Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TLC's What Not To Wear Comes To Memphis

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2012 at 1:05 PM

When we veg out, we do it with a cup of tea and a good book a stiff drink and a marathon of TLC's What Not To Wear.

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Each episode, hosts Clinton and Stacy take a caterpillar — often a harried mother of three or a workaholic, or occasionally a wayward wannabe vamp — and turn her into the foxy lady butterfly she truly is. And they do it all with style and panache and a lot of good humor.

Which is why we're thrilled to announce that Memphian Emi McFarlen will be featured on the show, getting a makeover that she says has saved her from the vortex of matronly spinsterhood. Tune into TLC tonight at 8 p.m. to see the whole thing go down.

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McFarlen, a Rhodes graduate who currently works as the manager of public and special programs at the Pink Palace Museums and is working on a masters in science education, says her style before the show consisted of anything comfortable that she could wear around kids without worrying about getting dirty or messy.

"My style was dull. Modest, but on the verge of being matronly," she says. "It was about utility. I wasn't caring about pretty clothes, I just wanted clothes that I could work in, that I could get down on the floor in and kids could throw stuff at me and scream at me and I would feel comfortable in."

If you've never seen an episode of What Not To Wear (seriously, how is this even possible?), the show begins with hidden camera footage of the participant who has been secretly nominated by friends and family for a makeover. The surprise is soon revealed to the participant when she is ambushed by Stacy, Clinton, and the gang, and swept away to New York for the filming.

Emi's surprise attack came at a routine meeting at the Sharpe Planetarium, where staff members were told they would be previewing a new program on constellations. While everyone was looking up at the constellation show, suddenly Emi's face popped up.

"And then Clinton and Stacy came out," says Emi, "It's really quite entertaining when you watch it."

Something we've always been curious about is whether participants are offended or hurt when they find out their families and friends nominated them for a makeover. Emi says she didn't feel hurt at all.

"After the initial shock wore off I was able to talk to my friends and the people at work who nominated me. It came from their hearts," she says. "They did it because they said I don't spend enough time taking care of myself because I spend so much time taking care of others. I wasn't offended at all. In fact, I was touched."

Of course, there was a week in between finding out she had been nominated for the show and actually leaving for the makeover, which Emi admits was a bit uncomfortable.

"It's awkward because you have a week where you're like, 'Okay, they told me I dress badly, but I don't have any other clothes to wear,'" she laughs. "So for this whole week you have to wear these terrible clothes. Then they put you on an airplane and send you to New York and go through the whole process. It was a whirlwind."

Even as we consider ourselves longtime fans of the show, we've often wondered about what shows like this mean for women — whether they are part of the shaming that keeps females tethered to certain beauty ideals. For their part, Clinton and Stacy seem more concerned with getting the participants to love their bodies and wear clothes that highlight their features than getting women to change their physiques. As for Emi, she says she's very pleased with how What Not To Wear made her look and feel.

"Before I was kind of trying to hide in the background. I teach here at the museum and I love doing that and that's where I felt like I was in my spotlight, but the rest of the time in my social life I was kind of hiding my light under a bushel. Now I feel a lot more confident about showing off my personality and saying, 'This is me. This is who I am, and I'd love to meet you.'"

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