What to Think about “What Not to Wear”?

Mired in a morass of ambivalence.

I recently viewed the “What Not to Wear: The Mom Makeovers” and I just don’t know what to think.  I’m so twisted round that I can’t make up my mind.  I can’t see the forest for the trees.  (And I just like the word “morass”:)

The Plot Line

The plot line of this cable reality TV show is that your friends and family secretly nominate you as badly in need of a style makeover.  (Translation: you have awful fashion sense. )Over a two week period, these same supposedly loving friends and family shoot clandestine footage of you going about your day.  This footage will be aired if you are selected.  Your selection will come as a complete surprise to you.  From out of the blue, two fashion stylists will appear, bearing a $5,000.00 credit card with your name on it.  The only catch – you have to agree to let them videotape you as you go through your “makeover”.

The Makeover

First the stylists watch the video footage with you, all the while making you the butt of every joke.  Then they finger each item in your closet having their say here too. Next, the final humiliation – you choose some of your favorite outfits and then stand in a 360 degree mirror as they critique your choices. 

After such harrowing, they then give you a few shopping pointers and it’s off to the stores! 

Finally, a chance to put that $5,000.00 credit card to use!  I felt very happy for everyone at this point.  Even if you flubbed-the-dub and the stylists hated your choices – you still got your shopping spree.

The Verdict

I kinda like it. 

And I kinda don’t.

Yes, I had to agree that the women weren’t using clothes to express their full beauty. 

 But I hated to see them made fun of and forced to expose so much of themselves in the closet baring and 360 degree mirror exercises.  


From experience, I know that when someone is really dug in you have to be brutally honest before they will confront real change. 

That said I hated hearing the two show stylists jabbing their “guest” with predictable canned jokes.   Does making fun of someone really work?  Is that the best way of being honest?


We all know we should pay attention to our appearance and if we look good we feel better about ourselves. 

 But sometimes circumstances such as illness, childcare and money do get in the way of a woman spending time and money on her wardrobe.   Should we haul this woman onto the carpet and tell her she is failing fashionwise and thereby not living up to her potential, or should we shower her with understanding and validation.  Maybe she is doing her best. I don’t know what her dayplanner or bank balance looks like.  Maybe she isn’t making excuses.  Time and money are real limitations.   

The show purported to be about enhancing a woman’s true beauty and advocating that women not always put themselves last

But I heard few compliments and honest validation.  I did not walk away knowing what the hosts found singularly beautiful in each woman.   


It was so much better seeing RTW stylish clothes on real women versus the highly contrived magazine photo shoots.

 But after viewing several shows I grew disappointed that the “look” achieved at the end of each show, though lovely, was predictable and geared to a cosmopolitan, maybe even coastal setting.  I especially remember the young mother who lived and worked as a nurse in a small Southern town. Her makeover looked too conservative for her and I wondered if she would even want or need that style of clothing in her hometown.    

The two hosts insist that “style is not a price-point”.   That means you can find style at any price. 

 I agree that you can find stylish items at any price, but as for gathering a full wardrobe snappy enough to garner the admiration of these two snarky stylists, you are going to have to venture beyond Target.  Where does that leave a woman whose budget does not go beyond the mass-merchandiser range? Must she spend more time scouring store after store, time that possibly she doesn’t have, or will she have to reconcile herself to a less-than-stylish wardrobe? 

It was wonderful that these ladies were given $5 grand for a once-in-a-lifetime shopping spree. 

But will they be able to replicate that style within their normal budget? $160.00 jeans and $250.00 jackets were not uncommon makeover items.  You can wag a fashionably manicured finger at a woman and admonish her to “pay for quality”, but if she has children or a tight budget the realities of her life will not allow her to spend so much on one item. 

As a home-sewer I so loved the clothes.

Is the entire basis of this show women-hating?

I so loved the clothes.

I am going round and round on this one.

As both a home-sewer and a consumer of fashion

what do you think about

“What Not to Wear”?

Next Post: Thursday, July 15, 2010: I’m Making Something for my Kitchen