What Rewatching "What To not Put on" Taught Me About Physique Picture


For so long as I can bear in mind, I’ve beloved clothes. However in the event you requested me to pinpoint the origin of my love of fashion or my obsession with selecting simply the appropriate clothes and niknaks for a sure occasion or milestone, I don’t suppose I might offer you a succinct reply. My love of garments feels a part of me, similar to my love of studying or writing does. It’s simply how my mind is constructed.

I can, nevertheless, identify one very particular factor that grew my love of vogue into one thing greater: What To not Put on. Hosted by Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, What To not Put on was a actuality makeover present on TLC that aired from 2003 to 20013. In different phrases, I watched this present religiously from the ages of 10 to twenty, and I beloved it.

Each Friday night, I’d tune in to see the transformations of the present’s members as they went from individuals with “unhealthy” fashion to “good” fashion. I’d study methods to “costume the physique you’ve gotten, not the physique you need,” how a very good tailor can change your life, and why nobody who isn’t skinny ought to ever, beneath any circumstances, put on horizontal stripes. All very necessary issues for a 13 12 months outdated to know, in fact. For me, a pre-teen who was all the time greater than her friends, I listened to those guidelines as gospel whereas I watched the earliest episodes. Lastly, I assumed, a guidebook for shrink myself that feels doable. A method to slot in.

Within the almost 10 years since What To not Put on has been off the air, I’ve fortunately found physique neutrality, plus-size vogue, and the ability of embracing an ever-evolving sense of private fashion. I’ve additionally labored in vogue, and have spent years writing concerning the ins and outs of physique picture because it pertains to clothes. All through all of those experiences, I’ve thought of What To not Put on. Hell, all through regular, on a regular basis experiences, I’ve thought of What To not Put on. Nonetheless at present, once I discover myself shopping for clothes that doesn’t —gasp—emphasize the smallest level of my physique, my thoughts briefly flashes to that 360-degree mirror and what’s and isn’t “flattering,” as Clinton and Stacy would say.

Once I realized lately that I hadn’t watched an episode of the present within the higher a part of a decade, I made a decision to drag up a couple of episodes. I knew that the content material of the present can be dated, politically incorrect, and cringe-worthy. Seems, I used to be very proper about that, however the expertise of rewatching episodes nonetheless stunned me.

To steadiness issues out, I began out by watching a pair episodes from the primary seasons of What To not Put on and a pair from the final. What was maybe most stunning was how little, over the course of these 10 years, the general narrative of the present appeared to alter. As I watched the primary episode from the present’s final season in 2013, I heard one of many hosts clarify how the present’s members all the time fall into three classes in terms of their “unhealthy” fashion: “Too horny, too frumpy, or too loopy.”

There have been loads of issues that made me snicker; Stacy's obsession with pencil skirts, Clinton’s layered popped collars, and that clunky transportable D.V.D. participant they used to look at the behind-the-scenes footage. However that 2013 quote about "unhealthy" fashion despatched me over the sting. The concept girls should handle this harmonious steadiness of intercourse enchantment, modesty, and palatability so as to be perceived as modern and engaging was ridiculous. If that’s the usual, then nobody is able to having "good" fashion. It’s no marvel why a lot of the members ended up in the identical formulaic seems by the tip of every episode, rising from altering rooms in fitted blazers with tiny belts and trench coats whereas Stacy and Clinton gasped in awe every time. My God, this present beloved a trench coat.

As I watched the primary episode from the present’s final season in 2013, I heard one of many hosts clarify how the present’s members all the time fall into three classes in terms of their “unhealthy” fashion: “Too horny, too frumpy, or too loopy.”

I admit that there have been additionally small reminders all through every episode of why I beloved the present a lot rising up, significantly on the finish of the episodes when it was apparent that folks felt assured and proud of how they appeared. Even among the members who had been the least enthusiastic at the start usually gave the impression to be genuinely grateful to have been pushed out of their consolation zone by the tip. I used to be rapidly reminded throughout my rewatch of how the present was actually the primary time I noticed individuals inspired to spend money on dressing the physique they’re in, somewhat than denying themselves good items and hoped that they might drop extra pounds. Seeing individuals really feel extra assured and empowered to spend money on dressing their physique made me really feel good, and I believe that could be a massive motive why I, like thousands and thousands of others, beloved What To not Put on.

However I’ll be the primary to confess that the present, significantly within the older episodes, is peppered with uncooked, unfiltered, and typically merciless criticisms which can be jarring to me now. The mere concept of sticking somebody in a field of mirrors studded with cameras whereas strangers relentlessly analyze their garments and physique is so deeply offensive to me now, and seeing it on the present made my jaw drop. There are lots of episodes which can be laborious to look at.

Each time I discovered myself rewatching an episode and cringing on the phrase “flattering” or “slimming” or “camouflaging,” phrases that had been used virtually each episode, my first thought wasn’t, “Disgrace on Clinton and Stacy. How dare they?” It was, “Wow, that is how everybody talked about our bodies and clothes 10 years in the past.” I might even bear in mind myself saying these items, or listening to them from my friends, academics, mother, or aunts. I’m sure that What To not Put on cemented all of this language into our collective psyche, however do I believe that the present invented that language? No, I don’t.

Fatphobia didn’t begin with What To not Put on, and it did not cease after the present ended. Fatphobia continues to be dismissed and denied to this present day. There are moments within the present the place the language individuals used to speak about clothes and our bodies is identical we use at present (for instance, the prevalence of the phrase “flattering”). With all that thought-about, I nonetheless got here away from rewatching the episodes with one thought: Issues are a bit completely different now, and much more than that, I am completely different now.

Fatphobia didn’t begin with What To not Put on, and it didn't cease after the present ended.

There have been a few years of my life, each throughout the years I watched the present and after, once I believed that making myself look smaller was a solution to make myself extra acceptable, engaging, and palatable to others. There have been a few years the place I believed that my fashion existed solely inside the parameters of what I used to be “allowed” to put on as a dimension 14. These ideas had been enforced by What Not To Put on, sure, however not more than they had been by the truth that I by no means noticed a physique like mine in magazines, on T.V., in any respect the shops that didn’t carry my dimension, or by somebody saying an outfit I beloved wasn’t “flattering.”

Society and media as a complete could be a bit extra delicate, inclusive, and accepting at present than it was in 2003, and even 2013, however fatphobia and every little thing that goes together with it’s nonetheless very current. It wasn’t till I acknowledged and began to problem that actuality that I used to be in a position to unlearn all these vogue “guidelines” that I clung to so strongly rising up. My private fashion is every kind of issues today, and I’ve enjoyable with clothes. A very powerful factor, although? I’m dedicated to by no means letting my physique be a motive to deprive myself of any little bit of life, or a horizontal stripe, ever once more.

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