I’ve been watching “What Not To Wear” on BBCAmerica lately, and it fascinates me to see how women perceive themselves, and how others perceive them. A few rules I’ve noticed:
The women who dress badly out of insecurity are always with even dowdier and less appealing men, or are without a partner.
A lot of overweight women labor under the assumption it’s better to hide how overweight they are under enormous tented clothing instead of wearing stuff that makes them look like an attractively shaped overweight woman. Gee, I wonder where they get that idea. Could it be the bullemic women who make fun of them? Or maybe the young men cruising down your local strip, drunk, yelling insults at any overweight woman walking by? Yeah, I know overweight men get teased and left out from time to time, but the world is far more tolerant of them, as evidenced by shows like “King of Queens”, which features an overweight guy married to a bullemic-looking supermodel.
I can’t decide if I think the show’s doing women a service or a disservice. Maybe a little of both. But if you watch it from the perspective of learning about people, and where they get self-image, and how one can manipulate others by presenting a different look, it’s pretty interesting.
For example, in the episode I just watched, there’s a woman named Marie who teared up when they asked her what had happened to her self-confidence, asked who had taken it from her. She wouldn’t answer. Later in the show, the hosts accosted the couple on holiday and set up a romantic evening for the woman and her husband. They sent the woman to the spa to get ready, and then one host went to talk the husband into making an effort to improve his appearance for the evening, too.
His response: “You can’t improve on perfection.” And that’s our subtle clue who took away this woman’s self-confidence, because this guy looks like Elton John, only more overweight and uglier. And he is deadly, deadly serious. He eventually condescends to allow them to change his hair and clothes, but there’s a distinct sense he thinks he’s doing them a favor. It’s nothing to do with his wife.
This man is not confident. He is a narcissist. A confident person is aware of his or her flaws, but believes he can overcome them, or has much to offer besides. A narcissist derives his false confidence from eroding the confidence of others. If you think I’m making my judgment without much basis, let me add that the children were ashamed of how their mom looked and didn’t want to be seen in public with her, but were not ashamed of dad, the sloppy ubergeek from hell? Narcissists are good at pulling off that sort of thing. Marie turned out to be gorgeous, by the way. Overweight, but in all the right places, which is a look that can really work if you present yourself with confidence. The husband, even post-transformation, was still a dud.
In contrast, a lot of the other husbands and sisters of women who get makeovers on this show are obviously supportive. The usual comment is that the makeover has finally allowed the woman to in herself the beauty they’ve always seen.
What’s different about this show, compared to other makeover shows, is that the women are transformed as soon as they start wearing the “right” clothes, which takes no more time or effort than wearing the wrong ones. Other makeover shows encourage women to stand in the bathroom for hours, working on hair and makeup, which only serves to reaffirm the idea that they’re flawed and in need of correction. Simply dressing your body differently can teach you that you were always okay, and correcting any bodily flaws you feel you have would just be icing on the cake.