Susannah Constantine (left) and Trinny Woodall 521.
I am a generally law-abiding citizen – I pay for my TV license, wait for the
right signal to cross the road, give my dog rabies shots on time, and pay taxes.
Yet lately I have been increasingly scared that I’m about to be shot on the
street by the police – that’s the fashion police, armed with Instagram and a
very definite sense of purpose.
The fear has been building up over the
years. I think the first sign of the “reality” trend was the media columns
devoted to catching celebrities and virtually undressing them, or at least
giving them a dressing down: This one is captured in a skirt too long; that one,
in trousers that are too short and wearing shoes that match each other but not
The fashion statements, often accompanied by some kind of
icon like a Smiley or a Bibi-style bomb illustration, are meant to be funny, but
sarcasm, as we know, is the lowest form of wit, and in these fashion columns it
often gets so low it hits below the belt (which is either too broad, too narrow,
or completely unnecessary).
Why am I getting so hot under the collar
about it (or even wondering whether I should be wearing something with a collar
or a plunging neckline)? Because it’s no longer confined to the rich and famous
or rich-and-famous wannabes.
Recently several Facebook friends have taken
to airing the dirty laundry of (im)perfect strangers in public.
self-styled arbiters of good taste have become the petty dictators of the
dictates of fashion – ignoring the fact that wherever there’s a woman who thinks
she’s dressed to kill, there’s another who wouldn’t be seen dead in the same
When the first few acquaintances captured passersby wearing
something that was apparently either out of fashion or out of season – I
couldn’t always tell which and I couldn’t really tell why I should care – I
didn’t rain on their fashion parade and let them get away with the snide
But while I was skirting around the issue, more and more
Facebook friends were ahemming and ahawing at the length of skirts or making
off-the-cuff remarks about the size and style of sleeves.
I often felt
like shouting, “The emperor has no clothes,” but I didn’t come apart at the
seams until I saw a photo that showed two young girls – the younger of whom,
according to the discerning observer, was desperately “in need of a
Even someone as fashion-unconscious as I am could figure out
that the toddler was dressed in a style that could better be described as
“vague” than Vogue – as I recall, she had a striped top with a skirt of
completely clashing design and colors. Some of the comments on the thread hinted
that she must be ultra-Orthodox because she was wearing long sleeves and shoes
and socks in the heat of summer.
My first thought – which I posted – was,
“What would a secular family say were an ultra-Orthodox man to comment on the
inappropriate dress of a two-year-old girl?” Actually that wasn’t my first
thought. My initial response was: I don’t know anything about this girl, her
family, or the circumstances in which this photo was taken, so I why should I
worry about what she’s wearing? She was a toddler: Perhaps she’d insisted on
these particular clothes in that “terrible twos threatening a tantrum” way, or
maybe she’d spilled food or drink on what she was originally wearing and been
changed into whatever came to hand. She was dressed for a day out with her
family, not a fashion show.
I KNOW this is an unfashionable statement for
a modern, Western woman, but I admit I hate clothes shopping. Even worse: I
particularly hate having to shop for shoes. My idea of the best way to buy
footwear is to pop into a small local, family-run store (thus helping protect an
endangered species), announcing which color I need and whether it’s for summer
or winter, and letting the vendor do the rest. On a good day, I’m in and out of
the shop in 15 minutes, and that includes the time spent discussing current
affairs, which happens to interest me more than the latest fashion
I appreciate, of course, the psychological benefits of looking
good – although I believe the physical and mental benefits of feeling
comfortable override them.
Still, my fear of being ambushed was
heightened as I happened across the recent rerun of Trinny and Susannah’s first
visit to Israel. Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, for the unfashionably
uninitiated, are two British journalists who have turned styling and makeovers
into a lucrative, TVoriented art form with programs like the BBC’s What Not to
Wear and ITV’s Trinny & Susannah Undress....
Last year, they hit the
Israeli streets and markets; they can currently be seen as amateur psychologists
in Trinny & Susannah Feeling at Home, which takes them off the streets and
into Israeli houses.
Their format is simple, but of course, they have a
certain style, and the fact that they are radically different in looks and
personality – not cut from the same cloth at all – adds to their
They first identify a person who, in their opinion, is in dire
need of a new look (and often a new life). Then they open up a whole world of
possibilities by coming up with new attire and style followed by a brief walk
down a catwalk while admiring friends and family gasp at the sudden, dramatic
Such programs have their voyeuristic charm (and for male viewers,
usually either Trinny or Susannah drops almost everything, as it were, and
strips down to her underwear to boost the morale of a subject who hates her
body, cleverly boosting their ratings figures at the same time).
naked truth makes for good television, but I don’t think it adequately addresses
the real problems.
I wonder what happens to the Prince/Princess for a Day
when the fairy godmothers have to leave them. The style tips might be valid long
after midnight, but what about their budget? And given the Israeli predilection
for TV reruns, how will these same people feel when we continue to see them
(warts, flabby thighs, family feuds and all) for years to come? I wish the trend
of dispensing fashion advice by ripping people and their clothes apart would go
out of style.
Avoiding the fashion cops is very