Transformations without a knife

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

There is a show called &uot;What Not to Wear&uot; that airs on cable and satellite. A guy and a gal take an unsuspecting individual nominated by family and friends out of their comfort zone. They then transform these fashion and beauty-challenged individuals into new men and women by teaching them what works for their body build, personality and coloring and, well, how to avoid &uot;what not to wear&uot;.

Like so many current shows on makeovers of everything from your bedroom to the house you are planning to sell, &uot;What Not to Wear&uot; originated in England. And it’s the English version, airing on BBC America, I prefer. No phony-baloney friendliness here, folks.

These ladies are not kinder, gentler hosts (or &uot;presenters&uot;, as they call them across the pond).

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Fashion gurus Trinny and Susannah can be sharp-tongued harridans. They absolutely take no prisoners when they are preparing their &uot;victims&uot; for the transformation, ruthlessly tossing out their old wardrobe.

&uot;This outfit makes you look s-o-o-o middle-aged fright,&uot; says Trinny.

&uot;Those trousers make your bum [rear end] look absolutely gigantic!&uot; exclaims Susannah.

It’s what they call their &uot;cruel to be kind&uot; approach, and for the most part, it really seems to work.

Under the duo’s tutelage, 50-something women who are caught in a fashion time warp become elegant, pulled together and actually younger-looking than they did in their girlish fashions of yore. Frumps become fashionable. Androgynous gals go glam.

The great thing about it, to me, is the fact Trinny and Susannah do not tell a single person &uot;we’ll make you look fabulous – after you lose that 20 pounds&uot; or &uot;you could be a stunner – once you get that nose fixed and, oh yeah, get a implants for your chin and breasts&uot;.

These Brits take the raw material they are given – and certainly, some makeovers are more challenging than others – and through fashion advice laced with &uot;tough love&uot; (and the assistance of hair stylists and makeup experts), they make the most of what the each woman (and occasionally, man) has to offer.

And there’s nary a scalpel used. The only blades in the picture are those of the scissors that give them their snazzy new haircuts.

Those made over still have their original lips, hips, thighs and eyes, blessedly untouched by plastic surgery. They still have character; the rough edges are simply smoothed over in a very appealing way.

The biggest change I see happens inside. They stand up straighter, move with a new confidence, smile more; perhaps clothes do make the man – or the woman, as the case may be.

Maybe it’s just learning to improve on what the good Lord gave you without resorting to carving yourself up I find so refreshing.

And Trinny and Susannah both seem to take a real delight in seeing how good their subjects look and feel once they have learned &uot;the rules.&uot;

&uot;Doesn’t she look absolutely fabulous! She’s turning every help in the room,&uot; a proud Susannah declares.

A new season of &uot;What Not to Wear&uot; starts later this month on BBC America.

I can’t wait to see those drab ducklings changed into swans – with no anesthesia required.

Angie Long is the lifestyles reporter for the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 132 or via email at