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Long before the Fab Five of Queer Eye took to the airwaves, fashionistas on TLC’s What Not to Wear were transforming eyesores into knockouts. In the slightly bitchy, irreverent tone so familiar to television’s current crop of makeover shows, What Not to Wear is a pleasing if not wholly satisfying take on the genre.
The premise is simple. A fashion nightmare — recommended to the show by her so-called friends — is secretly filmed and then ambushed by TLC’s ministers of style: the classically beautiful Stacy London, formerly of Vogue and Mademoiselle, and the slightly fey Clinton Kelly, also from Mademoiselle and Marie Claire. Following the candid-camera moment in which the victim is nabbed, the hosts lead an intervention of sorts to document and detail the alleged fashion crimes. Lacking the script and requisite talent to pull off much witty banter, the hosts mostly fail to charm the audience.
Their clothing advice, however, is spot on. In the first episode of the second season, airing Aug. 29, Stacy and Clinton exorcise the demons from Gina, a vivacious hair salon owner from New York.
Poor Gina is a mess. Well into her 30s, Gina thinks she dresses young and sexy but actually looks more immature and trashy. Minis, mesh, tube tops: the mistakes are obvious. After forcing Gina to don her clothes and parade in front of a 360-degree mirror to illustrate her fashion missteps, Stacy and Clinton unceremoniously dump her clothes into a garbage can. If you think there’s something slightly cruel and humiliating about this, you’re right. But Gina’s tough and so are we.
The gimmick is made even stranger because Stacy and Clinton keep making basketball references when they spike Gina’s delusions of couture. Like these former fashion mag editors are watching ESPN in their spare time.Â Uh-huh.
The silver lining, of course, is that — after her style tutorial — Gina is given $5,000 to go shopping under the explicit instructions to take heed of Stacy and Clinton’s professional advice. So Gina takes to the streets of New York and promptly forgets everything she’s told.Â
She heads straight for the glitter, chunky platforms and skirts that barely cover her rear. Stacy and Clinton screech in mock horror as Gina examines and falls in love with a choker the size of a tombstone. Why this surprises them is lost on me. People love to repeat their mistakes again and again. Just ask ABC.
On her second day of shopping, Stacy and Clinton come to the rescue. And its name is Prada. Flashy, skimpy, tight and bright are out! The hosts lead Gina around by the collar, so to speak, selecting stylish summer dresses and tasteful black suits. In the show’s crowning moment, Gina chooses a gown that makes her look like Audrey Hepburn. It’s enough to make you forget she ever owned polyester leopard-print hot pants. Well, almost.
What Not To Wear begins its second-season run this month and promises a breathtaking 45 new episodes. That’s a lot of makeovers to watch — even if you do daydream about Fashion Week and petitioned your local cable provider to carry the Style network.
It isn’t the funniest makeover show on TV, or the cleverest, but there’s something oddly soothing about What Not to Wear. It’s good standby. Like a worthy and sturdy pair of jeans, it’s there if you need it.