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Fabulous Q&A with What Not To Wear host Stacy London

Diablo style correspondent Carolyn Rovner chats it up with Stacy London

Stacy London and Carolyn Rovner

“SHUT UP!”—Stacy London’s famous catchphrase loosely translates to “I like your outfit”. Needless to say, I wa thrilled when London told me to “Shut Up”!  at the recent O-You! Conference in San Francisco. The co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear offers her audiences a tough-love honesty that has made her famous and feared. She insists, however, that she comes from a place of love, and that she really does care about the “contributors” (the show’s fashion victims).  London gave me the inside scoop on the show, and what she’s had to overcome personally in the past year.

How has WNTW evolved since the first season? 
Clinton (Clinton Kelly, her co-host) and I have a better understanding of our contributors, and what’s going on with them psychologically. The way they dress is really indicative of much bigger issues going on with them—it’s not solely superficial, not just about fashion. That’s why I think so many people relate to the show.

Did you and Clinton know each other before the show? 
No, we met in an audition.  I had already done a season of the show, and Clinton came in, put his hand on my knee, and immediately realized, “Oh, my god! I just put my hand on your knee!” and that was it!  As Clinton says, “we’re like a brother and sister…on a very long car trip.”  We switch off being “good cop/bad cop” and after 250 episodes (40-50 shows per season), we understand when to go for the jugular and when to back off, so as not to hurt the contributor. 

What are the most common mistakes women make with their clothing choices?
I think the most common mistakes have to do with fit versus size.  Women are willing to buy clothes off the rack and assume that’s good enough, but you really do need to have everything tailored.  Then there’s the size issue…What some women don’t understand is that size is relative—it changes from designer to designer, from a skinny jean to a wide-leg jean.  You’re going to be a different size in everything—if it bothers you, cut the tag out!

What’s more challenging—a makeover or a make-under? 
Oooh—good question!  The make-unders are a little bit harder simply because you’re turning down the volume, and that can scare a contributor.  If she dresses like a hoochie mama, she is desperate for attention.  We work to create visual interest, and a kind of sophistication that still makes her feel as if she’s going to get what she needs. Most of the time, women are so much happier with their make-unders—they still feel sexy, and attention-worthy. 

What’s the best fashion advice you were given early on in your career? 
Anna Wintour told me never to wear stirrup pants to the office in 1991, and that was pretty good advice!  Someone once told me that you could be wearing the most inexpensive clothing in the world, a turtleneck sweater and a skinny pant, for example, but if you’ve add a great coat, a great bag and a great shoe, your whole look will then appear to be expensive.  And I have found that to be true.

Are you constantly aware of what people are wearing or can you turn it off?
It’s awful, but I cannot turn it off.  I’m honest! I have built up a level of trust with my audience, and I’m not going to tell you something that isn’t true.  I won’t blow smoke up your butt!  I want every woman to look her best, and I want to do it because it’s going to help her change her life. 

What’s your biggest fashion challenge? 

It’s been a tough year…my heart was broken, my cats were in and out of the veterinarian’s office, I quit smoking and I gained 15 lbs in 3 months!  I’ve had weight issues my whole life—I’ve been a (size) 00 and a (size) 16. But this time, I didn’t know what to do—it really changed my perspective on how I saw myself. 

Where do you shop? 
I shop a lot online.  I love shopbob.com and pixiemarket.com.  I’m too busy shopping for other people, so I have two stylists who are wonderful.  I try to wear a national clothing line—Banana Republic, J. Crew or H&M.  Then, I mix it with a high designer piece—Valentino, Ralph Lauren, or (Alexander) McQueen—even if it’s just the shoe.  And, I love to support young, new emerging designers.  My favorite new designer is Kennedy…simply stunning!  I try to wear something that is inspirational, yet attainable.  If you want to invest in one expensive piece for your wardrobe, make it your bag.  A designer bag, Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent, will carry you for years! 

Last question…finish this sentence.  “I’m a sucker for…”  
MEN!  I love them! 

Watch London’s fashion seminar here.