I wanted to comment on the actual show, What Not to Wear.  I used to watch it a lot, because I like clothes.  I can’t own a lot of clothes for monetary reasons, so I got my vicarious clothes-owning through TV (and In Style magazines).  I wanted to talk about why I don’t watch it anymore.

There’s this episode of the Drew Carey show where they’re going to hire a Personal Shopper for the department store Drew works for.  Drew is running this contest, and it comes down to his girlfriend and his long-term friend (and long-term crush) Kate.  So the final on this contest is MiMi.  Kate goes first, and she turns Mimi into- well, a business woman.  She is in a suit, she looks normal (as normal as a woman her size can, I suppose I should say) and she’s miserable.  Drew’s Girlfriend (I just found her name is Lisa) turns Mimi into- well, as much like Mimi as she could possibly be.

The winner of the contest is Lisa, because although Kate made Mimi look normal, she hated it.  Say what you will about Mimi, I always liked her, and I thought the point of the contest was interesting.  Kate obviously thinks she has it in the bag for a second.  Then Drew asks Mimi which shopper she’d go back to and Mimi goes “Are you kidding?  Look at me, I’m gorgeous!”

This brings me back to What Not to Wear.  I realized I preferred the episodes where they showed people who just didn’t really seem to care what they looked like how to dress.  Women who just threw on hand-me downs and so forth.  But there were episodes where they found people who deliberately set out to wear certain things- things that could be eye-searingly bad I’ll admit- and force them into normality.  It doesn’t seem that way, they look pretty happy to be going through the experience.  But you really look at what they’re doing- they’re not jut giving people style tips and saying ‘hey, this is appropriate work dress and this is not.’  They’re literally telling people what colors and clothing items to wear under very strict rules.  If the lady had a lot of a certain color she was normally told NOT to get that color.

These people fought the process the whole way, and would fight for some dumb little thing (one lady wanted to wear cowboy boots, and I still don’t get why that was a sin).  They almost always said they felt like their voice was being taken away, and that they were uncomfortable in the clothing.  I know they were commonly reassured that this wasn’t the case, but if you feel like your voice is being taken away, uh, your voice is probably being taken away.

My biggest- absolute biggest- problem with the show was that they would throw fits if a woman dared step in public in her jammies.  Like, ‘you can’t do that, what if someone from your work sees you,’  blah blah blah.  I never could really articulate why that bothered me, but that’s the big reason I stopped watching the show.  And I finally figured out why it bothered me.

There is some sort of implied idea that if you’re going into public and forcing people to look at you, you should do your best to not look like a trainwreck.  I’m not talking about work standards- that’s necessary to a professional environment, and I have no problem with that.  No, I’m talking about daring to leave the house in jammie pants and flip-flops.

Call me crazy, but if I’m running to the grocery store to get toilet paper, cat food, and an artichoke (quick shopping trips always involve the most random items) I”m not gonna put jeans on.  I get home and I change out of my jeans for fairly practical reasons.  I can’t afford many pairs of jeans and mine tend to wear out in the thighs, so I change into sweats and a t-shirt to preserve my jeans as much as I can.  If I gotta make a quick run, I don’t bother to change into anything unless I’m indecent.  (I did recently realize that a pair of comfy-pants I’d been wearing barely still counted as pants, they were very see throught and holy, and have since retired them.)

I don’t owe the public my best face every time I step through to door.  I dress work appropriate at work, school appropriate at school (I work in a casual pizza environment so these things are similar).  My hair is pink, and I do look like I bathed and consciously chose my clothing as opposed to rolling out of bed and putting on whatever came to hand.

I guess I just really resent the idea that if I leave the house looking like crap, I’m somehow imposing myself on the world.

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