Despite my trepidation about the proliferation of make-over shows and the insidiousness of experts on TV, I would jump ahead of everyone I know to be a guest on What Not to Wear. That $5000 Visa with my name on it and a chance to overhaul my wardrobe and visit NYC would be greatly appreciated by me. I even think the hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly are the most accepting of their guests of the hosts on these shows. They generally strive to help the victim…er…subject, be her best self. (They had male guests when they first started but no longer.) So, if anybody wants to nominate me as a fashion misfit – go right ahead.
Still, I have noticed that one of the things the stylists do is leach the individuality of many of the contestants that made them standout. Nick, the hair stylist on What Not to Wear, rarely sees a curl he won’t straighten (including his own to judge from some of the shows). While he does often elevate people’s hair to new beauty, sometimes he has taken someone whose hair was a fantastic amalgam of uniqueness and tame it into the realm of the ordinary.
Who decides what good taste is? Who decides what the perfect proportions are? Whose bodies form the patterns? Where is it written that a specific size and shape of lips or hips is better than another size lips?
Mannering (I may have made this word up) that’s what all these experts are doing – making people mannered. (Perhaps patterning is the word. They are creating a narrow range of templates into which people are supposed to fit.) With money and personal stylists and a tailor to alter, it’s quite easy to look moneyed, attractive, and poised.
This plethora of experts contributes, in my opinion to an eroding of self-judgment, self-esteem and self-direction. How can I and other women emulate the standards they impose? (Read The Beauty Myth for more on this subject.) Why would I listen to the male fashionistas most of whom are not sexually attracted to women and often, impose a caricatured style for women that harkens back to the days when women were supposed to look good rather than think well.
I’ve also noticed that TV, magazines and other media most often talk to women from a deficit model – there is something wrong with you – your body, your size, your emotions, your relationships rather than on the asset model – all the wonderful things that women are and do. These positive messages are whispered in the media whereas negative images are screamed. Pick up any women’s magazine and you’ll see what I mean.
I’m all for freedom of choice and expressions of personal style, the more varied the better, I just think we need to figure them out for ourselves via our own observations and instincts rather than pandering to the principles of self-proclaimed experts whose major gifts seems to be shopping in pricey stores.
Each of us has one face, one body, one life and we need to rock it however we choose.