The hit TLC show What Not to Wear could make me laugh, make me cry, and sometimes would send me scurrying to the closet to throw a shirt into the Goodwill bag. Then, last year, it ended. No more Clinton Kelly casting an evil eye on a pair of elastic-waist jeans? No more Stacy London telling a zaftig guest to keep “the girls” under control? No!
I can’t have WNTW anymore, but at least I could get Stacy London’s The Truth About Style. The former co-host of the show, with her enjoyable wit and sly asides, offers advice “on using style as a tool to help create the image you want to put out in the world that tells others how you want to be treated.” Her take on fashion versus style is particularly helpful. Fashion, she says, is an industry; creative and ever-changing. Style, on the other hand, “is about enhancing who you are, and not attempting to look like someone you’ll never be.”
As she did on the show, Stacy focuses on emotional issues as much as on clothes. What she did not do on WNTW, but does plenty of here, is detail her own troublesome body issues, from skin-destroying psoriasis to an eating disorder to major weight swings. Her openness and lack of vanity — the pictures she shares of her younger self don’t shout “style icon” — help drive home her intertwined message: “accept what you’ve been given” and devise a “strategy to emphasize what you love about yourself and to de-emphasize what you don’t.”
After exposing her personal path to style, Stacy moves to her “start-over” work with nine women who “wanted to gain insight into their style.” These women present a mix of life experiences and include a 19-year-old whose weight yo-yos constantly; a plus-sized woman who can’t afford to buy much; a woman who had a double mastectomy; a tall, curvy 26-year-old who can’t find clothes that fit; a divorced 48-year-old who wants to start dating. Sprinkled with style tips, these chapters work on both a how-to and emotional level, as the women begin to shed their fashion mishaps and negative self-images.
Along the way, Stacy continually urges readers to take positive control of their image, to honor who they are now. “It’s never about the clothes,” she says. “It’s about what they can do.” Time for me to check out the closet again.
Carol Schaal is managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.