Strong words for a woman who’s made a name for herself outfitting the poorly dressed masses in the industry’s coolest duds on TLC’s addictive “What Not to Wear.” But Stacy London knows better than anyone how to walk the fine line between everyday practical and couture-level stunning. As her new talk show, “Fashionably Late with Stacy London,” hits airwaves, the down-to-Earth fashionista spills on faking it in the high-fashion world, walking the line between snarky and bitchy, and learning about herself through the transformations of others. Feel your girl-crush intensifying yet?
No More Drama!
As a woman, it can be difficult to get women to love you. There are so many petty, catty girls in the world, and all of us go through that stage at one time or another. But women who support other women wind up with an incredible support system of friends. I’ve been able to bolster that in my life by helping people find their own sense of self esteem. My avenue is through wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t do it some other way. Allowing women to recognize their own beauty and confidence is my job, and if I’m able to convey that, whether it’s on “What Not to Wear” or “Fashionably Late” or whether I’m speaking or working with charities, then I’m conveying the right message. I think if women feel supported, they feel less threatened.
Everyone Has an Inner Fashionista
Here’s the thing: I was a fashion editor, so I’m the first person you can accuse of being some superficial girl. It was my experience on “What Not To Wear” that made me connect several things in my own life. First of all, I don’t feel like I ever fit in within the high-fashion industry. I could be bitchy but I wasn’t super-snobby. I’m not a size 0 and I understand what it means to feel outside that very exclusive community, even while working in it.
But it was really working on “What Not To Wear” and with private clients that I realized the power that dressing one’s body according to one’s own body type or age or lifestyle gives you. It’s a personal power that is lacking in the fashion industry. I feel very strongly that style is about the individual, not the industry. If you give each person the license to accept their own personal shape and age and everything, you’re giving them the filter through which they can find trends and styles that fit them best. In other words, if you use yourself as the lens, you are absolutely going to look better than if you try to mimic some 40-foot billboard of a model who’s retouched and 12 years old.
Criticism, With an Emphasis on Constructive
I was denying my personal experience when I was a fashion editor, trying to keep up with that glossy image of what a fashion editor is supposed to be. I have been every size in my life. I’ve been smaller than a zero, up through a size 16. I’ve had lots of issues with body image and weight my whole life and it really took a great deal of work to recognize that at all those weights, no matter how I felt, I could still find a dress that made me feel sexy and powerful.
I think that’s why I feel so strongly about television as a medium – when I talk to viewers, I feel like I’m talking to my friends. I am not a supermodel, I am not super-glam, and I am as happy to wear H&M as I am to wear Dolce and Gabbana. For me, fashion is about loving style at every price line and finding ways to have fun with it. And that’s much closer to what the consumer should be feeling, rather than what the industry is trying to create. If there was a line marked in the sand, I would be on the side of the consumer, not the industry.
I don’t think Clinton Kelly and I are bitchy or judgmental on “What Not to Wear.” We’re snarky because that’s part of the entertainment factor of the show. But to be honest, it’s not judgment as much as it is constructive criticism. We are not the people who nominated the folks on the show—we’re sort of the messengers. The original criticism starts with friends and family: Here’s someone who’s clearly being held back by the styles they’ve chosen to present themselves in.
The difference between a cruel comment and a constructive one is that you have to be able to back it up. I will not argue with a contributor [what they call their makeover targets] about their style on the basis of taste. I can’t say to you, “That color is ugly.” The only way be constructively critical is to argue on technical terms, to give an explanation and other options. “These baggy sweatpants make you look 10 pounds heavier, but these jeans don’t.”
Fashion Rules 101
There really are some universal rules for fashion, though. For women, the ideal is to create an hourglass shape. I always say think of Barbie as the ideal, not because she’s got blond hair, blue eyes and big boobs, but because she has a short torso and long legs. If you can mimic that, even if you have to fake it with optical illusions in your clothing, that’s always going to make you look your thinnest, leanest and tallest.
Some clothing will always help you do that. A structured 3-button jacket, nipped at the waist. Wrap dresses that hit your natural waist. A-line skirts. Mid-rise, mid-width jeans or trousers that fall straight from the largest part of your leg down. And of course, high heels.
There are always going to be more comfortable and less comfortable high heels. And frankly, really good construction costs a lot of money. That’s why the super-high-end shoe designers are charging a fortune. They’re using incredibly sophisticated materials now, and the construction makes the shoes easier to wear. Not all heels look good on all legs, but the one universal is that pointy-toed shoes, whether they’re flats or kitten heels or stilettos or whatever, will always elongate the line of leg. People say, “Aren’t pointy shoes out?” Well, it’s not a question of being “out.” If you’re trying to get a longer leg-line, use a pointy shoe.
I think all of my personal experience with style informs “Fashionably Late.” “What Not to Wear” is what I do when I’m working, and “Fashionably Late” is me when I’m not; it’s less prescriptive and snarky and more off-duty and fun. And it’s more about what it means to be a woman, as opposed to men telling you what styles to wear. No guy’s ever going to have to deal with super-high heels unless he’s a drag queen. Ideally, you want to get your fashion advice from a pal who’s tried and tested, and I hope that’s how I come across.
— as told to Andrea Bartz