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A tongue-in-chic look at fashion T.V.
By Sasha Fastovskiy
Like most girls, I grew up living and breathing the magical, romantic world of fairy tales: an albino plain-Jane, a house-keeper, a redheaded fish, a homebody all alone in that tower with her freakishly long hair, all found love ~ as well as a killer dress in record time ~ in the crazy, mixed-up world full of monsters, bitchy families, roofied apples, and pesky legs vs. fins complications. Most of the stories had morals too; through Cinderella, we learned to stand up for ourselves, make friends with even the lowliest of creatures, and not to be late for curfew. Through Rapunzel, we learned that long hair, if properly taken care of, can be sported at any age. Snow White taught us to watch what we eat and to always wear sunscreen. Who knew that the woman’s guide to life was secretly written between the lines of make believe?
After outgrowing Grimms and Walt Disney, I worried that my world of fantasizing about my prince and his double-breasted Armani blazer had ended. Luckily, I discovered that the latest fairy tales were airing as…reality TV shows! Style programs with fierce fashion mantras are a trend even bigger than leggings ~ and just when you think they’re going away, they’re not. Best of all, there is always a lesson at the end of each show ~ a nod to self-help, or style advice, or a confidence booster. So, while fairy tales today may not be as simple as Lucite shoes or natural red hair, they are as easy as tuning in – voila!
The Fashionista Diaries
…A trendy Real World with less sex and alcohol but more work and brand names. Six assistants are thrown into fashion-themed internships in New York (Flirt! Cosmetics, Seventh House P.R., and Jane Magazine ~ which happens to fold during taping of Fashionista Diaries, creating a pivotal plot point) and must deal with day to day fiascos including whiny clients, lazy co-workers, and the Herculean task of dry-cleaning a spotty couture gown. While SoapNet spent more money promoting this show than it did many others (did you notice the billboard near Winter St. here in Worcester?), these diaries don’t live up to their name. Instead of learning about editorial content, event planning, or even how to master perfectly kissable lips, viewers are thrown into he-said she-said mini dramas. Although not terribly educational, the Fashionista Diaries are a guilty pleasure, if only for the catfights and stand out characters. Meet Nicole, affectionately known as “Queens Girl,” the nickname she earned after naming Juicy Couture as her favorite designer, Bridget, the teeny, shrill, all but New York Socialite who has a ball playing cat and mouse with Andrew, the aspiring designer and “seriously, how is he not gay?” boy whose eyebrows clearly aren’t that arched naturally. There’s also Rachel, the self proclaimed die-hard Jane Magazine fan, (“What’s the annual Naked Issue?” Okay Rach, how long have we really been reading Jane?), and the bitchy boss of Seventh House(“Write me an essay of why you think you deserve to work here”).
The Moral of the Story: Whether you come from an exclusive background or…Jersey, there is no escaping the hell that is a hard earned New York internship. Oh, and there’s also that littleSex and the City-inspired bit about no men in New York and how it is really to run around in heels all day.
Competitions: America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway
…The cult classics that completely contradict each other. In one, the constantly pregnant German UberModel Heidi Klum makes it all about the clothes and presents wacky challenges just to test the limits (Recycled Clothes! Anything in the Apartment! Jet Setter! Work Faster and No Food!). The personalities in the show are always interesting (Jeffrey and his neck tattoo? Laura and her equestrian outfit and red lipsticks? Jay McCarroll?), making viewers realize that there is a difference between creative style and not owning a mirror. Credit is due with the finale, where the final runway show at NY Fashion Week is a designer’s dream. InANTM, Tyra and her hair tell all of America to “Smile wit’cho eyes” as she and Ms. Jay take homegirls and homebodies and turn them into Covergirls. Tyra also plays psychiatrist, and sends in her famous friends to coach the girls on how to take the modeling world by storm. Unfortunately, we have yet to see a winner from either show really hit the big-time.
The Moral of the Story: Tune in just to watch indirectly cynical Tim Gunn and the other hilarious panel members on both shows clearly illustrating that being judgmental is best done collectively. Plus, the ideas for Myspace photo shoots and D.I.Y fashion creations are totally worth it.
Makeover shows: What Not To Wear, Style Her Famous, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style
Shut up! Stacy London and Clinton Kelly take the drab out of housewife and make the most out of a makeover, even if their remarks are a little overkill. TLC undoubtedly plays a role in this show, as most of its contestants need some tender lovin’ care and a good bottle of peroxide. Clint and Stacy fill up the show with their “pretend” dislike of each other and plenty of educational information for the women watching at home.Style Her Famous with Jay Manuel, “Director of Esthetic,” (What? Are we allowed to make up our own titles now?) takes poorly dressed folks and gives them celebrity inspired makeovers with ANTM-like photo shoots at the end. There is always a relative waiting in the wings to “surprise” the made-over person, and Jay, who spends more time on camera than the makeoveree, fills us with information about highlighting cheekbones, accentuating bust-lines, and frosting hair that glorious silver color.
The latest show hails from the only really successful person to come off Project Runway: Tim Gunn himself. In his Guide to Style, Gunn “makes it work” as he tries his hand at educating unfortunately-dressed women and showing them what and what does not work. He presents charts, lists of basic top 10s, drawings, even some computer simulations, all to help women see where their mistakes (and there are many of them) lie when it comes to the perfect ensemble. Gunn and his sidekick, the always matchy former supermodel Veronica Webb, shake up closets and reduce their makeover subjects to tears in their version of Rescue 911. The only fault lies in over-staffing: Tim Gunn should know better than to bring in life coaches, runway trainers, and an introduction of “Your journey is going to be emotional.” I love clothes as much as anyone, but even a former model going through my underwear drawer isn’t going to get me sobbing.
The Moral of the Story: Makeover shows appeal to our sentimental sides. WNTW is best watched just to see the Before and After transformation, but the online pod casts about how to wear the season’s looks are truly quite helpful. Style Her Famous is perhaps overkill (not everyone can pull off a Beyonce), but perfect for celeb-style stalkers. Tim Gunn’s commentary on people’s favorite clothes is enough to sit through weird space-age-like lifestyle gurus, even if we’re actually laughing at them on the inside….okay, so not totally sentimental.
At the end of the day, when Cinderella and those dwarfs dressed in United Colors of Benetton just don’t fill you with the hope that miracles can happen, ignore mom’s advice and watch TV instead. The End.