The untold truth of What Not To Wear

For more than a decade, Stacy London, Clinton Kelly, and a whole slew of makeover artists helped regular people who were a little lacking in fashion sense (okay, a lot lacking in fashion sense) get some style advice and a full makeover. Based on a British TV show, What Not to Wear, the gold standard and longest lasting of all makeover shows, aired more than 345 episodes and handed out a fortune in free clothes to the stylistically challenged. Here's a look at what was really going on behind the scenes.

The format of the show was accurate, for the most part

Like most reality shows, What Not to Wear (WNTW) followed a standard, reliable, and comforting formula: a participant is nominated by a loved one or coworker, Stacy and Clinton sweep in with a $5,000 gift card with which to buy a new wardrobe, and the contestant's old clothes are disposed of. This is all true. Participants really did get five grand (and two days) to amass a new wardrobe. (They didn't get cash, however — makeover recipients went shopping with a production assistant who used corporate credit cards to pay the tabs at the stores and boutiques.) And the show's staff really did dump all of the subject's clothes, donating them to charity. One thing not usually seen: while their homes were being raided for ugly clothes, the subject got put up in a fancy hotel.

Stacy London and Clinton Kelly weren't around much

While some participants of the show have confirmed that London and Kelly were around for the two-day shooting schedule and were generally kind and supportive, others say that the actual shopping for clothes was conducted by the show's personal shoppers and stylists. One What Not to Wear contestant said the only time she saw the hosts were when they saw her try on her new clothes. It seems it was done that way to ensure genuine reactions.

It forced participants to address deep-seated psychological issues

There are a lot of reasons why people dress badly — everything from economics to not caring about clothes to body issues plays a role. According to one participant nominated for What Not to Wear by her boss, she dressed badly because of body dysmorphia. She says she hid out in body-obscuring, oversized sweaters for years because she was deeply unhappy with the way she looked. Being forced to see herself on camera was hard enough, as was looking at herself in 360-degree mirrors, trying on clothes in public, and attempting to break free of psychological trauma in front of strangers.

The clothes are off the rack, but not necessarily

What Not to Wear contestants bought real clothes from real stores, and they always magically seemed to fit in the big reveal. If it were that easy, a lot of participants wouldn't have needed to go on the show in the first place. As it stands, a lot of the clothes were tailored and mended to perfectly fit the episode's subject — the cutting and sewing just isn't shown on camera. (If you want to watch people messing with sewing machines, watch Project Runway.)

The $5000 in spending money doesn't go very far

While getting five thousand dolla dolla bills to spend on clothes sounds like it'd go a long way, contestants reported that the money actually ran out pretty quickly. Former contestant Addie Broyles revealed, "$5,000 doesn't go as far as you think it would when you're hitting New York boutiques."

Another former contestant revealed on Reddit, under the username joannati, that she had to pay the taxes herself. Luckily, the $5,000 belongs to the contestants and they aren't required to spend all of it. She wrote: "One of the producers told me the first day to NOT spend all $5000 and set aside some of the money for taxes." She further explained that it's not as easy as you might think, considering that "as you are shopping, someone else has control of your money. It isn't like you are walking around with 5 G's in your pocket so it is difficult to know how much you have spent and when to stop. I constantly checked in on where I was money wise!"

Joannati further revealed that taxes aren't the only out-of-pocket expense to account for when spending the $5,000. "The other thing NO ONE sees on air is that a huge chunk of your money goes towards tailoring. Literally EVERYTHING you buy is later tailored to you," she wrote. "At the end of the week the seamstress comes to your hotel room, you try everything on, she pins and marks it all and a few days later everything is all returned to you with the perfect fit. You pay for that service out of your $5,000."

Filming each episode takes a loooooong time

Lest anyone think that being on What Not to Wear was a walk in the park with a 5K shopping spree, each episode was time- and energy-intensive. The film crew reportedly had to attend to details that were incredibly time-consuming. These details are apparently way over the head of anyone who's not a member of a camera crew, according to former WNTW contestant Amanda Rodriguez, who revealed some behind-the-scenes secrets on her blog Dude Mom. A week's worth of long days are later condensed into the one 45-minute episode that actually goes on air.

