What Not to Wear

TV review by
Brenda Kienan, Common Sense Media
What Not to Wear TV Poster Image
Wisecracking fashionistas say everyone can look good.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 31 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive messages

The positive "anyone can be beautiful" message suffers from the show's sarcastic humor and the negativity implied in the title. That said, by the end, most participants seem very happy with their transformation and receive lots of love and support from Stacy, Clinton, and their family and friends.

Positive role models & representations

The hosts can be sarcastic and critical, but they push the idea that anyone -- regardless of size, age, profession -- can look good. They never criticize someone's body or physical appearance beyond their clothing choices.


Occasional mild innuendo; references to breasts (as "the girls") in a fashion context.


Infrequent language ("damn," "hell").


Specific stores and product names are often mentioned and shown.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this show's core positive message (anyone can look great) can help mitigate the pressure to look like an airbrushed supermodel that young girls face daily. But during most of each episode, the subject experiences sarcasm and mild ridicule. The fashion experts can sound a bit mean sometimes when doling out fashion critiques, though they're also good at building up subjects' confidence by the end.

User Reviews

Adult Written bycritiquethis February 10, 2010

Thumbs down

This show is just down right degrading to the people in need of fashion advice. The hosts use words like frightful, dreadful, ugly, makes me want to vomit, when... Continue reading
Adult Written byCalimom April 9, 2008

Bad social message

I find this show to be very mean-spirited. I don't find any entertainment value in a show that makes such harsh value judgements. I feel so sorry for eac... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written by9001 January 1, 2010


There is occasionally a suggestive image of a topless woman holding her hands over her breasts, and then moving her hands off of them and butterflies flying out... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old July 1, 2010
Look,everyone. 1.they do NOT tell everyone the same thing 2. they DO say that you can wear something good and still keep your style. STOP HATING.

What's the story?

WHAT NOT TO WEAR has a simple, ultimately admirable message: No matter your shape, your size, or whatever physical liabilities or hang-ups you have, you can be beautiful. For dramatic effect, the show starts with an ambush. Friends and family of someone in need of fashion advice nominate her (or sometimes him) for a makeover. The subject is secretly filmed until -- surprise! -- fashion experts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly show up and announce they're giving her a $5,000 wardrobe and the benefit of their advice. In New York, the subject learns that said advice is wisecracking and mild ridicule, and a set of fashion rules. She's sent shopping and makes mistakes, prompting wisecracks from Stacy and Clinton, who eventually arrive on the scene to help her choose flattering clothes. After expert hairstyling by Nick Arrojo and a grooming and makeup lesson from Carmindy, the subject looks fantastic -- without plastic surgery, weight loss, or anything at all drastic.

Is it any good?

The beauty of What Not to Wear is that even though the subject is initially mocked, she learns that she doesn't have to change any part of her core self in order to pep up her image. And when the subject shows off her changed image to Stacy, Clinton, and her friends and family, she's as delighted as everyone else at her transformation.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the nature of beauty and whether we all need to look like models. What assets do the people who appear on this show have -- including their talents, personalities, and apparent character? Is that attractive? How do they react to change?

  • How do you think these people's "new looks" will affect their futures? Does it matter? Should it matter? What kinds of messages do makeover shows send in general? And why do you think most of the subjects are women? Do men have less pressure to change their public image?

TV details

For kids who love fashion and reality

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