As a harried mother of two who’s probably more poorly dressed that I’d like to admit, I can’t imagine anything worse than some snarky style savants publicly critiquing my wardrobe choices. Unless maybe the fashionista in question were Stacy London of TLC’s What Not to Wear.
Yeah, I know the show is based on the idea that appearances count. Like, a lot. And no, I don’t like how WNTW and its ilk have contributed to our culture of take-no-prisoners body and fashion commentary. But as revealed in her new guide The Truth About Style, Stacy’s not just sitting on her (chic) high horse talking trash about the rest of us. She’s sadly battled binge eating and intense body insecurity partially caused by a lifelong struggle against psoriasis, which actually means her advice comes from a magnanimous—not malicious—place.
“My whole life I’ve had a love-hate relationship with style and my body and myself and self-consciousness,” London recently told the Washington Post. “…people tweet me and Facebook me and say ‘You’re so pretty and you have such confidence.’ Well, I don’t feel that way.”
According to the Post and her new memoir, London also spent her senior year in college subsisting on sugar-free butterscotch pudding causing her weight to drop to 90 pounds. In the following years, she worked as an assistant at Vogue, where she began binge-eating, pushing her weight up to 180 pounds. For her, fashion became a way to “help balance out her insecurity about her body.” In fact, she admits, she tries to “dress up more on bad-body-image days to give [herself] a kick in the butt!”
Dude, that sucks. Not just because she had to endure working at Vogue while not being a size 00, but because Stacy London has been one of my style idols since high school.
You see, back in the ’80s when I was a freshman and Stacy was a junior at our high school in New York City, she was a major trendsetter. Not in her current clingy dresses-and-killer-pumps way, but because she knew how to rock a men’s topcoat over army pants—and pair it all with pointy punk-rock boots. And her fearless fashion gave me the confidence to create my own look (which included carrying a metal Berenstain Bears lunchbox as a purse, of course).
Stacy recently told NPR that her aim is not to tear people down and make them hate themselves—and I believe her.
“I’m a truth-talker. I want to be straight with you. It’s not to be critical. It’s to be as helpful as possible because I do see beauty and potential in everyone and I think it is possible for anyone to dress well.”
I just hope she believes her own words (and wish I could get her to weigh on the whole lunch box thing).
Audrey D. Brashich is the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty.