“What Not to Wear” and body postivity.
I don’t watch very much TV, but when I do, I can’t get enough of TLC’s “What Not to Wear“. It’s a makeover show with a pretty basic premise: people who dress “poorly” are nominated by their friends and family and given $5000 to buy a whole new wardrobe, given that they agree to get rid of all their unacceptable clothes. As television goes, it’s pretty mindless and sometimes a little grating. But I think it does something right that so many other shows get wrong: encourage people to accept their bodies as they are and help them look fabulous without trying to change their bodies.
“What Not to Wear” is hosted by Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, two style experts. Although Stacy and Clinton’s sometimes cruel criticism is a mainstay of the show, they always reserve that criticism for the participants’ wardrobe choices. Never, ever do they criticize a participant’s body or recommend that a participant lose weight, get plastic surgery or otherwise change his or her body. And in fact they often counter participants’ claims that they are “too fat” for this shirt or “don’t have the figure” for that dress. They take into account insecurities while pushing participants to leave their wardrobe comfort zones a little and dress in a way that flatters their body and lets them feel beautiful.
Here’s the first part of an episode (you can link to the second part from the page on youtube). The whole thing’s good, but you can see what I’m talking about starting around 8:00.
Although the show is by no means perfect, it really makes me happy to see a make-over show telling people that their bodies are beautiful the way they are, that they don’t need to “wait” to lose 10, 20, 50 pounds to wear cute clothes, that they deserve to feel good about themselves no matter what their bodies look like. Stacy described the show’s approach to fashion in a recent Washington Post feature:
The sweat-shirt phenomenon [wearing baggy clothes to cover a body you’re ashamed of] is a slippery slope, and a symptom of something deeper. Style is the instrument you can pick back up when you want to regain some of the confidence you’ve lost. Style offers concrete rules you can follow. You can use it as a resource rather than a barrier to feeling good about yourself.
You have to look in the mirror and see that what you’re wearing looks good on the body you have now. Wearing a larger size is just . . . wearing a larger size.
This is refreshing to hear, and has always been exciting to me. Yes, my body is great right now, I deserve to wear things that make me feel good, and I shouldn’t have to hide in my clothes. And guess what? My dress size is just a number, not any measurement of my worth as a person. This message is hard to come by in the world of “extreme makeovers” and “weight-loss interventions“, but I think “What Not to Wear” does it pretty well.