First, the true confession: I enjoyed WNTW. Even though we have no TV, I'd watch it at the gym or look for YouTube segments.
|Diana's reveal outfit|
Gibbings and Taylor view that the show is really about the Foucaultian concept of governmentality, defined as "a deliberate activity that shapes our conduct by working through our desires, aspirations, interests and beliefs...".
In layman's terms, Stacey and Clinton 'splain it all to you, so you are not a clueless deviant dresser.
Stacy and Clinton also convinced the woman (nominated for the project by appalled family or colleagues) that conforming to a middle-class standard of dress would result in career, romantic and spiritual elevation. If you dress right, your world will twinkle with potential and pleasure.
The authors write:"The goal of the show is thus to inform the participants and viewers about the rules of judgment, but it also teaches them the effects: the pleasure they experience when they dress right. It illustrates the pleasant new forms of recognition that come with the improved style of dress."
They also say: "In WNTW, market rationality moves into the sphere of self-transformation when WNTW strives to make individuals efficient and competitive in the heterosexual market of relationships and the cut-throat job market though wearing the 'right' clothes. The solution to women's problems (identified as those of self-esteem) becomes the idea that women need to take responsibility for their lives through dressing."
With that last line, my feminist heart sank. In WNTW's mirrored dressing room, had I been persuaded that womens' self-esteem dangles from a hang tag?
"I feel so great in this!" is proffered as a prime reason for buying by many bloggers, including me. But we are influenced to buy that impression of 'greatness'.
But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise. It's not lapis. It's actually cerulean...and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff."
WNTW makeovers delivered a cloned, InStyle look with little grit, wildness or quirk left in the mix. I liked punky Jen's '80s Ramones tee and Mayim Bialik's Niagara Falls one. But then, I'd find myself nodding in agreement: Tristen, duck nails, remember?
Makeovers are also make-alikes. I don't find that wholly reprehensible; conformity has its purpose. Few of us would go to work in, say, red fake-fur chaps and a hat made of discarded cigarette packs.
But it's well worth pausing to think about the erasure of gender, race and class that the makeover programs promote.
|Photo: The Sartorialist|
The complete paper is available here; follow instructions on that page to download.