- "What Not to Wear" hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly
have their work cut out for them in Washington.
(AP Photo/TLC, George Lange)
Addie Broyles didn’t cry on TV. Later, she shed a few tears at the straightening of her naturally-curly hair, but on TLC’s What Not to Wear, she was a model makeover contestant: Compliant, dry-eyed, open to fashion suggestions even as she was being ridiculed, and eager to change. Those are her suggestions for the four or so Washingtonian women who will run through the same fashion gauntlet in November, when the show will tape in D.C.
“Once you’re in it, you’re in it — you can’t fight it,” says Broyles, who appeared on the show three years ago. “I was a good sport, and I got more out of it than most people do.”
The announcement that TLC’s What Not to Wear would be coming to our khaki-clad metropolis hit the web this week, and the reaction has mostly been: What took them so long? (Or, as TBD arts editor Andrew Beaujon quips, “It’s like the cops finally coming to the Superdome.”) It’s the first time the show has ever culled its fashionably-challenged contestants from our city, which has a national reputation for ill-tailored stodginess. Unlike the other D.C.-based shows that have brought the spotlight here recently (cupcakes, housewives, drunken co-eds) this one is actually necessary.
So why D.C., why now? Michael Petrella, the show’s casting producer, says he didn’t think the decision to come to Washington was influenced by any other shows. Instead, they’re coming “to spread the wealth,” says Petrella. “It’s an opportunity for women who need a helping hand and a confidence boost.”
Petrella was not entirely familiar with the numerous fashion offenses of D.C. residents, but as applications are beginning to trickle in, he’s discovering a sleeper cell of ill-tailored suits, too-casual office attire, and all-occasion flip-flop use.
“I’m starting to learn. I’m getting an air of, everyone’s too serious, maybe, to dress with flair,” he says.
As for casting, it’s done by secret nomination. Anyone who knows a fashion disaster-in-the-making is encouraged to fill out an application.
“We’re looking for women, for all kinds of folks,” says Petrella. “It would be great if we could get someone who’s traditional D.C., like lobbyists, lawyers, someone who works in politics.”
Finding unfashionable people who work in politics? Not exactly a needle-in-a-haystack search. But they have to be the right kind of political slobs: A compelling story, and a job that will allow them to escape to New York for a few days on a shopping spree.
“The opening scene, the intervention part, would be in their own environment,” said Petrella. “[Our camera crew would] never run into a press conference or anything.”
For Broyles, who lives in Austin, Texas, the crew ambushed her at a concert. Her husband, a musician, had nominated her for the show, “Totally out of love,” says Broyles. “This was right after we had our first child .... he didn’t think I was the world’s worst dresser, but he thought I could use some help.”
Though Petrella thinks that most of the contestants are surprised, Broyles wasn’t: Her husband dropped the hint. While Petrella discussed many of the ways that the crew works to surprise the women who make it onto the show, he requested that they not be published.
“Everyone in D.C. is really bright, more so than other parts of the country, so I wouldn’t want to tip them off,” said Petrella.
But once they get past the ambush, Broyles knows what the D.C. contestants on the show will endure: The very public humiliation of having your style described in mean-girl terms (for Broyles, “Old hippie”), of having hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly root around your underwear drawer on national TV, of having no control over the way you present yourself to the world.
“Clinton told me off-camera that I was one of the worst cases,” says Broyles, who said that nearly every single item in her wardrobe was donated to charity. “The hole in the crotch of your jeans that are worn through, to air that on national TV - they’re your Saturday pants! You don’t have any control over how they’re editing the show.”
Once she got to New York, Broyles had $5,000 to spend on a new wardrobe - a sum that didn’t entirely cover the cost of the loss of nearly every garment she owns. While they weren’t snobby about the stores that Broyles had to buy from, “They didn’t really listen to my needs as a mom,” she says. “I came home with silk shirts.”
A reporter for the Austin-American Statesman, she wrote about her time on the show, as well as video-blogging.
Broyles also cautions future participants in the show not to expect too much from Stacy and Clinton.
“They were nice, but they were celebrity aloof,” she says. I was envisioning before I went that we’d hit it off, but that in no way happened. It’s a job for them, they just show up. I’m surprised the show is still going - when I did it three years ago, you could tell they were wearing thin.”
Broyles says that she stays in touch with them on Facebook, and that Clinton will occasionally comment on her posts.
“The thing that was surprising about Stacy was that she might seem like the bitchy one, but I think her heart is in the right place because she is doing it to empower the women on the show,” says Broyles. The host’s expert advice sunk in, and Broyles considers herself a changed woman.
“When you’re shopping, you think twice about what you buy,” she says. “You think, what would Stacy and Clinton say about this? Will the fabric last?”
To the women from D.C. who will make it onto the show, Broyles offers this advice: “Stand up for yourself and the person that you are, but don’t be afraid for a person to tell you you could use a little bit of a better eye for shopping,” she says. “Be open-minded about the advice they have for you.”