Watching What Not To Wear was my guilty pleasure growing up. It's where I got most of my fashion advice, whether that was a good thing is still to be determined, though. I loved watching people go from drab to fab in a matter of an hour, although I always felt bad about the ambush scenes. Knowing your whole group of friends set you up to be mocked in front of the cameras sounds terrifying to me.
But hey, at the end of it all they got a whole new wardrobe and life. Worth it right? Not really. There are some behind-the-scenes secrets about What Not To Wear that make it less desirable than TLC makes it out to be.
1. Clinton and Stacy Aren't Around That Often
My favorite part of watching the show was the "fun" banter between the contestants, Stacy, and Clinton. They seemed like they were having a great time shopping in New York and I was always envious of the friendships they formed. Turns out, however, that all that jealousy was for nothing. Stacy and Clinton were hardly around during filming.
"What you saw on camera was pretty much my entire interaction with [Stacy and Clinton]. There was very little off-camera interaction. It wasn't like they were avoiding me, they just wanted them to give genuine, fresh reactions to how I looked," said one participant, Casey. She, along with many other 'contestants', have claimed it's mainly stylists and personal shoppers who go along with them to pick out outfits.
2. It's Not Off The Rack
As a plus-sized woman, I always wondered how these people could just walk into a store, find what they want, and have it fit perfectly. They would walk right into a boutique store and there is magically every piece of clothing they want in their size. How did they manage that? Well, they actually didn't. The contestants DO go shopping and find what they want, but the outfits are tailored to fit them perfectly.
"Literally EVERYTHING you buy is later tailored to you," one contestant revealed.
3. It's Been A Long Day's Night
Hours and hours of footage is shot, and it all gets cut down into the 43 minutes we see on TV. Shooting, re-shooting, and behind-the-scenes footage all have to be shot for a single episode. Participants had to shoot footage for their "secret" ambush, and none of it was really a surprise.
"Every day was epically long. Day one was watching the secret footage they filmed of me hanging out with friends in my neighborhood looking like an absolute lazy schlub. I then had to model my regular wardrobe for Stacy and Clinton and spend some quality time in the show's patented 360 mirror, while being flanked by two gorgeous, tall, TV-ready people, to really make you feel ugly. But this is how the show works: they break you down in order to build you up," said former participant, Jules Gerstein.
4. It's Your Money
When participants are given $5,000 it seems like a free-for-all shopping spree. But it's actually not the case. Contestants have to pay taxes AND for tailoring. They're allowed to keep the cash and not really buy anything, but they're encouraged to spend to the budget.
"One of the producers told me the first day to NOT spend all $5,000 and set aside some of the money for taxes," a former contestant wrote on Reddit. "As you are shopping, someone else has control of your money. It isn't like you are walking around with 5 G's in your pocket so it is difficult to know how much you have spent and when to stop. I constantly checked in on where I was money wise!"
"The other thing NO ONE sees on air is that a huge chunk of your money goes towards tailoring," she continued. "At the end of the week the seamstress comes to your hotel room, you try everything on, she pins and marks it all and a few days later everything is all returned to you with the perfect fit. You pay for that service out of your $5,000."
Some contestants had to pay up to $2,000 in taxes on their $5,000.
Producer Michael Klein once said, "I think the most anyone has ever left is $29.37."
This makes sense, I guess, but it also makes you think. These people have their entire wardrobe thrown away and then have two or three days to replace it using under $5,000. I don't think I could do it, especially shopping at the high-end stores you're brought to.
6. Contestants Dug Deep
Some contestants found that their poor clothing choices were actually rooted in deeper psychological issues. Multiple people realized they were dealing with body dysmorphia, which is when someone perceives their body or a part of their body as abnormal.
One contestant felt so out of touch with her own body that she wore baggy clothes to hide her shape. She felt like she couldn't show off her figure, and being on camera in a 360-degree mirror didn't help that situation at all. The contestant was broken down through the process, but eventually realized the show was meant to build you back up. She said it made a "huge difference in the way I look and the way I feel about myself."
