Frisky Q&A: Clinton Kelly Of “What Not To Wear” Is Judging You
“What Not To Wear” is my go-to channel-surfing show — and if it’s a weekend marathon, I will binge on six straight episodes like Lady Gaga at a lobster hat sale. What’s not to like? The women (and occasionally men) nominated by their loved ones for “What Not To Wear” are all-too-relatable with their style problems: the baggy clothes, the closets filled with dresses that don’t fit anymore. And the hosts, Clinton Kelly and Stacy London, make all the funny-but-firm observations that most of us think but don’t want to say.
With hundreds of episodes filled with “fashion don’ts” under his belt, Clinton debuts a new book next week called Oh No She Didn’t! The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them. But don’t expect “What Not To Wear” makeovers past to get raked over the coals. No joke, Clinton said Oh No She Didn’t was written based on what he saw tourists wearing in New York City’s Times Square!
At the end of a long day filming “What Not To Wear,” Clinton called me for a, um, colorful conversation about the new book, hairy legs and armpits, and why you should leave French manicures to the whores. Oh, and he called me a “little bitch.”
Did you think up the 100 fashion mistakes that you explain in the book on your own? Or did you ask your friends to brainstorm fashion atrocities, or what?
I’ll tell you exactly what I did: I met with Simon & Schuster and I literally left that meeting, walked to Times Square and got a Starbucks. I sat in the window and looked at all of the tourists passing by and started writing down the fashion mistakes I saw, one by one. I’m not even kidding you, in the time it took to drink a tall latte, I had 85 of the top 100 mistakes. There was zero research. None. Nada. (laughs)
But you had to rack your brain to think up the other 15!
This is my life. All I do is notice how poorly other people are dressed.
If you had to give a woman three really basic pieces of fashion advice, what would they be?
I think the worst thing a woman can do, in general, the worst mistake a woman can make, is to opt-out of fashion altogether because she feels fashion isn’t meant for her. She’s too old for it or she doesn’t have the right body for it. I think that opting-out is the worst mistake she can make. As soon as you start to cover yourself in a tent if you’re plus-size, or you start to wear hoodies or sweatshirts and baggy pants because you don’t want anybody to see you might have a lump or a bump, people will start to lose respect for you. And [they'll lose respect] not so much because of what you’re wearing, but because of what that says about you. When you say, “I’m not worth dressing nice,” people pick up on that.
I would also say be careful of participating in trends that are not right for your body type. Some trends just don’t work so well on some body types. It’s OK to let a trend pass you by. I always say it’s like passed hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party. That’s what fashion is like: passed hors d’oeuvres. You’re allowed to let the bacon-wrapped shrimp go by because you have an allergy to shellfish. It’s OK! The party is going to still go on; you can still be incredibly happy. If leggings don’t look good on you, then don’t wear them.
Your book has smart financial advice on spending your money on trendy clothes versus spending your money on “classics.”
I really think it’s important that after you graduate from college — or your last year of college, really, if you have a style budget — [you] start investing in classic pieces. If you’re a girl in your 20s or even early 30s, you should be spending 75 percent of your clothing budget on trends, if you want to. The other 25 percent should be on classic pieces that you go to year-to-year. You don’t want to have to replenish your entire closet every season! That doesn’t make sense. Start thinking about some classics in your wardrobe. I give that guideline based on age, but if you have financial constraints, then you should probably flip that percentage: spend 75 percent of your budget on the classics, but add in 25 percent of trends. And you really should, because trends keep you modern and relevant and they can take classic pieces and turn them into modern outfits.
Also, you need to have a budget. That’s another big thing. You. Need. To. Have. A. Budget. Style is a tool to help get you where you want to be in life. Too many people don’t think of style as a business. Style is a business that you get into with yourself, quite frankly. Yeah, sure, it should be fun, but it also should be analyzed. You have a budget for your utilities: your cable, your gas, your electricity. You should treat your style and your wardrobe with the same kind of respect and thoughtfulness. If you don’t sit down and look at what you’re spending money on, you make dumb choices and silly decisions.
I see too many people shopping for sport, too many women shopping emotionally. You should really be thinking about everything in your closet. Number one, do I have at least two occasions to wear this item, i.e., can I wear it in two different categories in my life? Like, work and weekend, or work and evening, or even weekend and evening. And [number two], do I have two other things in my wardrobe that this is going to go with? Don’t buy a pair of mustard corduroys because you think they’re cute. If you don’t have anything to go with them, you’re never going to wear them and you’ve just blown money out the window.
I can definitely relate to shopping emotionally. I usually go buy myself something when I have a bad day. Do you think there is a substantial group of women who do that?
I think the American woman has been raised to think of shopping as something that’s therapeutic, or it’s going to get you out of your bad mood. Look, it might. But if you’re the type of person who likes to make herself feel better by shopping, that’s one thing, but is your closet full of junk you don’t wear? That’s just stupid. You should find better ways to deal with your stress. Have a glass of wine, for crying out loud, or go get a massage.
It’s [similar to] American women and this fantasy they have about their weddings. They’re groomed to think it’s going to be this magical moment in the history of all moments since the dawn of human kind. It’s almost the same thing with shopping. They think they’re going to walk into a store, find the dress that fits perfectly from head to toe, and then Prince Charming is going to come down the escalator on his goddamn horse! This is not reality, this is fantasyland. Stop living in fantasyland in all aspects of your life, not just style. It never comes true.
