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Series / What Not to Wear

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What Not to Wear was a reality TV show in the U.S. based on a cancelled U.K. TV show. Hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly ambushed badly-dressed people in public places, and informed them that friends and family think they have terrible style. Hilarity Ensues, and eventually the person is revealed to be Beautiful All Along, after a few style tips and a haircut. It premiered in 2003. It was announced in March 2013 that the 10th season would be its last and the finale aired in October.


Tropes featured include:

  • Age-Inappropriate Dress: A common issue.
  • Aborted Arc: Male makeovers. Executive Meddling is likely responsible, as the show's audience has long been primarily female. The original opening is thus a bit of a fake out since it still implies that the show devotes equal attention to both genders.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Some of the nominees don't pay attention during the rules, and then go off on their own during shopping day one.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Usually involves asking a nominee if they think they're pretty.
    • With some unruly nominees, it involves asking them why they chose to do the show if they aren't going to follow the rules.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Many of the fashion offenders wear mom jeans, white sneakers, or skorts which Stacy and Clinton find the most offensive.
  • Beautiful All Along: Nearly every. single. person. ends up improving vastly with their week spent under the guidance of the hosts. The phrase "as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside" is used in reference to almost every guest, as well.
  • Berserk Button: When contestants use the word "comfortable" to excuse their style.
    • Even looking at a skort revolts Stacy.
  • Big Applesauce: For most of the episodes, save specials, the guests are usually shipped to NYC.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Even the gals who have some weight on them learn how to dress for their body and accentuate their good features. And they look amazing.
  • Brutal Honesty: When they start giving out advice, it's genuine, realistic, and usually dead-on. They always have a person's best-intentions at heart, but they can come across as abrasive.
  • Camp Gay: Clinton Kelly, though it varies. Clinton and Stacey sometimes come off as Platonic Life-Partners, and apparently some more in-the-dark fans have wondered if they may be a couple.
    • Ted Gibson (the hairstylist from season 7 onwards) is this.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Stacy's "Shut the front door/shut up!"
    • Ted "I'm gonna mix up the magic."
  • Celebrity Star: The later seasons relied heavily on this. Mayim Bialik, Mindy Cohn, singer Tiffany, Nicole Eggert, Tina Youthers and Shannon Elizabeth. Notably, with the celebrities the hosts never mention the $5,000 they get to shop, likely because the ugly clothes they are tossing are still worth more than that. Hey, it costs a lot of money to look cheap! In the case of Bialik, it's stated on the show that she liked the new look so much she would pay her own money and donate the $5000 to charity.
    • Mindy Cohn also declined the gift card and offered to pay her own expenses.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Most of the nominees at first, on why they don't look good.
  • Cold Open: In the later seasons they did these to introduce the episode's nominee, and poke some fun at their profession or interests.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Most notably Lizzie, from season 8. She even stated she was a squirrel in a past life.
  • Face–Heel Turn: C & S start out handing you $5,000. Then when you get to NYC they rip apart your wardrobe and point out your every fashion-flaw in a 360 degree mirror.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Stacy and Clinton have their moments.
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Several of the nominees get easily distracted in the stores when something catches their eye.
  • Fashion Hurts: Averted. While being fashionable is the goal of the show, comfort is right up there. Even if it looks good, the hosts contend; if it doesn't feel good, go find something else.
  • Fashion Show: The guest gets to do a strut down an aisle for a final review. Additionally, the 'big reveal' to the guests, friends, and family qualifies.
  • Fashion-Shop Fashion Show: Averted, on the first day it's usually the guest, alone, with just the mute cameraman recording. The second day, it's a gay-man and a fashionista. Neither one will get bored of you popping out of the changing room. But there will be music!
  • Freudian Excuse: Most of the contestants are working moms, some have lost a significant amount of weight, or some feel like they don't have the time to be in style.
  • Get It Over With: The way some people cling to their hair, you'd think they are being tortured, or getting ready to be sent to an electric chair.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Stacy's famous phrase of "Shut the front door!".
    • Though, on some occasions, they do swear (it's bleeped out of course), and it's mostly when Stacy and Clinton are surprised at a nominee's final reveal.
  • The Glasses Got To Go: Some nominee's that have glasses are offered contacts from 1-800 contacts.
  • Granola Girl: Several of the nominees have been staunch vegans, and even refused to wear fabrics that came from animals.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Stacy and Clinton have helped a few contributors who wear leather inappropriately or too much, notably biker chicks or women who think they have to look "tough" to keep from being cookie-cutter or too feminine.
  • Hidden Buxom: It happens every so often that a woman on the show will find out that her bra size is 5+ sizes too small for her, or if her clothing becomes form fitting, the hosts will point out that she's showing off 'the girls' far better than she previously was.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Clinton was one time caught on camera on his day off breaking every rule that they give to other fashion victims. Stacey never lets him live it down, but it's pretty hilarious when you see him in ratty clothes, no make-up, and completely disheveled.