7. Clinton Has Boundaries
Between the two, Clinton always seemed more willing to help than Stacy. He really tried to connect with each contestant on the show, but that didn't always help after the show. According to Clinton, he keeps in touch with a lot of contestants from the show, but there's two he won't speak to.
"I keep in touch with about 100 of them, believe it or not, whether it's Twitter or Facebook or a text message here or there," he said. "I've really only gotten into fights with about two women out of 350 (over the years)."
One contestant, named Megumi, made a personal attack on the host and he refused to speak to her after.
"[Megumi] told me I needed Botox and I just went off on her," he said, adding, "I was like, "˜Don't you tell me I need Botox... this isn't about me!"
8. Clothes Were Donated Without Permission
I always cringed watching all those clothes end up in the trash when Stacy and Clinton tore through their closet. Shirts, pants, dresses, and shoes all getting thrown in the trash! But it will make you happy to know that all clothes not reclaimed by contestants are donated to charity.
Contestants had no say in what stayed or what went until the show was completely over, though. Trash bags full of clothes were left and the contestants could go through and retain sentimental items, but often times clothes that were too ratty or worn out were just tossed in the trash.
Even though it seemed like each piece of clothing is critiqued by Stacy and Clinton on the show, it was show employees who were in charge of tossing clothes they deemed unacceptable for the wardrobe.
9. Supporting Staff
As we've already found out, Clinton and Stacy are barely around during the filming process. But it's not like the contestants are just left to their own devices in the stores. Contestants are followed by a personal shopper who actually does most of the styling for them.
"My personal shopper [who never appeared on screen] is the person I spent the most time with. I learned more from her than anybody else," said Casey D.
Another former contestant said her biggest takeaway from the show was due to her personal shopper: "I learned more about clothes from power-shopper Jess, my stylist, than London and Kelly combined."
10. Persona Non Grata
You may think that staying in a fancy hotel while on a reality TV show sounds glamorous, but they actually do it because they don't want you at home. While producers and camera crews rifle through your closet to see what they can toss, the last thing they want is you hanging around the house trying to hold on to the clothes you like. While those scenes are filmed, contestants are put up in a fancy hotel to avoid any interference.
11. Producers Didn't Listen
Many of the issues raised by former contestants were Stacy and Clinton's inability to listen to their needs and concerns. Sure, the outfits may have looked cute, but one mother pointed out that the hosts didn't understand the "the Austin style and how dressed-down mothers need to be when chasing after young children."
Another contestant, who also happens to be a television star, was Mayim Bialik. The Big Bang Theory star has spoken openly about how much she loved the show, but also pointed out that producers didn't listen to her concerns as a "conservadox Jew" which is how she refers to her religion. She was filmed telling the hosts that she wasn't comfortable with any outfits involving short skirts, sleeveless shirts or certain dresses, but none of that footage made it to the show. Instead, they just showed her disapproving of many outfits and seeming unappreciative.
12. Family Feud
Okay, so they're not family, but Stacy and Clinton are currently in the middle of a big fight...but Clinton has no idea why. He told his fellow co-hosts on The Chew that he recently went to see Stacy's Twitter profile, only to find out he had been blocked by her.
Clinton had written about Stacy in his book, and many accused him of being too harsh about his co-star. But the host defended his words.
"We loved each other and despised each other, and if she were writing a book, I expect she would say exactly what she thought about me too. And it would be fine," he explained.
13. Happy Endings
Despite the troubles this show may have encountered, many contestants acknowledged that What Not To Wear actually helped their overall life. After filming, they'd find a boost of confidence and self-image, and were able to live a happier life. Many contestants said they found their husbands after the show ended because they had changed their overall way of life.
One contestant said she had an epiphany after her episode, and immediately went home to dump her boyfriend because was "treating her like crap." Stacy said the show was about more than just outer appearance.
"The cliché "˜seeing is believing' really was the foundation of the show... a change in perspective, a turn to lean in towards optimism," she said.