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Monday, July 13, 2009

The Case for What Not to Wear

I actually like the show What Not to Wear. I like seeing the different clothes that get picked out. I like Stacy and Clinton, sure they are mean sometimes, but they are generally pretty funny. I think part of why I like the show is because I want to be friends with Stacy and Clinton.

But when Jezebel mentioned the show in passing in an article about how teenage girls use image consultants to boost their self-esteem, I kind of went on the offensive. The Jezebel article states...

Alter's piece explores the growing trend of image consultations for young girls, who, due to the increased societal pressures to present a certain image thanks in part to tween stars like Miley Cyrus and makeover gurus like Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, feel that their looks need an upgrade.

Sure, I will agree that stars like Miley Cyrus are not setting the best example for young girls. But I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to look good. I have even seen many episodes of What Not to Wear where the woman featured that show gains more self-esteem by seeing themselves in a different light.

Stacy and Clinton can be mean sometimes, ok, a lot. But their ultimate goal in that is to help the woman see that the way they are dressing is affecting other parts of their life. While I would love to say that it shouldn't matter how you dress, but it does. People judge. Especially when you are in a professional setting, you need to send the right message with that you wear.

In this past week's episode centering around an ex-ballerina named Holly, the woman had low self-esteem because her body was no longer to ballerina expectations, so she was not dressing to show off her body. But Stacy and Clinton helped her to feel better about her body, let go of who she was and embrace who she is, and increase her self-esteem. While I'm sure this woman will still have some self-esteem issues, I think that seeing her attractive body in attractive clothes helped her to realize that she is still a great person even if she couldn't make it as a ballerina.

While I agree with the Jezebel article that these image consultants may not be the best solution to self-esteem problems, I do think that What Not to Wear has some benefits. Living in today's society, appearance does matter. And looking good should not be anti-feminist. It's possible to look good, dress for your body type (I don't like the phrase, but it's true), and be a feminist. And if this show can help a few people raise their self-esteem just a little bit, I think that it is doing some good. And the pressures to fit in during high school (and beyond) are not going to go away.


Carol said...

Ah. Thank you. Finally someone else who gets it!

I can't tell you how many arguements I've gotten into with people (even in my Women's Studies classes!) who will fight me tooth and nail telling me I'm not a feminist if I like "What Not To Wear."

The bottom line is: the show is not about living up to societal beauty standards. It's about feeling good about yourself and using fashion and style to express that. I don't understand why people have such a problem with that.

Clarissa said...

I like the show, too. My only complaint about it is that Clinton and Stacy often try to make every woman conform to a Barby-like standard of appearance with little regard to her personality or preferences. The results are sometimes a little ridiculous.

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