Trinny and Susannah’s cruel parade What Not to Wear reveals how far makeover TV has come

Trinny and Susannah

In today’s world of the Fab Five group-hugging in changing rooms, we forget how it all began with “chicken wing arms”, “thunder thighs” and “tits like fried eggs”.

Every episode of What Not to Wear would begin the same way. Trinny and Susannah would appear, striking a dramatic pose at an inexplicably weird angle, and, face to camera, they would deliver a killer line.

“Just because you wear a dog collar during the day doesn’t give you the excuse to look like a dog’s dinner at night,” is how Susannah introduced one episode, in which they reformed a vicar’s wardrobe.

“Your best friends may not tell you your fashion sense ground to a halt 20 years ago,” Trinny announced at the start of a different episode. “But as you may have guessed by now – we’re not your best friends.”

What Not to Wear was one of one of the most hilarious and offensive reality shows ever to grace our screens, which it did, with Trinny and Susannah at the helm, for five seasons.

Later the presenters were replaced (Lisa Butcher and Mica Paris presented series six and seven) and a spin-off show resulted (ITV hosted the far less popular Trinny & Susannah Undress for two seasons).

But the show’s real golden age fell between 2001 and 2005 when Trinny and Susannah reigned proud over BBC One and Two.

The basic premise of the show was that Trinny and Susannah would find a woman with poor fashion sense, tell her how terrible she looked and offer her a heap of unsolicited advice – like, only wear vertical stripes and cinch your waist in with a belt – before publicly revealing her transformation.

Every episode was formulaic in the extreme.

Some poor woman – nominated by her friends or family as someone terminally unfashionable – would be secretly filmed going about her daily life. The footage would then be reviewed by Trinny and Susannah to comments such as: “That dress looks terrible on her. It is pushing her boobs down and making them look like an extra roll in her tummy.” (Trinny solemnly agreed: “Her tummy is her issue for sure.”)

Bear in mind this woman was being filmed without her knowledge and had never offered herself up to be verbally torn apart on a television show which at its peak drew in over 7 million viewers.

At this point, Trinny and Susannah would ambush the unsuspecting woman usually at her place of work and reveal that they’d been secretly watching her for weeks. There would be no acknowledgement of how weird and invasive this was. The tone was more: “Ha! We caught you!”

The next stage involved shoving the contestant into the torture chamber that is a 360-degree mirror wearing her favourite outfit, so that Trinny and Susannah could explain in detail how awful she looked from the front, the back and the side.

The contestant, who at this point was a shell of the person she’d been before, would then be presented with three mannequins demonstrating how she should …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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