The US Version of What’s Not To Wear

SBG posted about this show a while back, and I’ve posted on the British original before.

I’m sitting here watching the American version, and guess what? It sucks. What a shock. America has copied dozens, maybe hundreds of sitcoms, variety shows and now reality TV from the British, and they never get it right. By the time they’re done consulting demographics polls instead of injecting original thought, they lose what made the show good in the first place. Gee, go figure.

The first makeover I saw this morning resulted in the woman looking exactly as good as she looked before. They cut and colored her hair – it looked the same. They redressed her – it looked the same. If she came out of it feeling better about how she looked, I’m glad about that because I swear it’s how you feel you look that matters, not how you actually look. But these hosts can’t make mannequins look hot. They have less understanding of how to psych women into trying new things than the hosts on the British version. Then again, the new things they’re suggesting aren’t flattering as what the British hosts come up with.

The reason I’m posting about here is that the episode I’m watching right now involves a young woman – Jennifer – with enormous natural breasts. She wears her clothes too tight for two reasons. First: off-the-rack clothes just aren’t designed to fit both normal shoulders and large breasts, and she has to cut and pin together most of her clothes to get them fitting at all. Second: to show off her breasts. Her friends and family are concerned she’s making the wrong “first impression” by dressing so sexy when she’s actually very intelligent and educated. She tries to explain to them that no matter how she dresses, her breasts will be the first thing anyone notices. But neither the family nor the hosts get it.

I’ve had friends with large breasts. There’s a general psychology that goes with this trait, just as there’s a general psychology for people who are unusually tall, short, etc. A woman with large breasts used to be a young girl with large breasts. By the time she’s 14, she’s learned that men and women alike have an irrational unconscious assumption that she’s a trashy slut, as if she grew her chest that way on purpose to invite sexual attention. Out of shame, or the embarrassment of being forced to consider sexual issues before her brain is ready for it, or even an abject fear of being raped by a man who assumes the size of her breasts are a personal come-on for him, she will likely wear enormous shirts to hide the breasts. This makes her look fat. She may also gain weight, because that’s a natural defense mechanism for insecure teens who want to hide themselves.

Jennifer remarks that she used to be fat, and has worked hard to overcome it. My guess? She went through all the normal embarrassment girls experience when their breasts are the first things people see on them, and she’s overcome her embarrassment by embracing “the girls”. But all the hosts care about is calling less attention to her chest. They’re not looking at the whole woman: like everyone else, they’re obsessed with the twins, and treating them as something to be ashamed of. It’s no wonder Jennifer is resistant to their ideas. These alleged pros are as infantile as everyone else.

Conversely, the hair stylist really does her a favor. He takes out her hair extensions, which gave her long, limp locks, and cuts her natural hair to have some layers around her face, and some lift and body. Guess what happens? Suddenly you notice her face before her chest, instead of the other way around. The haircut has emphasized her lovely face to the point that it distracts you from the breasts. And Jennifer seemed to appreciate the difference as well.

It’s not that she couldn’t dress better. In fact, there were one or two outfits the hosts came up with that I thought worked for her. The problem is that the hosts are stuffy East Coast snots who want to convert every woman to a conservative, church-going sort of look, substituting their taste for hers. The British hosts want to help women find the best way to express themselves as individuals.

If that’s not a darn good metaphor for global attitudes toward women, I don’t know what is.

Comments

  1. Maartje says

    . A woman with large breasts used to be a young girl with large breasts. By the time she’s 14, she’s learned that men and women alike have an irrational unconscious assumption that she’s a trashy slut, as if she grew her chest that way on purpose to invite sexual attention.

    Not actually true in all or even most cases. When breasts start to grow depends on when menstruation starts, it has nothing to do with size- though of course small breasts would look big among flat chests.
    Of course it is emberassing when your friends are all giddy about their cute little training bra’s and you need to go to the creepy old ladies section section of the store to get actual boob-support with really ugly broad straps to boot. Also because they selection is so small when you have normal ribcage circumference and large breasts you always end up with something your mother would wear. Not cool.
    So yeah, big breasts set you apart but they don’t necesarily have to grow in early.

    I am really annoyed with these American clothing ‘experts’, there are so many ways to look good even when you have big breasts! There are a lot of difficulties of course, like you can’t find a gown to save your life and shirts usually don’t cover your whole stomach because of the extra space your boobs take but there are great ways to accentuate but not cheapen etc.

    Gah! Yes, I am average-sized in every way but my breasts and this is really a pet-peeve of mine. I am a little more level-headed than this Jennifer seems to be and am always damn sure to let the droolers know I have a brain which is located, oh about 30 centimeters above where they apparently think it is, still I know where Jennifer is coming from. To have two (probably stick-figured, wild guess here) Americans tell her that she shouldn’t look sexy? To be ashamed of her own body? Are you kidding me? I bet they don’t tell tall girls that their long legs are too sexy and they need to wear baggier pants.

    Helping someone overcome their issues by dressing them in a way that makes them feel more confident is totally a-OK with me. The way you described this show I think it is just another way to judge a person by their looks.

    Sorry, just needed to rant a little!

    -Maartje

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    Not actually true in all or even most cases. When breasts start to grow depends on when menstruation starts, it has nothing to do with size- though of course small breasts would look big among flat chests.

    That’s true. But in the US, most girls’ breasts start developing well before they’re 13 nowadays because we hit puberty earlier than some nations (on average). That’s where I was getting the figure. I was compiling the stories that large-breasted friends have told me – all of which had some striking similarities.

    I am a little more level-headed than this Jennifer seems to be and am always damn sure to let the droolers know I have a brain which is located, oh about 30 centimeters above where they apparently think it is, still I know where Jennifer is coming from. To have two (probably stick-figured, wild guess here) Americans tell her that she shouldn’t look sexy? To be ashamed of her own body? Are you kidding me? I bet they don’t tell tall girls that their long legs are too sexy and they need to wear baggier pants.

    Jennifer was 26 – I felt she was very level-headed, but still in the process of learning how to be proud of her body. Her breasts were extremely large – probably F’s or larger. Anything that makes her feel comfortable with her body is, at least, better than her feeling bad about herself.

    And you’re right – the hosts are stick figures, and their goal was to dress her down. They treated her breasts like a flaw in her body. The British show’s hosts frequently work with large-breasted women, and they show them how to use clothes to lift their bosom, accentuate their waistline, and so on. They embrace the figure and show the person how to make the best of it. There was a definite sense of the hosts seeking to hide the breasts.

    This is why the haircut impressed me so much. By enhancing another great feature (her very pretty face and striking eyes), the haircut actually distracted you from her chest. That’s the way to go about it, in my opinion. Don’t make the person more self-conscious of her ample body part, whether it’s a breast or overweight hips, or whatever: just help her enhance other features.

  3. scarlett says

    One of the girls I shared a unit with related her experiences with having big breasts. When I knew her, she’d already had a breast reduction, but you really had to look at her chest to realise just how big they were.
    Why? She’d flattered every other part of her body to draw attention away from them. She wore clothes which suited her figure, had this cute short hairstyle which drew attention to her face and was fond of wearing funky jewelry. I thought her understanding of what worked for her body and what didn’t was awesome.

  4. sbg says

    IIRC, she was wearing pretty horrid things that even she knew weren’t necessarily the best thing for her – she felt she didn’t have a whole lot of options.

    It is bunk of them to assume that you should want to hide your breasts because they happen to be larger than the norm. Hell, I enjoy the heck out of clothes that accentuate my positives, chest-wise. Usually.

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