Welcome to the Church of
What Not to Wear
by Karen Swallow Prior
No, I’m not talking about the get-ups of the folks gathered at the summer tent revival held behind the used car lot. I’m talking about the phenomenon of The Learning Channel’s What Not to Wear. (Full disclosure: I am one of the faithful.)
In case you’ve been living under a rock or don’t get cable, What Not to Wear (based on a British show of the same name) is an hour-long “reality show” in which one of the fashion-fallen among us is secretly nominated by a concerned loved one, filmed surreptitiously for two weeks, then accosted by the show’s two hosts and fashion experts, Clinton Kelly and Stacy London. In exchange for a $5,000 shopping spree, the nominee must agree to surrender her old wardrobe and submit to a litany of fashion rules set by London and Kelly.
Behind the show’s long-running success (the US version has been on the air since 2003) is a formula as old as story itself, a pattern that includes the elements of any well-told story, as well as the one ingredient essential to any great story: redemption.