“A Dude Would Wear That and You’re a Beautiful Woman, So You Should Not Wear This”

Earlier tonight, What Not to Wear had its season premiere over on TLC. I was watching a different show with my mom during the first airing, so I decided to catch the late-night rerun based on feedback I was seeing in real time from fellow sports fans. It was just so unbelievable I had to see this for myself. Well, it was actually worse than I originally thought it would be.

Also I don’t know how to make screencaps off my TV, so this is kind of wall-o-text and I’ll try to break it with pictures.

What Not to Wear is not a show I usually watch. It and Style Network’s counterpart How Do I Look rely too much on tearing down perfectly normal, lovely women before throwing out their clothing and making them buy new stuff, dolling them up and presenting them before public audiences. Sometimes it can be fun to get all dolled up”“ I’m not at all denying that, I like to do it myself”“ but it should also be perfectly all right for a woman to wear a T-shirt and jeans if she likes”¦ or even a hockey jersey.

We know what's best for you! Bright colors!

Sadly for Becky, that’s not how the world works, apparently.

In the intro, hosts Stacy and Clinton discuss Becky, who is 37 years old and divorced”“ the way Stacy’s voiceover says “single 37-year-old” is just so condescending. She moved from Chicago to LA to work for Jenny McCarthy and Cheryl Burke as a personal assistant after her divorce, but retained a deep and abiding love of Chicago sports. She owns a lot of shirts and jerseys for her teams and also wears lots of jeans and T-shirts. (Jeans and T-shirts are my uniform”“ full disclosure). However, Clinton explains that a “negative self-image” has left her “hiding in her sports tees.” By contrast, I know I feel more powerful and confident in my sports shirts. Anyway, she’s thinking of moving back to Chicago, so Cheryl and Jenny want her to stay and reinvent herself in the Land of Unattainable Perfection.

Cheryl explains that Becky doesn’t make much of an effort in her looks. Clinton wonders if Becky feels intimidated by the perfection. Jojo McCarthy says that Becky just has never had style. (Keep in mind the two are childhood friends, by Jojo’s admission. OUCH!)

Becky is cautioned by Cheryl that she may need to “let go” of her treasured jerseys. Keep in mind that a standard jersey costs $160, according to the official Blackhawks shop, and as Cheryl says that, she’s holding a Patrick Kane jersey. (I looked up the price for that one.) You’d basically have to pry a proper jersey”“or even a shersey”“out of my cold dead hands, Charlton Heston-style.

“Do you think other people are happy looking at you in this outfit?” Stacy asks as Becky enters the 360-degree mirror room, in which I would spend like 20 minutes just looking at myself and wiggling around. Becky is wearing a grey pullover jacket, a pink shirt with a V-neck and jeans. “Nobody ever thinks “˜you look comfortable!'” Clinton adds. “They say “˜you look like a slob!’” Keep in mind Becky’s hair looks clean and pulled back, her face looks clean, she’s wearing makeup and I think she’s showered and such”“ she doesn’t look visibly dirty. “The impression that you’re giving off is that you don’t matter,” he adds.

They show her some V-neck shirt with a camisole. The V-neck has a huge ruffle down the middle and ruching. I honestly think it’d make her look bigger. “If you wear something like this, you’ll be noticed!” Clinton says. “People will actually look at you.” Now I imagine poor Becky attempting to buy something at the drugstore, but the clerk looks through her as if she has an Invisibility Cloak on because she’s wearing a tee and jeans. Oh please. Then they make her hug the mannequin awkwardly.


But then when she is talking about her hesitance to wear a dress because of her legs, they reassure her that no one cares and they’re worried about their own ankles. This directly contradicts their earlier “Are people happy looking at you?” comments.

Cue the wardrobe-trashing scene. Clinton immediately gathers up a pile of Becky’s sports shirts and flips through them before tossing them into a trash can. They also toss some nice button-up blouses that are good for work, calling them “man shirts” even though one of them is pink and you can tell by the construction of the shirts that they are for women (hint: darts). She can’t keep a red Canada shirt even though she has family there and maybe that shirt has sentimental value. Her jerseys, you see, are in the way of her looking sparkly and pretty and noticeable. But she’s attached to them”“ rightly so, they cost an arm and a leg”“ and she reveals she has a signed Patrick Sharp jersey, so she wants to keep that safe from the trash can. By the way, her ENTIRE wardrobe is in this overflowing trash can.

