What does a person wear to an event being hosted by the sassy style maven of TLC’s What Not to Wear? Although thrilled to receive the email confirmation for my admittance to a taping of Fashionably Late with Stacy London, the stipulations for attire sent me into an agonizing fashion frenzy. The email said to dress as if going out for a night on the town, but not to wear black.
As a working single mother, my nights on the town are few and far between, and having reached that ‘certain age,’ the slimming benefits of black are a blessing. To make matters worse, the weather report predicted a humid, possibly rainy bad hair day. What’s a woman to do? The situation called for a little retail therapy.
I spent the night before the taping at the salon, eliminating the grays and having my hair appropriately ironed straight for the pending weather. Then I walked around the mall, trying on various tops and dresses, bemoaning my age and cursing the global warming that was making a concealing sweater or jacket a no-no.
It was not until I got home that I realized the other problem: shoes. All of my dress pants require heels that are not exactly conducive to walking around New York City, but beauty is pain, so I told myself to suck it up and deal with it. Settling on brown pants, a silk top, and stilettos, I was ready.
The next day started out well. It wasn’t raining, and my friend and I got to New York with plenty of time to catch a cab to the studio. When we arrived, we were instructed to wait in line until they started to let in the audience members.
The lobby was not air-conditioned, and as more women crowded in, it got hot. It’s bad enough that I’m usually only one hot flash away from looking like Little Orphan Annie, but by now my hair was starting to curl with the humidity and my feet were starting to hurt after standing there for almost half an hour.
To pass the time, I did a fashion check of the women coming through the door. Most of the women were dressed up, but I felt extremely overdressed in comparison to others who were wearing t-shirts, sandals, and casual attire. I think these women were hoping to be the one audience member picked for a makeover.
Had I been more calculating, I could have skipped the shopping and just borrowed a Happy Bunny t-shirt from my teenage daughter, and thrown on some skinny jeans and a pair of flip flops – anything that screamed, “I’m old and I don’t know how to dress.”
Once we were let into the studio, I was amazed. The back wall of the set was a floor to ceiling case filled with shoes. It was like my favorite dream in which I got to meet Hugh Laurie and won a lifetime supply of designer shoes (I woke up that morning with a smile.) Instead of auditorium seating, the audience was set up like a club with tables and chairs, red tablecloths, and fake candles.
The stage had a chandelier and a bar, along with a cute bartender who served us all drinks. Center stage had red velvet chairs for Stacy and her guests. Although the studio was small, I was impressed by the ambience.
We were greeted by comedian Brian Balthazar, who was sent to warm up the audience. He admitted to having very little fashion sense, but he kept us laughing and entertained us while we waited for the main event. There were songs and contests with prizes, including a “personal massager” that had some audience members blushing and others laughing in hysterics. It was all a little silly, but the audience was pumped by the time Stacy made her entrance.
I have to say Stacy London is even more stunning in person than on T.V. First she came out wearing a gorgeous gold dress and sexy fuchsia colored heels. About halfway through the taping, she changed into a black sparkly dress and beautiful diamond earrings. Her skin looked flawless and she is in amazing shape. She lit up the place with her presence.
From the moment she walked in, she commanded the set. She seemed friendly and bubbly with the crew, but before the actual filming started, I thought I detected a little ‘diva’ attitude when she questioned the stage manager about a chandelier that was hanging a little low. They all had a laugh while the technicalities of the chandelier were discussed.
The afternoon was full of surprises. Stacy informed us that every audience member would be getting a gift bag and a beautiful wool jacket, which she modeled later in the afternoon. There was also a game of handbag match up that had some interesting solutions.
I never would have thought to pair a fuchsia dress with a red patent clutch, but according to Stacy it worked because of the neutral silver shoes. I also would not have matched a silver bag to an outfit of brown tweed pants and an orange top, but again, Stacy pointed out that silver is a neutral. The audience member who played the handbag game was given one of the bags as her prize.
The makeover segment was a bit of a disappointment. Instead of choosing a random audience member for the makeover, it seemed like the whole thing had been pre-set and somewhat scripted. The woman chosen had submitted a photo album of various outfits that looked like Barbie meets S&M.
