You would think that after more than a decade of makeover shows telling us what not to wear and how to look good naked, we would all be better dressed.
You would think.
But Carson Kressley, the fashion expert who helped launched the TV makeover genre on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” sees that many of us, men and women, still don’t understand that thing called fit.
Some of us trying to be sexy wear our clothes too tight.
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“Like my grandma said, ‘Nobody likes 10 pounds of sugar in a 5-pound bag,’ ” Kressley said.
Some of us are drowning in equally unflattering oversized clothes.
“The right fit in the right area can be a tremendous asset, helping define your waist, giving you a shape. You don’t have to be a size 6, 8 or even 10 to create that waistline and have a flattering silhouette,” he said. “It really boils down to wearing the right size.”
Kressley became a TV personality in 2003 as one of the “Fab Five,” five gay men who made over a straight guy on each episode of Bravo’s “Queer Eye.”
They not only revamped the guy’s wardrobe, they taught him about decorating, cooking, grooming – even, at times, etiquette.
“I think the reason ‘Queer Eye’ stood out, there were five of us making over a person’s entire life,” he said. “But we were really experts in our fields. We weren’t talk show hosts. We weren’t people that were just focusing on our on-camera abilities.
“Thom Filicia had been designing homes for years. And I was a stylist for years and years and worked with Ralph Lauren and Saks. … We had the tools in our back pockets to really do a great job.”
TLC’s “What Not to Wear” debuted the same year, and suddenly we were all taking a closer look at the stuff hanging in our closets.
Makeover shows with names like “How Do I Look?,” “Style by Jury” and “The Swan” came and went.
“Queer Eye” enjoyed a five-season run. “What Not to Wear,” hosted by Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, will end its decade-long reign later this year.
“As a genre – the makeover show – we’ve seen a lot of different iterations of it. It definitely does need a fresh new take,” Kressley said. “In the last 10 years … there’s been so much of a democratization of style. Whether it’s food or interior design or clothing, there are great resources, there are amazing retailers, there are great bloggers.
“I think there’s just an accessibility and an awareness of style in general that wasn’t present 10 years ago. Now I think we’re much more savvy and much more educated,” he said.
“But guys are still wearing pleated khakis, so my work is not yet done.”
Just because style advice is more plentiful doesn’t mean it’s worth following, he warned.
“Style is very personal, and one person’s chic is another person’s dowdy. You have to find great resources,” he said. “Just as I wouldn’t try to diagnose any medical problems online, I probably wouldn’t go to some amateur on YouTube to fix my style.
“However, there are tasteful people everywhere like that, whether it’s YouTube videos or Pinterest, which I’m a super-big fan. I think it’s about finding a credible resource and finding a person whose style you admire.”
On Pinterest he follows the virtual bulletin board postings of fashion editor Nina Garcia, a judge on “Project Runway.”
He’s also a fan of Fashionista.com, the websites of InStyle and Vanity Fair and “The Sartorialist,” a site run by blogger/photographer Scott Schuman.
After “Queer Eye,” Kressley hosted a British-produced show called “How to Look Good Naked,” where in each episode he played the kind style godfather (“I hate your shoes but I still love you”) to a woman battling bad clothes and, invariably, self-esteem issues.
He found that many women were “not happy with who they were in their current situation,” he said.
“Overwhelmingly, I think women are bombarded with images in the media and in advertising and in the fashion world where everyone pictured is a 14-year-old girl from Latvia with perfect skin and a size zero.
“And eventually you see this over and over and over again, and you think, ‘Well, if that’s the ideal of beauty, that’s what I’m supposed to look like. But I don’t look like that. It’s impossible for me to look like that.’ And that was really the message of the show, to say you don’t have to be perfect, in quotation marks, or to look like the model on Vogue, to be beautiful.
“I meet with and speak to women’s groups, and one of the biggest tenets I try to tell women is don’t be so hard on yourselves. Give yourself a break. Maybe you’re not a size 6, but maybe you have the most amazing hair ever or you have the most unbelievable lips. Whatever it is, focus on the positive.”