Sanity break: let's look at Patrick Sharp for a moment.


The whole, “What sport is this? Football? What’s football?” act Clinton and Stacy put on while looking at her jerseys at this point (she has a few White Sox ones and then three Blackhawks ones: Kane, Toews, signed Sharp) is just condescending. Becky explains she is a sports fan and so these jerseys are a big part of who she is. But Cheryl to the rescue, uttering the truly insightful (not!) phrase that is the title of this post: “A dude would wear that and you’re a beautiful woman, so you should not wear this.” I wasn’t aware jerseys came with wearing guidelines based on the sex and gender presentation of the wearer. “EXACTLY!” Stacey agrees.

The stick and the carrot: the team says Becky might be able to keep her jerseys if she does a good job shopping. Clinton explains that everyone can have a few shirts and jeans. But Becky has let comfort take over her life. Stacy, who is apparently a licensed psychologist, diagnoses it as being because of Becky’s issues about size. Well, if she sees the same toxic messages I see about women who are larger than, say, a size 4, then I can’t blame her for it.

Back from commercials. Clinton explains it’s all about building Becky’s low self-esteem to improve her LA life. Becky now has $5,000 to use on shopping. (She could get some great Blackhawks season tickets for that price.) Clinton and Stacy watch Becky shop now. Clinton judges her for wearing jeans and a tee when he is wearing a plaid button-up with white pants and hideous green slip-on shoes sans socks. He basically looks like a refugee from the Miami Vice era. There is even visible chest hair.

“She needs to pop out. She needs to make sure people know that she’s there,” Cheryl says because she showed up to help Becky pick dresses. Becky is apparently a human jack-in-the-box. Becky gets frustrated while trying on dresses and Stacy sympathizes. “Women think it’s them and not the clothing,” she says. Well, hello, look at what you’ve been telling the poor lady! They then help her shop at some sort of department store. They pick for her a drab olive color dress with draping at various angles because she used to have a drab olive Army shirt. If she were to wear it, she would announce to the room, “Guess what? I’m here!” But Stacy also says that Becky needs to give herself a break. Please try to get your stories straight.

“Any woman who loves hockey generally has an edge to her!” -Clinton

Cue pithy laughter from Stacy and Clinton. I am still not really sure if they meant that positively or negatively, considering what they’d said before.

Back from commercials. Cheryl has a surprise for Becky They’re going to Vegas for her big reveal, baby! (Could it have been during the NHL Awards?) This part gets kind of ho-hum. Hair consultation: red highlights for her wavy brown hair. Red, very appropriate for a Blackhawks fan. She feels pretty after an admittedly very nice haircut. Then it’s smoky eye time.

Okay, big reveal to Clinton and Stacy, who seems to be getting paid per cheesy exclamation. “Shut the front door! You look amazeballs!”

Yep, it still looks silly even when written in Impact.

Becky does look nice in a patterned shirt, slacks and white blazer thing. But Becky! The pride you feel will stay with you even after the cameras go off and you wash off the makeup because you’re an accomplished woman. I think that message is definitely buried here under, “Yay let’s buy you new clothes and tell you women can’t wear sports apparel!”

Stacy’s Nuggets of Knowledge: “It takes the same time to put on a tunic as it does to put on a hockey jersey. Guys are definitely going to hit on you in this as opposed to the jersey.” She seems to not fully understand the aphrodisiac power of good things happening in the sports world between sports fans. I’m pretty sure that lots of people in jerseys had some, uh, fun times after Chicago took home the Cup last year.

It's pure probability.

Now, a big surprise: They framed her jersey(s? You’ll see why I’m unsure about the pluralizing later). And Clinton can’t pronounce Toews. Becky politely corrects him. Stacy retorts, “Whatever, just don’t wear that shit in your real life.”

Then Clinton makes some weird joke about “him” being older than 19, indicating Toews’ number. (Uh, for the record, Toews is 23. But thanks for playing!) Does he mean the guys Becky will bring home? I don’t know. I’m just so confused.