You’re very anti-leg hair. You joke in the book, “Let me begin by stating that I strongly support a woman’s right not to shave any part of her body if she so chooses; however, exercising that right should qualify you for mandatory military service.” And you even tell trannies and drag queens to “man up” and shave!
(laughs If you don’t want to shave your legs, that’s fine. I don’t give a crap. However, when you start putting hairy legs under hosiery, it’s not cool to other people. If you want to be kind to other people, then do opaque tights so no one can see the damn hair on your legs. And trannies and drag queens? They know that! I’ve never seen a tranny with a hairy leg. Take your cues from them. I know Mo’Nique doesn’t like to shave her legs. I think more people find it unsightly than don’t. It’s also just a cleaner look.
So I guess you feel the same way about armpits, too?
Oooh, yes. It’s so distracting. I think that’s what it is. Take away the distraction of the hair on the legs and the armpits. Remember when Julia Roberts didn’t shave her armpits? It’s all anybody talked about. You don’t want your armpits to pull focus from you.
I was surprised in the book that you are critical of women who wear long fingernails, which you called “passé and creepy,” and nails that are airbrushed or have little jewels embedded on them. (“I don’t know when it became socially acceptable to airbrush your fingernails or apply rhinestones or paint each one with a different regular from ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ I think it’s a conspiracy among manicurists to destroy civilization as we know it.”) You also don’t like obvious lip liner outlining lips. I could be wrong, but my perception is that this is predominantly noticeable in certain cultures or communities. Isn’t it going to piss people off that you write those things?
If you’re pissed off, I’ve done my job. If you’re pissed off, you’re paying attention. If you don’t like what I have to say, it doesn’t bother me one bit. This is my opinion and my opinion only. I get paid very well to give my opinion. However, if you disagree with it, don’t buy my book or change the channel, because I don’t give a crap. There will be millions of other women who are willing to take my advice.
Look, when it comes to the fingernail thing, the women in my own family are, like, “Screw that.” Some women in my family like their French manicures and they’re going to continue to get French manicures. I think, however, that as soon as porno stars grab onto a trend and make it their own, that’s a time for respectable ladies to find a new trend. I honestly believe that: as soon as whores adopt a trend, move on. It’s dead.
So, if you could make-over a famous person, who would it be?
Do you realize I don’t know any famous people? I so don’t care about celebrities. I don’t care one bit. I’m sure somebody will come to my mind when I hang up the phone with you, but I don’t read any of those celebrity magazines. I don’t watch any of those celebrity shows. I. Don’t. Care. About. Celebrities. End of story. Don’t. Care.
You must get invited to awards shows, though, where you see celebrities in their outfits?
No! This show has never one a goddamn award! (laughs uproariously) We haven’t won a ribbon! We couldn’t win fifth place in a fourth grade relay race! We won nothing. We never get recognized for anything.
Of course I’ve been to parties, but I don’t even know who these celebrities are. Half of these celebrities out there right now, as far as I can tell, are famous for having no talent and doing nothing. I don’t waste my time, not one iota, one microsecond of my time, thinking about people who don’t contribute anything positive to the human race.
That said, there are other celebrities I really like for what they are capable of doing. I like celebrities who can act. I like to watch a movie, just like the next person, or watch a good TV show. The other people, I don’t care what they wear. They’re characters to me, so I don’t care about their style. Ummm, who’s out there? Lady Gaga, I love her. I wouldn’t change a thing about her style.
I vaguely even know who they are. I mean, I know who they are, but any time I see a magazine with any Kardashian on it, I want to throw gasoline on it and light a fire.
Well, you know one celebrity: “What Not To Wear” made over Mayim Bialik from “Blossom” last year.
Yes, Mayim Bialik! Oh, the first person we’re making over for “What Not To Wear” this season is Mindy Cohn. Remember Natalie from “The Facts Of Life”?
(pause) I’m a little too young to know who that is.
(yells) OH MY GOD! That is like a knife to the heart, you little bitch.
(laughs) I gather this Mindy Cohn person doesn’t dress well?
Yeah, she’s not stylish. She was wearing tent-y clothes and everything flowy-flowy-flowy, so we gave her more structured stuff. She looked good.
What’s next on Clinton Kelly’s horizon?
I’m going on my book tour next week and then filming another 12 episodes of “What Not To Wear” for this season. Oh, and I have a new app that’s going to be pretty cool! I think it’s going to launch in the middle of October. If you go to ClintonKelly.com, you’ll see something called Style RX. I had to charge $2.99 [for the app], because it cost me an arm and a leg to develop this software. So for $2.99 you can input all of your measurements — height, bust, waist, hips, and coloring — and you’ll get a complete customized style prescription: the shape of clothes that will work best on you, plus some advice about tailoring and alterations you might have to do for your body type.
Is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you want to add?
I don’t think so. I think we went there.
Image via Amazon.com
This interview has been edited for length.
CORRECTION: Thanks, commenter, BlueVibe, for pointing out the correct spelling of Mindy Cohn’s name.