14 Style Tips from ‘What Not To Wear’

Style Tips from WHAT NOT TO WEAR

WHAT NOT TO WEAR is a makeover show that was aired first on BBC in 2001 featuring Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine as the makeover magicians. It has been a revolutionary show and has even had a more successful American avatar- TLC’s WHAT NOT TO WEAR, hosted by Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. An Indian edition of the show is under the works with Soha Ali Khan as one of the stylists/hosts. Here are a few enlightening style tips that I have picked up over the years being an avid viewer of both the British and American versions.

what not to wear

1. A pencil skirt is a must-have in every woman’s wardrobe. Whether you are a college student or in a corporate job or even a stay-at-home mom who goes to parties once in a blue moon, a knee-length pencil skirt is an absolute must-have. It is a shape and a cut that works with women of ALL figures and ages. You can dress it up or dress it down, wear it for a party, a job interview or even to lunch with friends. A woman’s waist and hips are usually her first problem areas and a pencil skirt not only covers those problems, it also makes you look sexy.

pencil skirt

2. An A-line skirt is another must-have in every woman’s wardrobe. An A-line skirt is basically a skirt that looks like an ‘A’. narrower on the waist and hips and flared downwards. Again, knee-length is the most suitable length to be as it sexy as well as sophisticated. While your pencil skirt should be in a neutral color, you should try to get A-line skirts in patterns.

a line skirt

3. If you are 5’4” and above, your skirt should end right below the knee and vice versa. This is a really remarkable tip that totally works. When we say knee length, we forget that most skirts and dresses are made to end either below or above the knee. So, which length to go for? For women who are below 5’4”, a skirt ending above the knee not only makes you look taller, it also makes you look more proportionate. That doesn’t mean that women who are 5’4” or taller will look shorter with a skirt that ends below the knee. Since they already have height on their side, the skirt length would again bring more proportion without compromising on their gorgeously long legs.


4. Straight cut jeans and trouser jeans flatter women of all figures. Skinny jeans should only be worn if you are skinny. Boot-cut and bell-bottoms are not flattering. You shouldn’t wear boot-cuts unless you actually are going to wear boots.

bell bottom jeans

Tapered jeans do not flatter women unless they are tall because they always make you look shorter. A straight cut does not try to hide or accentuate any body characteristic and so works well for even the most problematic of figures. Trouser jeans,i.e., jeans cut in the shape of trousers, is another great multipurpose item like the pencil skirt because you can wear it to work, to a party or even a daytime visit to an amusement park with family. Mid-rise waist is also more preferable to other waist lengths. A high rise makes you look fatter and you shouldn’t be wearing a low-rise pair of jeans unless you are going to be in a hip-hop video. Dark washed jeans are not only stylish, they are also slimming and versatile. Last but not in the least amount of importance, always remember to hem your jeans if they are longer(in fact, hem anything that needs adjusting).

straight jeans

5. V-necks are the most versatile cut for women. Turtle necks or high round/square/boat necks generally don’t flatter most women. A V neck is automatically stylish and sexy. If you have a problem with a deep V showing your cleavage, you can easily wear a camisole underneath. In fact, layering is a great slimming and styling factor, so you can even go bold by wearing a camisole in a contrasting color with a lace or sequin detail.

6. ALWAYS define a waist. No matter what you wear, whether its a dress or a blouse, always define a waist. An hourglass figure is what every woman should aspire for and the easiest way to do this is simply by defining a waist. If you have a flat stomach, then you can define your waist at your natural waist line. Otherwise, try to define your waist at the smallest part, generally below the bust. Women with a larger bust size should not be afraid of defining their waist in that region because there are ways of delicately defining your bosom without over-accentuating it. A lot of dresses and tops come with a defining detail in that region. Otherwise, a skinny belt is a great style item to have that you can use to define your waist.

7. A tunic doesn’t necessarily hide your figure. Most women are under the impression that your waist-where you put on weight first and lose it last- should be covered wearing a tunic and tights to not accentuate it. NOT TRUE. An A-line skirt does it much better, or a mid-rise trouser jeans with a fitted waist-length top. Don’t wear tights and leggings all the time as body hugging clothes can cause hygiene issues. Wear skirts, dresses or anything loose and flattering alternatively with it.

belted top

8. A biker jacket works great for women of all ages. Yeah yeah, you may be thinking how can a biker jacket- something that you generally associate with a rock star- look flattering on a 40 year old mom. Again, its the cut of the jacket. It is much more sexy and sophisticated than hoodies or blazers. You can also wear shrugs and cardigans that will not only keep unnecessary attention away when you step out- it will be a great layering item as well.

motorcycle jacket

9. Neutrals go with each other and with everything else. A wardrobe should consist of neutrals and patterns. That way, you can create many ensembles instead of sticking to the same old outfits.

10. Every woman should have at least one pair of heels. Sure you can’t wear them everyday, but who said you have to? Nothing makes a woman look sexier than a pair of heels. Wear it to a party if you can’t wear it everyday. For everyday outfits, go for ballet flats and modern sandals, not flip flops and orthopedic shoes!

11. Accessorize. Accessories complete your outfit and so you must never forget to accessorize. Just don’t wear it all over. If you are wearing dangling earrings, skip the necklace. If your top has a deep cut, wear a statement necklace. Long necklaces work for women with a strong jaw line or a shorter neck. A cuff, an interesting ring, anything that adds interest and polish to your outfit without going overboard is a winner.

12. A great handbag is every woman’s best friend. A handbag is both feminine and versatile. You can carry all that you need, take it anywhere you go and look stylish all the time. Apart from having your basic black bag, be sure to get it in other colors too.

13. Make sure all your fabrics are natural and not polyester. Not only does polyester look cheap, it also does not let your body breathe. 100% cotton and silk fabrics are what you should aim for, be it for your tops, skirts, trousers or jeans. Not only do they look expensive and modern, they last longer too.

14. DON’TS: a)Don’t wear sweatsuits or running shoes unless you actually have to run or do some vigorous activity.
b) Don’t wear miniskirts or girly tops or shorts unless you are a teenager or at home where nobody can see you.

These were some of the style tips I gathered from watching the show. There are also makeup and hair tips that I will reserve for another article. What I like best about this show is that it doesn’t take runway models as its inspiration. Usually they feature women who have been successful from other walks of life- mothers, teachers, students, businesswomen etc- whose wardrobe do not reflect their success or potential and in fact, often inhibits them from achieving more in their lives. The makeovers may look expensive since they mostly shop at boutiques, but I am sure those of us who shop in department stores like Pantaloons and Westside can also find these tips useful. I am certainly happy to know what I do wrong and what I do right, as well as feel good about the way I look even if it is not something I see in a magazine. What I like best about the American version of WHAT NOT TO WEAR is this mantra they tell the participants when they go shopping by themselves and feel bad if something doesn’t fit them or make them look good:

The clothes are the problem, not YOU!!!

Happy shopping everyone!

Clinton Kelly and Stacy London of the American edition of What Not to Wear
Image courtesy: amazon.com

Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory gets a makeover on What Not to Wear

Image courtesy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,6, 7, 8

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11 thoughts on “14 Style Tips from ‘What Not To Wear’

    1. yeah, but Mayim did the show before she joined big bang…she had just finished her phd and had a baby. Actually, she used to dress like Amy Farrah Fowler before the show! at comic con she said that she tries to follow stacy and clinton’s tips in real life but on the show she wears clothes like she used to!

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