I'm confused too, "Toes." I'm confused too.


Becky spent that $5,000 on “over 35 outfits that are red-carpet ready” and Stacy tells us how many of each item she bought. Then Stacy adds in that she got “one framed hockey jersey,” the Toews one. But what about the SIGNED Sharp one? I’d rather keep that if for some devil’s bargain reason, I had to pick just one. Alas, no one mentions the other jerseys. I really want to know what happened to them. (EDIT: I’ve been told by someone who knows Becky, and whom I trust, that she received all her jerseys back safely. Also she had some sports shirts in the laundry back at her place that were never shown on TV.)

Vegas time. Becky is in a pretty blue dress and everyone is happy. A fortnight later, Becky Skypes in an update. She’s happy. Yay.

In all seriousness, a lot of people wondered why I was making such a big deal about this. It’s just a show, they told me. Sure, it is, and you know what? Television shows are one of the most effective methods of disseminating opinions, thoughts, ideas and rules to be absorbed by society at large. If television shows keep on propagating this idea that proper women can’t be sports fans or can’t wear what they want to when they want to, it’s going to keep being absorbed and repeated by people who may otherwise mean well but have rather narrow-minded, limiting views on women who like sports. That’s very problematic. It needs to be called out when it happens, simple as that, and I do not plan to stop doing so any time soon.

Editor’s Note: This delightful post originally appeared on Adventures in Pucking, by the delightful Emma.

By Emma

22-year-old recent college graduate (journalism and sociology) from Georgia State University. Lives in Decatur, just outside Atlanta. Loves TV, all manner of food, cats, the series of tubes called the Internet, traveling, calling out problematic things in the world around her, ice hockey and getting behind things that go away: drives a Saturn, has a Borders Rewards card and was a 2011-12 season ticket holder for the Atlanta Thrashers. Sigh.
(Co-editor of Adventures in Pucking.)

17 replies on ““A Dude Would Wear That and You’re a Beautiful Woman, So You Should Not Wear This””

My general reaction to Clinton and Stacy is that, while they can be superficial jerkfaces, they do make a good point sometimes. I credit them with making me finally accept that if you are overweight, wearing baggy clothes doesn’t hide the weight, it just makes you look bigger. I learned a lot about accepting my new shape and finding clothes that flatter me. However, they must be taken with a grain of salt. Anyone who flagrantly displays an attitude of “If I don’t like it, it must be crap” only gets so much of my attention.

Not to reinforce crappy crap, but beautiful women often look amazing in masculine clothing (or female clothing with masculine cuts/details); even men find it hot. I don’t think these people are big into fashion or style so much as they just want the women to look “pretty.”

I’m not normally one to go on a rant about something I don’t like when I read an article but this is one time I have to ignore my own rule.

You are totally wrong about this show – though I mean that in the nicest way possible.

First of all, I get it… it’s the first time you’ve watched the show so you are looking at it with skeptical eyes. Being a Persephone writer you are probably intelligent and have distinguishing tastes. I’ll give you credit for all of that, and for the fact that Stacy and Clinton can be a little over the top in the beginning of the show… campy or cheesy even. However, once you really dissect what they are doing and see how it changes people lives you have to give credit where it is due.

What Not to Wear changed my life.

My uniform of choice was t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes until about three years ago. I had just started watching when a possible promotion became available at work, but I was going to have to interface with management and external customers face to face. A manager that I was close to and really admired took me aside and told me that my frumpy duds were just not going to cut it. I needed to show the “powers that be” that I was confident, put together, and could take on a challenge. I will say though, my choice of clothing was less about self-esteem as I’ve always been confident, but more about not really maturing my wardrobe after high school.

I’m a size 18 and 5’8” – no petite thing here. I needed Stacy & Clinton’s help, albeit via the show, to help me learn how to dress for the job I wanted, not the job I had.

I could go on for pages for how much I learned about my body shape, finding figure flattering clothing that brought positive attention to me instead of fading into the background like I had for so many years. I’d been passed over for jobs I was clearly qualified for, but without the outward appearance to back it up no one took me seriously. Despite what we may want to believe, people base much of their opinion of someone on how they look. I know, it’s BS, but it’s the truth and we all need to embrace it.