She was wearing a spandex unitard covered with gold studs and I found it hard to believe that any person with half a brain could go through everyday life wearing that kind of costume. Either she was very cagey and took those pictures precisely to be picked for the makeover or the whole thing was a set up. (Or maybe I’m just a bit too jaded.)
Unfortunately, the audience did not get to see any of the makeover process. I hope when the show airs, viewers will get to see filmed segments of the person trying on more appropriate clothes, having her hair done, and make-up applied. Perhaps that would make it more believable. Of course, the woman was absolutely stunning in the reveal, but the end result was, again, a bit of a letdown.
It is one thing to transform a shapely person who had the raw material there to begin with, but it’s completely different to transform someone older, under or overweight, or at least hard to fit. Stacy would argue that anyone of any size could dress fashionably (she even said she dressed fashionably when she was a size 16, which I can’t picture, given her perfect figure now.)
I would be more interested in seeing a dramatic change instead of seeing an unfashionable size 8 becoming beautiful just by getting a change of clothes and a hair cut. To be fair, I recognize there were time constraints, and a beautiful makeover over the course of a couple of days is what Stacy’s other show is for.
The special guests on the show were Rebecca Romjin and Mariel Hemingway. Each of their segments felt less like an interview and more like a casual conversation between friends. I have to credit Stacy’s welcoming style for the intimate atmosphere perpetuated on the set.
Viewers may not see that during the instances between filming segments, Stacy answered the audience’s questions. She was very friendly and open, graciously finding a way to compliment each of the audience members she interacted with, while still being forthright in dispensing priceless fashion advice.
My favorite audience question was from a woman who was about to turn 50 years old. She complained there aren’t many fashion choices for women of her age bracket. They can either choose between revealing clothes designed for younger women, or clothes that would make her look like her mother.
Stacy said that at that age, women have to work with what is available, maybe by layering blouses with camisoles or, of course, wearing a good tailored jacket. She admitted there is not much out there for this age group, but she’s working on it, which was heartening to many of the audience members.
As the taping came to a close, I felt myself getting restless. Maybe it was because I had been sitting there for hours, or maybe it was because the only thing I’d eaten all day was half a bagel I purchased for breakfast at Grand Central Station. Maybe it was because, having been immersed in an afternoon of fashion and beauty, I was beginning to feel out of place, like a lowly hobbit in a room full of elves.
Whatever it was, I was grateful when it was time to leave. We made our way out of the studio to the room where the gift bags were being handed out.
It was there that reality came crashing in on me. The bags were being handed out by a bunch of young production assistants, and women from the audience were trying on gift jackets as they proceeded out the door. By the time we reached the racks of giveaways, the selection was pretty slim.
There were plenty of small jackets, only a few medium sized, and no large or extra large. I tried on a mustard yellow jacket, medium size, which was incredibly tight in the shoulder and not even close to buttoning across my chest. The production assistant helping me said, “Oh, you can just wear the jacket open. That is so your color,” as she tried to usher me along. Stacy (and Clinton, and every other stylist in the world) would have been appalled at the poor fit.
I was appalled that a show encouraging fashion for women of all ages and sizes seemed to tailor the majority of the gifts to a younger, smaller crowd. It was as frustrating as an afternoon of trying on jeans.
Feeling dejected, hot, tired, hungry, and with feet hurting in the stilettos I had been wearing all day, I slowly started the walk back toward Grand Central Station. I tried to make light of the whole jacket thing, thinking it would make a nice gift for a young niece, but my mood didn’t truly lighten until I made my way into a Payless shoe store and traded my agonizing heels for a pair of sensible flats.
My friend and I had a nice dinner in a wonderful Italian restaurant (whose waitresses all looked to be in their 20’s, tall, and thin – the perfect size for one of those jackets) and we headed home.
Despite the jacket fiasco, I didn’t consider the day a total loss. It was exciting being part of the taping, and I got to meet Stacy London, who turned out to be a real gem.
I did get something nice, after all. Along with lipstick and other samples, there was a beautiful silver necklace in the gift bag. Maybe that is one of the reasons why women love jewelry: it always fits.
Fashionably Late with Stacy London premiers on Friday November 23, 2007 at 10/9C on TLC.