You likely remember TV-show What Not To Wear with Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. I recently read Stacy London’s latest book, The Truth About Style, part memoir and part style makeover stories. Honestly, I just loved it. London is an engaging writer, and her personal stories are authentic and resonant. And now she’s kind of my idol.
The stories of the women she worked with for the book are a good cross-section of many of the issues – body-image, self-worth, significant life-changes – that we all face and also reflect different personal styles, ages, and body types. Throughout the vignettes are plenty of good style tips as well as laugh-out-loud observations delivered in typical Stacy London bluntness. She has a way of speaking truth about body image, style, aging, and more without disparaging others – in the same way a great stand-up comedian is one who is side-splittingly funny without excessive foul language, misogyny, or bigotry.
Before I read the book, I didn’t really know much about London’s backstory other than she is a fashion expert. She had a painful (literally and figuratively) childhood and adolescence as the result of a severe skin condition, and she talks about it frankly in the book. The fallout from her condition led to other body-image issues, including disordered eating.
I realized that her ability to work so genuinely with “real women” stems from her very first-hand experience. She has not had a charmed life, and her grit (and intelligence) is what got her where she is today. And she has impeccable style. She knows how to work with women to find the clothes that help them look, and thus feel, GREAT. She’s all kinds of awesome.
When I first launched my wardrobe consulting business, a friend described me as “a greener, sweeter What Not To Wear.” That made me smile, because What Not To Wear is where it all began for me. Watching that show 11 years ago was the beginning of my personal style journey, which ultimately led me to starting my own business.
I spent a lot of years hiding my body. The 80s and 90s were great decades to do that with their respective baggy and boxy styles. The looser the better, in my book. My dad is 6’4″, and I would raid his closet for Men’s XL Tall shirts (I’m 5’8″, and the shirts came down to my knees). That shifted some as I moved forward in my professional life, but not a lot. I would experience physical symptoms of anxiety if anything was too form-fitting.
I remember stumbling on What Not To Wear when my daughter was a toddler. It was typical reality TV with over-dramatization, but there was something about how Stacy London and Clinton Kelly interacted with the makeover winners that resonated with me. It was obvious that they truly wanted to help these women embrace their bodies “as is” and feel good about how they looked. And they knew how to make it happen. Of course, to be good television, often the women were extreme in their previous clothing choices. But even so, Stacy and Clinton gave really good style advice that was applicable to everyone, including me.
I always loved clothes, just not on myself. What Not To Wear caught me right when I was embracing that it was time to put aside the negative messages I’d held onto for SO. MANY. YEARS. For my sake. For my daughter’s sake.
The show gave me the tools to find clothes that worked with my body, rather than hide it. And I felt better about myself as a result. The better I felt, the more accepting of myself and the more confident I became. How you look on the outside really does affect how you feel on the inside.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days. We all do. But I have a much better perspective now and know to consciously step back and see the old, negative messages for what they are – a big bunch of hooey.
Reading The Truth About Style was a nice reminder of how much I love Stacy London’s honest, humorous approach that is backed by deep understanding and caring, as well as a passion for style. The book would make a great holiday gift for anyone who’s interested in embracing her true self and showing it with personal style.