I took a few lessons I’d learned on the show and went shopping. Three weeks later I was offered the promotion and a couple others since then. I immediately received compliments on my appearance and still continue to get them. I feel better about myself, even though I didn’t really feel bad before, I feel more confident, organized, and getting dressed in the morning is easy and fun thanks to the basic rules I’ve learned.

Color. Patten. Texture. Shine.

To address the episode you watched in particular – jerseys are cool, wear them to a game, not to work. Anything made of “sweats” material should only be worn while sweating. The ruffles would have looked amazing on her as they were small and laid flat – elongating her torso, and bringing visual interest without looking like Carmen Miranda.

In the end, could you really deny how great she looked and how it had obviously made her feel better about herself? Did they tell her she needed to lose weight or it would look better on a thinner girl? HELL NO – they said she had curves and she needed to own them!

God bless Stacy and Clinton.

The show having positives absolutely does not make this author “totally wrong”.

It is great that you experienced a boost in confidence from following style tips on this show. That doesn’t make it okay to suggest that a woman who is a sports fan is not acting like a woman. It doesn’t make it okay to tie her self worth up with what outfit will get her a man.

It’s fantastic that they do try to make sure women are never ashamed of their bodies on the show. That doesn’t make it okay that every episode centers on how women need to care what other people think and cater to it.

I think that her lack of confidence “holding her back” is being conflated with not being comfortable in LA. This woman already has the career, even with her oh-so-dreaded sports gear, and she is unhappy and wants to move back to Chicago (where I highly doubt a signed Sharp jersey would become a sartorial issue). How is making it clear that the things she likes and the ways she expresses her identity are unwelcome in this environment going to make her feel more at home?

I’m glad to hear that there were things at home in the laundry and that she got to keep her jerseys. As a hockey fan, I hate the attitude that women shouldn’t express that they love sports. Men and women alike come to work in my office in Jerseys near important games. No one suggests that they are slobs or that they don’t deserve their positions.

I can see that you are saying that (and I do find everything you are saying about choosing appropriate clothing reasonable). The show is not. As the title of this article quotes, they are saying that as a woman she shouldn’t be wearing a sports jersey, and that’s a big problem.

Okay I can see your point there. Not being a sports fan myself probably makes me gloss over that much more than a sports fan would.

I am a knitter though and if they were to try and throw out my hand knit goods I would probably have to kick them where the sun don’t shine, even if they are not the most flattering things in my closet.

In general though, I found this review of the show less than positive. Sure, there are things I would have fixed about it, but the overall point of the show is to help women who feel like it would be better to fade into the background realize that a new coat of paint will do wonders for their curb appeal.

You can’t argue though that a hockey jersey is not flattering on a woman – unless maybe that was all she was wearing and then would anyone really care?

I do actually like to watch the show sometimes. It is good how the emphasis is on choosing clothes to fit and flatter you, not beating yourself up because you don’t fit into some clothes.

On the other hand I can see how a lot of people would have problems with some of the sentiments expressed on the show. Adding in the celebrity bosses just seemed to amplify the negatives too (it was Cheryl who said the whopper in the title).

And I will agree that jersey’s aren’t terribly flattering, but they are definitely fun. And a friend knit a scarf and mittens in my team’s colours. Best of both worlds!

I think people look cute in jerseys, but I do recognize that they aren’t “figure-flattering”.

And now I have this image in my head of putting a belt on with a jersey, and Stacey and Clinton being like “Always emphasize your most slender point, to really create an hourglass shape.”

I actually read this first on Adventures in Pucking (which I discovered with delight through Persephone!) This is infuriating. There is nothing wrong with a girl wearing a hockey jersey, but EVERYTHING wrong with trying to make someone throw out a signed Sharp jersey.

Also I really appreciated having pictures of Sharpie and Tazer to make me happier and balance out all the angry-making.

RIGHT? This type of makeover would never work for me. I bet they look down on denim shorts and flip flops too. (Not that I don’t know how to dress up a little when I need to, but c’mon…give up my jersey?)

And thanks! I took that picture myself when I scored third row seats :-)

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