I've always been rather proud of my resistance to TV. I never had cable as a kid, and am generally out of the loop when anyone makes references to shows past or present. Sure, I love Project Runway, Top Chef, all heinous MTV dating shows, Weeds, and, um, Pimp My Ride. But I only watch them by chance at other people's houses, and have never been able to imagine having the free time to even enjoy cable TV, were I to have it at home. That is, until this weekend. We just got some fabulous new neighbors who offered to split cable service with us, and since then I've spent at least 50% of the past two days open-mouthed in front of the television. I was already totally thrilled at the prospect of Bravo any time, and I secretly love turning on VH1 Classic while I'm around the house ("Metal Mania," anyone?), but I didn't even think about the Style Network until today.The Style Network
is the source of "Extreme Makeover" and "Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane," but a less infamous show is what held me down to the sofa for an hour this evening:"How Do I Look?"
It's basically an un-extreme makeover show, rather like "What Not To Wear," in which clueless fashion victims get clued in by the fiercely stylish, yet very sweet, host (a 30ish lady of indeterminate British origin who has the lone first name Finola. Oh wait--Google informs me that she's been on General Hospital
and All My Children
. See, I told you I haven't been a big TV girl...). Its tagline is "Because naked is not an option," and it claims to take those in "style denial" and let two close friends and one professional stylist fix them up so passersby no longer gape in horror. For instance: tonight's episode featured a mother-daughter pair, both of whom had severe issues involving multi-colored muu-muus. They both considered bright colors the only way to express their "colorful personalities," the mom wore only Birkenstocks (she was horrified when the judges threw out her "dress Birks"), and the daughter was a 25-year-old mother of two who looked like an overgrown dorky middle-schooler who just got her braces off.
What drew me in was the premise--hello, makeovers, shopping, whoopee--but what ended up fascinating me was how deeply intertwined these women's fashion attitudes were with their feelings about themselves. Eventually, the mom ended up revealing that she never felt pretty, and wearing outrageous anti-fashion outfits was a way to hide. We began to see that thhe daughter was still following her mother's dress code because she was terrified of change, and that she had never devoted enough time to herself to develop her own identity nor a resulting style. It was really amazing to see how very closely their ways of dressing were connected to these feelings; in a way, though they appeared and felt clueless about style, to me it seemed that their isolating choices were, in fact, quite informed by mainstream fashion. I.e., in their decisions to wear the unremarkable or downright off-putting, they were rejecting what they were aware was more "normal" (and what would be, surely, much easier to find in stores than their giant smock numbers.).
It was nice to see the show letting women choose which new looks were most appealing to them, and letting the lightbulb go on as to how the new clothes projected their image.
Finola says on the site, "The most satisfying thing about what I do is what I call 'when the penny drops.' It's when a woman suddenly sees herself in a way she's never thought of before, and she gets it. She's like, 'Of course this is what I'm supposed to look like.' I love that moment....And on my show, when it clicks for women--how they look and how it registers with other people and themselves--that's exciting. It's not that clothes make the man, but they can help a person understand who they are." I don't know about that, but one of my pet topics is the connection between one's mental image of oneself and how clothes are used to project that...and that's exactly what I got to revel in from 7-8 P.M.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I hear "The Fabulous Life Of..." calling my name. I do so love that narrator's insane, insane voiceovers.
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