Those who understand fashion likely subscribe to the belief that the rules of fashion are few, simple and finite, and with all the fashion advice available through newspapers, magazines, television and the Internet, you'd think anyone with the desire to unleash their inner fashionista would be able to do so. The bad news is there are some people who watch the series week after week, who confess they still don't know where to begin.
Clinton Kelly Petite fashion show and style workshop:
» Time: 1 p.m. Saturday
» Place: Macy's Ala Moana, Petites Department
» Admission: Free, with RSVP
» Call: 945-6427
» Note: Following the fashion presentation, one guest will win a shopping spree with Clinton, who will help her select a $500 wardrobe from the Petites Department.
The good news is that when Clinton Kelly, co-host of TLC's hit wardrobe makeover show "What Not to Wear," travels across the country to present style workshops, "I see more people getting it right than getting it wrong. Sometimes it's hard to find anyone in the audience to critique."
But consider the subjects, who likely are the most interested in and confident about fashion, and who probably show up looking their best for Kelly, lest they become walking, talking examples of fashion don'ts.
Not that he ever makes fun of people. Speaking by phone from New York, when he had a break between filming, Kelly said, "I ask for volunteers who want to be critiqued. The way we advise people on 'What Not to Wear' is the way I am. I'm not mean. I just give constructive criticism."
Audiences have a chance to hear Kelly's advice firsthand Saturday at Macy's Ala Moana, where he'll host a petite fashion show and style workshop for those who wear sizes 2P to 14P.
Clinton Kelly will conduct a petite workshop Saturday. Some of the looks include these from Style & Co., above, and I.N.C. International Concepts, below. Both show how you can be casual and stylsh.
Although many embrace the fairy-tale ideal of good fashion sense materializing overnight, the truth is that instead of kissing a lot of frogs to find a prince, one must try on a lot of outfits to find one that fits, and most people prefer pixie dust or prayer to physical exertion.
Kelly estimates a 33 percent success rate in that a third of those who appear on "What Not to Wear" continue to "nail it." Another third revert to their old ways, and the last third keep trying with mixed results.
Like learning any skill, "Shopping and finding clothes that work for you takes work. It's not magic," Kelly said. "We can tell people to start with a long trouser, but you have to try a lot on to find one cut to suit your body shape. The TV show makes it look easier than it actually is. It's all wrapped up with a nice bow in 43 minutes, when each segment actually takes a week to film. We spend two days shopping, and sometimes we're lucky to get seven outfits out of it."
He adds that money helps, which is the reason those chosen to appear on the program receive $5,000 toward building a new wardrobe after he and co-host Stacy London discard most of their old clothes. But he says it is possible to build a wardrobe on a small budget.
"I have nothing against shopping sale racks or thrift shops, but you still have to do the work," he said. "Don't just buy stuff because it's on sale. You might want to brag, 'This shirt only cost $2.' Yeah, but it's $2 and it looks like crap on you."
"You gotta buy stuff because it fits you perfectly and goes with at least two other things in your wardrobe. A lot of people buy pieces, and nothing works with anything else."
It helps to start with a handful of basics, he said, such as a trouser, walking shorts and an A-line skirt in neutral colors such as black, gray, khaki, olive green, white and camel. Once you have basics that will work through multiple seasons, you can start adding more trendy colors and prints to make your wardrobe current.
The No. 1 question he hears during his appearances is how to camouflage a tummy. For that, he suggests covering up with a jacket, which is doable in Hawaii if one chooses lightweight fabric. He also recommends empire seams or empire seam details above the waist. Surplices, or wrap bodices, also help, as would a foundation of new-generation waist-slimming body-shapers.
Speaking of foundations, bra fittings can help older women because emphasizing a waistline is sometimes a matter of "moving boobs higher," he said.
"In general, American women don't want to put in the effort on a daily basis. I've been to 39 out of 50 states, and people dress really poorly," he said. "They say they want to be comfortable, which I think is an excuse to look messy."
There's is a difference between looking messy and casual. You can look put together and casual in a walking short and simple blouse but look messy if the short and shirt are baggy, shapeless and ill fitting.
"What that tells other people is you don't care about yourself and you have low self-esteem," Kelly said. "I never would want anyone to say that about me."
According to a TLC bio, Kelly had a few fashion-don't moments of his own while growing up in Long Island, N.Y., which he deemed "the capital of scary fashion" in the 1980s. Prior to working on the series, he was an editor at magazines such as Marie Claire and Mademoiselle.
He admits to caving into his inner slob once in a while, but only when he's at his weekend home in Connecticut. "It's really in the woods where no one can see me."