out to give us dignity and restore us to who we were created to be, bearers of his likeness.
The process is often painful, but the result, the big reveal, is always worth it.