Beyond Vassar

What Not to Wear? Ask Stacy London '91

By Samantha Soper '91

If you had asked her what was a must-have for everyone’s wardrobe while she was a Vassar student, Stacy London ’91 might have answered: the perfect pair of jeans. Today, as co-host of television’s What Not to Wear, London’s suggestion is a well-tailored pair of black pants. On the show, a participant is nominated for a makeover by a friend or family member. London and co-host Clinton Kelly take it from there. Armed with $5,000 and advice, complete with clever quips and honest critique from the experts, the participant must rebuild his or her wardrobe. It took years of styling for Vogue, Mademoiselle, and various celebrities—and four screen tests—but having her own show means you can now watch and learn from London on a weekly basis.

With the slew of television programs today that blend reality and acting, a viewer never really knows how much to believe. For London, however, “what you see is what you get. Clinton and I have a lot of fun with each other and with all the participants. We aren’t actors. We can’t really fake it. When we meet people who watch the show, they really feel like they know us because it’s us they’re watching, not us playing a role.” After two successful seasons, the show’s popularity is growing, and London isn’t slowing down. She’s in the middle of shooting the third season while authoring a book with her co-host on style by body type.

And next in the world of fashion? London answered, “For spring—color is everywhere, oodles of jackets both structured and less form-fitting, and not so many sky-high stilettos, more flat and wedge-heel sandals. Of course, fall will probably be the exact opposites... So my advice is buy what you like!” Not that Vassar alumnae need any advice, London admitted. “Vassar girls have always been pretty stylish.”

London’s rules to live by...

  1. A structured jacket that fits in the shoulder and nips in at the waist is universally flattering (on women) and is great for dressing up a pair of jeans.
  2. When shopping, never choose just one piece to try on, even if it’s the only one you want to buy. Try things on in outfits. It will help you see the way the garment you like looks in context and will also help you remember whether you have clothes in your closet which go with the item already.
  3. Finally, on the Food Network, all the chefs tell you to make your butcher your best friend. I think you should make your tailor your best friend. Whatever your style, make sure your clothes fit properly. Even inexpensive clothing can look great, as long as the hem or the sleeve is the right length, all the buttons are on the jacket, and the skirt lining doesn’t fall below the hem of the skirt.

What Not to Wear airs Fridays at 10:00 p.m. (E.S.T.) on The Learning Channel.