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Fashionista Stacy London Marks Milestone In Fashion Rehab


Here is another very different story about the way we live now, and you know who they are. The way they dress just makes you cringe every time you see them. They can be your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, but their sense of fashion is so off that you just want to call the police, the fashion police that is.

But instead you can call the gurus of fashion, also known as Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. They are the hosts of TLC's "What Not to Wear," and they have been helping out fashion wrecks for seven years now with big smiles and open hearts.

Today, "What Not to Wear" celebrates its 250th episode. So, we called up Stacy London to tell us more about the anniversary and many personal stories of the past years. And she joins us now from New York. Welcome, congratulations.

STACY LONDON: Thank you so much, Michel. I'm thrilled to be here. And yeah, 250, can you believe it?

MARTIN: Well, I can believe it. But can you remind us for those who aren't aware of how this all began.

LONDON: Oh, well, how the show all began. Well, it started about seven years ago on TLC. They have this great idea, you know, to do an American version of "What Not to Wear," which was originally an English show. And the premise is that when you see those people, who aren't living up to their style potential, the idea is to call in the big guns.

So we give them $5,000 and fly them to New York, teach them how to shop, and then they get hair and makeup lessons as well, and then, you know, they're really transformed. It's a really hopeful show.

MARTIN: But it's also very emotional. Sometimes the whole question of how we present ourselves to the world can be a very sensitive one, and I want to know how you know when to draw the line between being tough but mean. Do you know what I mean? How do you know how far to push it?

LONDON: Yeah, listen, I think that this idea of the way we present ourselves to the world is one of the most emotional that we deal with, and frankly, you know, I joke around that Clinton and I should have been given honorary psychology degrees by a college by now because after doing 250 episodes, you know, you really do learn what that line is and sort of when you have to pull back on the reigns a little bit with each person.

But what's most important is that the way people present themselves to the world I think really is a symptom, right, and when they're not doing their best, when they're not utilizing their potential, that usually says there's something bigger and deeper going on.

So when we criticize people for the way that they're dressing, the way that they're presenting themselves, it can be very emotional because it's difficult to sort of discern the difference between, you know, being critical about the way you look and critical about who you are, and we always try to make that distinction.

MARTIN: Let me play a short clip from season seven. The guest is Christine(ph) from Boston, a 29-year-old singer and a music professor, and she dresses in - you know, I don't know if I like the term tomboy because that's kind of retro, but just let's just say she doesn't really access her femininity. Let's just put it that way, and I'll just play a short clip.


LONDON: You look like a 13-year-old boy right now. I'm not going to lie, I mean, really.

CHRISTINE: Nice to see you too. This is an outfit that I might to go out to dinner with Ross(ph) in. It's kind of a compromise because he really likes me to dress up.

LONDON: Those pants are no compromise, I'll tell you that.

CLINTON KELLY: Would you look at this? It's almost like a prison uniform or like something if you clean toilets at a rest stop.

MARTIN: Ouch, ow.


LONDON: Okay, first of all, a couple of things there. You know, I believe that our criticism is actually constructive criticism, and that makes it different because we're not just breaking people down to break them down. We're breaking them down to build them back up, and we criticize outfits because we are going to show you and give you alternatives to those outfits.

You know, it's one thing to be critical and then just sort of leave somebody sort of bleeding on the floor. It's another to say, you know, something sort of critical and then be able to show them something really positive.

Now, the other thing about that is, look, it is a show, and we pride ourselves on not just being educational but entertaining, and so, you know, our witty quips are part of it. I mean, I think Clinton and I, our sarcasm can be pretty funny.

MARTIN: Have you ever made anybody cry?

LONDON: Oh, yeah. We've made oodles of people cry. I'm not going to lie.

MARTIN: Has anybody ever made you cry?

LONDON: Oh, yeah, lots of people have made me cry, not so much from being mean. I usually cry from, like, how happy I am at how wonderful they look at the end.

MARTIN: What is the most profound transformation that you've been a part of? What was the one that made you want to cry because you were so moved by what happened?

LONDON: You know, I'm thinking there are a couple of shows that have really meant a lot to me, but one in particular was a girl last season named Holly who had previously been a dancer and had been injured and realized that, you know, she wasn't going to be able to be a professional great dancer, and she had to give up that dream.

And to watch her sort of go through this transformation with us where she had sort of given up on the idea that she could have any life because she didn't get the life she wanted and sort of realize that now she could rewrite her future, it was mind-boggling.

And she just sent me an email saying that she has a list of things that she's - like her to-do list for 2010, all the new things she wants to try, all the optimism that she has now that she didn't have before, and the show really does do that for people.

That is one of the most amazing things about the show. It's not just the transformation. It's what happens to these people when they leave.

MARTIN: And what are you wearing today, by the way?

LONDON: Oh God. Right now I'm wearing black jeans and a jacket and a little black sweater, but I'm going to change because, you know, I have a presentation, and I'm pretty much known for wearing pencil dresses, sheath dresses. So that's what I'm going to be rocking later today, with like six-inch heels.

MARTIN: All right. Stacy London is the co-host of TLC's fashion program "What Not to Wear." The show celebrates its 250th episode today, and Stacy joined us from New York. Stacy, thank you.

LONDON: Michel, it was great. Thanks so much for the chat. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.