While I’m not a die-hard fan of any particular fashion TV show, I think there’s a lot you can learn from the various shows about fashion as well as those that feature fashion prominently in their story lines. While you may not agree with or like everything you see on them, fashion shows – like cooking shows – help broaden your understanding of the art, which in turn, helps you dress better.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular fashion TV shows (check your local listings for time and channel):
Project Runway is a reality show that pits aspiring fashion designers against other in a series of design challenges. The winner gets $100,000 to launch his first line, and builds name recognition and a following throughout the competition. Design contestants have had to do some crazy things over the years, like make apparel from grocery store items (remember Austin Scarlett’s beautiful corn husk dress?), design Wrestlemania costumes, work with couture prom gown clients, create cocktail apparel for their mothers, and more. Throw in a little back-stabbing, snarky comments, and down-to-the-deadline high drama, and it’s really easy to get addicted.
What you can learn: design terms, clothing elements, styling tips, and how to work on a budget.
What Not To Wear
In this recurring pauper-to-princess tale, badly-dressed clients are nominated for makeovers by friends and family. The hosts track down the client in a public place, embarrass the heck out of her, and promise to finance a clothing shopping spree IF she agrees to listen to their fashion advice. If she does, she’s given a head-to-toe makeover and then returned home beautifully dressed to the astonishment of those nominating friends and family. While I don’t always agree with the clothing advice given to the clients, I do like that they use men and women of all ages, shapes, and sizes to makeover. I also like when the clients realize that they CAN change their life by changing their clothes, because I’ve seen it with my own clients time and again.
What you can learn: how to dress various body shapes, how to dress for different occasions, and how to gain confidence through appropriate wardrobe choices.
The Rachel Zoe Project
Rachel Zoe is a celebrity stylist who dresses her famous clients for TV appearances, movie premieres, and red carpet events. While I don’t always agree with her choices – and am ASTOUNDED by how many of her clients allow her to dictate their public image by wearing whatever she tells them to* – I can’t help but be impressed by how hard this woman works. With her backstage access to designers, models, and celebrities, she knows entire collections, how to put clothing elements together, and perhaps most importantly, how to make high-level contacts and massage delicate egos to get what she wants.
What you can learn: designers, clothing and accessory terms, styling tips, and how to build a million-dollar Rolodex.
*Lana Turner knew exactly how high to cut the slits in her skirts so no cellulite showed. Marlene Dietrich brought her own lighting equipment to movie sets and dictated how she was to be lit. Audrey Hepburn insisted on Givenchy apparel both in films and for personal use, because she felt he alone best understood how to dress her. They would NEVER hand their public image over to someone else to manage.
Sex and the City
Perhaps the ultimate fashion TV [http://fashionforrealwomen.com/blog/articles/fashion-fun/celebrity-fashion/fashion-tv-what-you-can-learn-from-fashion-television/] show, “Sex and the City” follows the life of four friends who work, play, and date in New York City. On HBO from 1998-2004 (and currently in edited re-runs elsewhere), the show was groundbreaking for it subject matter, nudity, and fashion. Not only were Carrie Bradshaw’s clothes expensive, eclectic, and unlike anything else on TV, this show — like “The Nanny” – clearly demonstrated just how much our clothes reveal about who we are and where we come from: Carrie, the bohemian writer; Samantha, the creative, hot-shot publicist; Charlotte, the proper WASP princess, and Miranda, the no-nonsense lawyer. Regardless of where they went or what they wore, those personas were almost always reflected in their style of dress.
What you can learn: designers, styling tips, how to dress for different occasions and occupations, how to dress at different levels of society.
“Ugly Betty” follows the life of a sweet, smart, average-size, average-looking assistant from Queens who tries to fit into the reed-thin, high-glamour world of New York fashion. Betty’s clothes are appropriate for her position and budget, but they pale in comparison to her high-wattage, fashion-obsessed co-workers. Not surprisingly, the costumer behind “Ugly Betty,” Patricia Field, was also the mastermind behind “Sex and the City” and “The Devil Wears Prada,” so you see plenty of big designer, high priced clothes.
What you can learn: styling ideas, what to wear at different levels, what NOT to wear.
Set in New York in the early 1960’s, this style-savvy show offers some of the best period costumes on television. Great suits, pretty dresses, and carefully selected hats, gloves, and bags take me back to my childhood when taking pride in your appearance and dressing appropriately for every occasion were as important as working hard and minding your manners. Beautiful clothes, artful grooming, and lovely sets make this show a pleasure to watch.
What you can learn: occasion-appropriate attire, how to accessorize, historical costuming.
Now as I said, I don’t always agree with everything on every show, but they’re fun to watch if for no other reason than because fashion plays such a dominate roll. You can always find something to take away and use from each program.