Stacy London reflects on 10 years of 'What Not to Wear'

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  Oct. 18, 2013 at 4:04 PM
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NEW YORK, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Famed stylist Stacy London admits she has bittersweet feelings about wrapping up her wildly popular New York-based makeover show "What Not to Wear" after 10 seasons.

"It's funny. I thought I couldn't wait to get off the show. I had been jonesing for it for awhile. Just because I was like, 'I can't do one more makeover,'" London told United Press International in a recent phone interview. "It just felt like we couldn't do much else. But, I have to say, this last season that we were filming, we had such an incredible group of contributors and it made such a difference. We shot the finale, which is going to air [Friday], and I was overwhelmed by how emotional I got about saying goodbye. I just didn't realize the impact it was going to have on me and to see so many of our past contributors, to see fans make videos and write in to tell us what they learned, and how many people said, 'Thank you.' I was so humbled and so overwhelmed by the impact. It was really emotional for me. It was much harder than I thought it was going to be and then I realized, 'It's been 10 years.' And that feels like a lifetime."

For the uninitiated, TLC's "What Not to Wear" features contributors nominated by family members, friends and/or co-workers who are fed up with her style -- or lack thereof. London and co-host Clinton Kelly then help her weed through her wardrobe and spend $5,000 of TLC's money on new clothes to make her look her best and build her confidence, so she can move on to the next phase of her life. Also aiding in the transformations are hairstylist Ted Gibson and makeup artist Carmindy.

Although episodes start off with a comic kick and there is no shortage of good-natured teasing on the set, the shows are incredibly moving as the contributors finally face the various issues that led them to stop caring about what they look like.

"Generally, I think the people who really don't understand the benefits of fashion are looking at it as an industry that is built on insecurity and if you feel like you don't belong in that world, chances are you're more likely to poo-poo it," London told UPI. "If you don't look at it as just fashion or that the only way to be fashionable is to own a $40,000 Birkin bag, but if you look at style as something that is personal and individual and belongs solely to the person who is creating their style, then you're not playing that comparison game.

"I don't look like a 12-year-old Estonian model on the cover of Vogue. I look like me. I have scars and I have psoriasis and this is what I'm going to do to make the best version of me. It's a very different proposition than thinking everything I am is wrong because I'm not a 12-year-old Estonian model on the cover of Vogue. ...

"Wearing your pajamas all day is not going to encourage a strong sense of self-esteem or self-worth. But getting dressed in a way that says, 'I respect who I am; I value who I am,' is really about taking some effort and care."

London said she totally understands how women can be so focused on raising their children or working that they put themselves last on their lists of priorities. However, she also emphasized people might be able to improve other areas of their lives and enjoy their lives more fully if they take care of and feel good about themselves.

"I think people get very caught up in their lives," London said. "I don't blame anybody for that. Life is hard and there are a lot of responsibilities we have, but I think style is one of those things where it's the first thing to go when life seems overwhelming. But the great thing about style is it is such an easy thing to pick back up and has such a quick and visceral impact. If nothing else I think 'What Not to Wear' really proves that point. ... If you make a little bit more effort, you might feel better.

"In the cases, certainly that I've seen, you do feel more in control and feeling more in control in one part of your life really does allow you a certain sense of freedom to take control in other areas. It's how self-esteem is built. You do a little bit at a time and you reach a goal and, once you get there, you feel like you can do more."

"What Not to Wear" goes out of its way to make style accessible not only to its contributors, but its viewers, too. In addition to offering practical, but not necessarily obvious, tips such as -- dress the body you have, not the body you wish you had, and focus on your strengths, not your flaws -- London and Kelly also take contributors shopping at popular discount clothing stores like Marshall's, H&M and TJ Maxx, as well as high-end boutiques.

"It's so important that style be accessible and we have been going through a very tough time economically in the last few years and to ignore that would be foolish, I think, for anyone who is trying to talk to everyone," London said. "My argument is that style has a beneficial impact on everyone and so that means you have to be able to participate in it at any price point and I certainly believe that is possible. ... There's nothing frivolous about self-care and we've got to get dressed in the morning. You've got to buy something, so why not buy something that makes you look and feel good?"

"What Not to Wear" is to end its 10-year run on TLC Friday.

London is a former Vogue fashion editor and the author of the book "The Truth About Style." She also is the face of the "Uncover Your Confidence" campaign sponsored by AbbVie, which aims to provide people living with psoriasis with resources, support and style information to encourage them to take a proactive approach to their condition.

The website is

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