Goodbye old friends…

Ever have a television show that felt like an old friend, taught you a lot about how to appropriately dress the body God gave you and provided lots of laughs, fashion tips, make-up tips…well, just felt like a great friend?  What Not To Wear (TLC) ended it’s 10 year run on Friday with a great 3 hour send-off that made me cry!

My friend Nancy and I have been watching this show together on the telephone for years!  It affected the way we shopped, looked at our own shapes…heck we can hardly shop alone these days!  We even had the opportunity to meet one of the hosts, Clinton Kelly, hug him and get his autograph in the book that he and Stacy London co-authored titled “Dress Your Best…The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That’s Right for Your Body”…yes, I still have and refer to the book several times a year!  Nancy and I are at a bit of a loss…without our weekly phone appointment, we have to be more intentional about calling each other and staying in touch.  We did watch the finale in together in the same house, kinda nice, even if they did laugh at me for my tears!

For those of you who may not be familiar with the show, What Not to Wear (WNTW)  it was a makeover reality series based on the British show of the same name. It premiered in 2003 and aired on TLC and was hosted by Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.

Episodes featured contributors nominated by friends, co-workers, or relatives. Some episodes involved self-nominations, such as the class reunion specials or mall nominations. In the latter, What Not to Wear set up a 360-degree mirror in various malls across the United States, which allowed women to explain why they needed fashion help. Early episodes featured both men and women but all the later episodes featured women exclusively because the males transformations while great, weren’t as remarkable. Some episodes featured both the contributor and the nominator being selected for a makeover.

When a contributor was selected, the show secretly followed and videotaped her for two weeks. Sometimes the nominee would be asked to participate in “market research” by a camara crew which was actually the What Not To Wear crew filming her pre-makeover look for the show. Also, the nominators sometimes accessed the nominee’s closet to point out specific items of clothing that they considered particularly bad.

While reviewing the secret footage, Stacy and Clinton would comment, in that snarky style of theirs, on why the wardrobe was unflattering (“mom jeans”) or out-dated (purchased in the 1980s) and they would usually meet with the nominators before meeting the contributor. Afterward, the entire group would go to meet the soon-to-be-surprised contributor. During the surprise visit, the contributor was offered a $5,000 WNTW card to buy a new wardrobe if she would turn over her entire existing wardrobe to Stacy and Clinton and shop by their “rules” (tailored for her age, body shape, and profession).  If the nominee accepted the terms of the offer then Stacy and Clinton would give them the gift card and review the secret footage with them. If she declined, nothing further is filmed and there is no show. Contributors were sometimes very reluctant to agree and had to be persuaded by Stacy and Clinton and the nominators.

After reviewing the secret footage, they were brought to New York City for a week of evaluation, shopping, and hair and make-up styling.  Throughout the week, the contributor frequently declared she was unable to find properly fitting clothes, she disliked her body, or she didn’t care what other people think.

On the first day, Stacy and Clinton would sort through their current wardrobe, and she would step inside a 360-degree mirror to explain what she liked about her regular outfits and why she thought they looked good on her. After critiquing each outfit, Stacy and Clinton presented a more “appropriate” outfit to help illustrate the “rules” for the participant to follow when shopping for new clothes. Throughout the sorting process, most of the clothes were symbolically tossed in a large garbage can; however, they were actually donated to charity as long as they were not torn or damaged.

On the second day, the contributor was filmed shopping on her own in various New York stores and then Stacy and Clinton watched the videotaped footage and commented, for the benefit of the viewers, on whether or not the contributor was following the “rules”.

On the third day, Stacy and Clinton would surprise the contributor, comment on whether the previous day’s purchases followed the “rules”, and help her with the remainder of the shopping. If they had not followed the rules, the clothes may have been returned.

On the fourth day, hair stylist Ted Gibson and make-up artist Carmindy transformed their appearance.  So many tears when it came to the haircut, some of these people were just way to attached to their hair!  Then were the women who either went way overboard with the blue eyeshadow, glitter eyeshadow, false eyelashes…Ted and Carmindy really had their work cut out for them most weeks!

On the fifth and final day in New York, the contributor showed off her new look to Stacy and Clinton—in three of her new outfits. Stacy and Clinton then commented on how her new look flatters her body and generally improves her appearance.  The last segment featured a party in their hometown, where she would show off her new look to friends and family, who would comment on how impressed they were and how happy she looked. With the credits rolling, the participant was shown in additional wardrobe items and commented on what the experience did for her emotionally and how it improved her confidence.

During the finale party, Stacy said “This show changed me and the trajectory of my life… I’ve learned so much from all of our contributorsover the years. I hope we touched them as much as they touched me. I hope we touched our viewers… I will always cherish the time I spent on ‘WNTW’ and be eternally grateful to TLC for a great co-host, amazing crew and an awesome program.”  Clinton said “When I got the job, I told everyone I knew that we’d probably do 10 episodes, get canceled and I’d go crawling back to my old job in magazine publishing. So, I’m more surprised than anyone that we’ve lasted this long. At first I thought the essence of the show was making snarky remarks about people’s outfits, but as it turns out, ‘WNTW’ is about taking stock of who you are and communicating that non-verbally to the rest of the world. That’s incredibly empowering.”

Goodbye my friends…thank you for your inspiration, knowledge, charm and wit…it was a fun ride and you will be missed.


Vicki Reed

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