Disclosure: Once upon a decade ago, I worked with Clinton Kelly, co-host of "What Not to Wear." Long before he became the guru of style, we were magazine editors together.
What I remember about Clinton: his wicked sense of humor and gentle ways. In the evil magazine world, he was the rare editor who would spiff up your copy without annihilating your ego, which is why I see his "What Not to Wear" career evolution as the natural next step.
In fact, his newest book, "Oh No She Didn't"
-- which depicts, in graphic detail, the top 100 Style Mistakes We Women Make -- would be just plain uproariously funny if we didn't recognize ourselves staring back from so many of these fashion mishaps.
How many are you guilty of? Check out the following list. Or, if you're the type who's always perfectly turned out, and has never left the house with a "Medium" sticker still stuck to her chest, like I did last Friday night, please, click through anyway and enjoy every second of nodding sanctimoniously.
Herewith -- fresh off Clinton's list -- our favorite mistakes:
10. Scuffed-Up Heels:
Wuh-oh. I once owned a pair so beloved they became the Velveteen Rabbit of pumps. In fact, by the time I finally retired them, they had so much "character" a photographer friend shot them as part of her art project
. Here's why this is a no-no, per Clinton: "The shoe always, always ALWAYS sets the tone for an outfit ... think about that for a minute: It's the reason nuns don't wear stilettos and strippers don't wear orthopedic heels." OK then.9. Counterfeit Anything:
If this is true, we have friends who should be cooling their knockoff heels in impostor prison. But, says Clinton, it's criminal on two counts: "Manufacturing counterfeit products is unconscionable, because it's stealing and it's illegal. People who sell these fakes make me angry, and people who buy them have my sympathy. Yes, sympathy." Here's why: "If you think that carrying a fake designer bag is going to make you more fabulous, your priorities are incredibly screwed up," he says. "If you can't afford an Hermés bag, who the hell cares?" God bless this man. We couldn't agree more.
8. Tramp Stamps at Work:
Don't get us wrong -- we're definitely OK with tats. But we agree with Mr. Kelly when he says there's a time and place to flash your back ink, and bending over your PowerPoint suggestively at a two-pay-grades-above-you presentation isn't it. "You might think this is one of the lesser offenses in the book," writes Clinton, "but I assure you it's not. In fact, when I do consulting work for major corporations, the human resources department will inevitably ask me to address it." His tip: "Remember, a lady bends at the knee, even if she's very, very flexible."
7. Nipping Out:
"Nothing pulls focus like a set of high beams," writes Clinton. "When your nipples scream yippie, you've lost your audience." Just as we were about to protest: But our office is c-c-c-cold
, Clinton offered a solution: "This is nothing to be ashamed of," he writes, "It's just how the human body works, but a padded bra will diminish the impact for most women, or you can insert silicone petals
between you and your cups." If only they stocked those at the help desk.
6. Whale Tail:
"These days, the only women who think this look is sexy are 13-year-olds and hillbillies. And 13-year-old hillbillies," he writes. Clinton, we're so with you. We've written off would-be interns for less.
5. Holiday Sweaters:
'Tis the season for Lemondrop's all-time favorite -- and one delightfully ubiquitous
-- fashion offense! Let's let Clinton put it into words (in the book, there's actually a flowchart): "Is it December? Are you old enough to collect Social Security? Do you plan on leaving the house? Do you mind looking 20 years older?" And, we might add: Are you actually Bridget Jones, stumbling drunkenly into some Daniel Cleaver-attended Christmas party? No, no, no, no and NO? Time to support your local Salvation Army.
4. Frayed Hems:
"When I see a woman walking down the sidewalk with pants so long they're all ripped up and dragging on the ground, I think, She's lazy. It would have taken a tailor 20 minutes and 10 bucks to hem those things. Then I begin to wonder what kind of filthy city residue those too-long pants are Swiffering along the way
," says Clinton. OK, OK. We have just one issue with this: If designers would quit closing their eyes and envisioning Gisele while cutting our pants, this problem would solve itself.
3. Dropped Crotch:
Thank God someone is calling shenanigans on this. With trousers all over the runway, we were getting concerned. But, once again Clinton is on-point: "Ideally, the crotch of your pants should rest pretty darn close to your anatomical crotch." Generally, he says, it will hang low for one of two reasons: 1) The pants are too loose in the waist and slide down your hips, or 2) you're petite from the waist down, but wearing pants cut for a taller woman. Well, either that, or you've fallen victim to evil fashion trends
2. Horse Hair:
While we're all willing to go to incredible lengths to get Pantene-like hair
, there is, says Clinton, a limit. And he's right. While you might think this habit died back with the musical of the same name, just try stopping at a rest stop without meeting someone tressed like this. "I'm here to tell you that after a certain age -- let's say 30 -- ultralong styleless hair makes you appear to be desperately hanging onto your youth, or your man or both," he points out. Yeeowch. And we're not talking how it feels to brush a mane like this.
1. The "I Give Up" Dress: Shudder.
And yet, every once in a while we're struck by that delusional belief that we, too, can wear some shapeless, gamines-
garment not even Chloe Sevigny could pull off. Which is how most of us come to have one of these lurking in the depths of our closet. However: "This sad excuse for a dress ranks up there with the Mom Jean and white cross-trainers as one of the greatest style tragedies ever to befall the American woman," says Clinton. "Ladies, you must, must, must define a waist."
All images courtesy of "Oh No She Didn't" [Simon & Schuster, October 2010].
Carrie Sloan is the editor of Lemondrop. She blames her worst purchases on a combo of drunk shopping, vintage fails and disingenuous shopgirls.