    • In the finale, they show the current guest's trashy "Before" pictures to a crowd of their former guests, in Las Vegas for the finale party. When the crowd groans, Clinton jokingly calls them out on it: "Some of you have no place to talk!"
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Just when you think they've found the worst of the worst, something even more horrifying will come along.
  • Informed Judaism: Stacy, who even mentions her Yiddish grandmother in some situations.
  • Insistent Terminology: They're nominee's or contributors not contestants.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Fashionable: This is the main reason why contestants are nominated.
  • Jerkass: Some contributors are vocal about the idea that Stacey and Clinton are this. On the flip side, some contributors are this to the hosts.
  • Large Ham: In the cold opens, you can tell Stacy and Clinton are not taking them seriously at all.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Sometimes when a guest is reluctant to get her hair cut, she'll cite this as a reason why.
  • Magic Mirror: Played with. The 360 degree mirror shows off EVERYTHING. Add in two fashionistas who stand in there, pointing out every. single. flaw. with what you are wearing, and how you're carrying yourself. As well as how your wardrobe reflects you. You suddenly find yourself completely revealed.
  • Monochrome Casting: Until season 7, the cast (save for nominees) were rather....white until Ted Gibson replaced Nick Arrojo as the hairstylist.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: In one episode, Clinton "accidentally" went in the same store as a (male) nominee was at on day one of shopping. He was caught looking disheveled (breaking every fashion rule), and even helped the nominee with shopping. Stacy never lets him forget it.
  • Only One Name: Carmindy.
  • Outdated Outfit: The source of the hosts' strife and pain.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Stacy and Clinton of course!
  • Product Placement: It IS a fashion-show where people go shopping around town. Quick shots of store fronts and the clothes inside are to be expected.
    • 800 Contacts and Crest White Strips were also common products that popped up during the makeover.
  • Reality TV: Par for the course, being a show where people get plucked from their daily routine, flown to NYC, and then transformed.
  • Retail Therapy: This is the main premise of the show.
  • Road Trip Plot: The finale, as the hosts visit some of their former guests to see how they've fared. Doubles with Clip Show, as the two swap stories about their memories of the series.
  • Rule of Drama: Whenever they "trash" the clothes. They have admitted that it is simply for dramatic effect, and the clothes are donated to charity.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Stacy and Clinton are ruthless when they come across these.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Sometimes a guest will completely ignore the rules given to them, and buy their old wardrobe back. The hosts can't do anything except hope you don't spend all $5,000 the first day.
  • Serious Business: At one point, Clinton began crying and had to leave the room for about a minute because a woman wouldn't accept his (admittedly useless) criticism.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: The final segment of the show is the nominees strutting in their new wardrobe.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Several of the nominees have sticker shock (despite the $5,000 not being their own money) when they shop at the high end boutiques.
  • Shout-Out: Often in the intros prior to ambushing their guest. For example, in one they sent the woman to a fake computer class and then communicated with her via a green screen text chat, a la Neo and Trinity in The Matrix.
  • Shopping Montage: Hence the obligatory two days of shopping.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: The nominee's style dramatically changes throughout the course of the week, concluding with a wrap party to show off their new style.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Many of the contestants that seem difficult end up having underlying insecurities. Once Stacy and Clinton break the barrier, the contestant becomes much more open-minded to the rules.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Despite the overblown drama of most haircuts, the loss of hair sometimes is legitimately traumatic for contributors. Of particular note is Lynne, a woman who had hair practically down to her buttocks and ended up refusing to get her hair cut. There's also Megan, who was so upset by the results of her haircut that Ted had to redo it.
  • We Help the Helpless: Stacey and Clinton's mission statement, a bit of a variation since they help the fashionably helpless.
  • Weight Woe: One of the reasons some a guest on the show would dress badly, Stacy and Clinton always steer them towards styles that are as slimming and flattering as the guest wants while still showing off their figure.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Stockphrase 1 of 2 for Carmindy.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: Nick Arrojo was abruptly replaced by Ted Gibson a few episodes into season 7 without warning. There was no send off for Nick, and no reason was stated for his departure.
  • Woobie of the Week: Most of the nominees have tragic backstories that make them more deserving of a makeover.
  • Worthy Opponent: Stacey and Clinton do enjoy a good challenge to the rules. If someone is persistent in their fashion sense, the duo have no problem in verbally sparring it out.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: The finale was filmed in Las Vegas, complete with Stacy and Clinton getting drunkenly married and annulled while the guest did her own shopping at night.
  • X Called; They Want Their Y Back