Repetition was the name of the game, and former contestants revealed that they had to say and do things multiple times so that the cameras could get the perfect shot. One former contestant revealed on Reddit that the camera crew had him do multiple close-up reshoots, and that every time he pointed at something during the course of the show, they'd do a reshoot later that focused solely on his hand. "We learned towards the end to just stop pointing," he said.

Stacy and Clinton welcomed a transgender guest

In 2013, Casey Donegan, a volunteer firefighter and transgender woman, appeared on the show. Casey, who hails from the Philadelphia area, said that the show helped her focus on fitness and that, once the show was over, she felt she was able to better adjust to her post-transition personal style.

Like so many women before her, Donegan's big take-away was self-confidence and the ability to feel more comfortable in her own skin: she said that the help she got from the the WNTW cast helped her feel less worried about "being perceived for what I'm not and more open to being perceived for what I am [...] It's gotten me to a point where I'm not self-conscious."

Clinton keeps in touch with many former guests... except for one

Clinton is apparently quite the correspondent: "I keep in touch with about 100 of them, believe it or not, whether it's Twitter or Facebook or a text message here or there," he said.

There is, however, one notable exception: a contestant named Megumi, who Clinton apparently got into a nasty fight with — in front of the 360 mirror, of all places (I shudder at the idea of confronting myself in the 360 mirror, let alone someone else). "I've really only gotten into fights with about two women out of 350 (over the years), and Megumi and I had it out!"

Apparently their verbal battle wasn't about fashion, and Clinton said it turned personal. "I actually feel a little bit bad about it. I mean, she told me I needed Botox and I just went off on her," he said. "Not that I have anything against Botox — I really don't. I've had it before. I was like 'Don't you tell me I need Botox…this isn't about me!"

Celebrities have been featured on the show

Celebs: they're just like us… in the sense that they sometimes need some fashion help too. American Pie star Shannon Elizabeth was on the show in 2013, although she was none too pleased about it. The makeover process, which was intended to give her a more businesslike style as she marketed her jewelry line, didn't appeal to Elizabeth, who said "I think this is the ugliest thing I've ever seen. I wouldn't be caught dead in this," when looking at one of the outfits Stacy and Clinton had selected for her.

While she took home $5,000 worth of clothes for business meetings, she vowed to maintain her "lazy LA" look in her everyday life. "I have a casual, no-style kind of look. I'm OK with that, I'm happy with that. I'm comfortable," she said. "It just takes me a few hours to get ready and I'm lazy!"

Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik had a smoother ride on the show, though. When she was a guest in 2009, she had just gone back to work after giving birth to her second son and needed a "mommy makeover." Admitting that she wasn't totally shocked that she'd been nominated, Bialik said: "It's no secret that my sense of style has taken a backseat to the rest of my life [...] and I do have quirky taste. A lot of stuff I wear I've had since high school [...] and I used to be able to put more time and effort into what I wore, especially before I had kids."

Stacy and Clinton helped evolve her wardrobe, while also allowing her to retain her unique sense of style. "They taught me about what to emphasize about my body, they gave me some easy ways to look good when I'm just hanging out – which is most of what I do – and they tried to work within my specific tastes […]. They really accommodated all the things about me that are so quirky fashion-wise," she said.

The show really did change people's lives

Being on the show apparently changed quite a few guests' lives for the better: as the show wound down, Clinton told People that several contestants had gone on to meet their husbands immediately after their What Not to Wear experience. On the flip side, Clinton described how one woman's newfound confidence gave her the strength to move on from a bad relationship. Clinton said that she "was basically an emotional doormat before she met us. After she left the studio, she felt a level of confidence so strong that she was able to go home and dump the guy she was seeing who basically treated her like crap."

To further explain how confidence changes people, Stacy explained that "the cliche 'seeing is believing' really was the foundation of the show. Seeing allows you to feel something different, which allows you to think something different, which allows you to believe something different. That's what the show was about: a change in perspective, a turn to lean in towards optimism."

Stacy and Clinton's life after WNTW

Both Stacy and Clinton agreed that it was time for WNTW to come to an end — after all, it had been on the air for ten years, which is no small feat in the TV world. One of the things that made WNTW special was the friendly, genuinely caring dynamic between Stacy and Clinton. They always seemed like siblings or incredibly close friends: they'd poke fun at each other, while having enough mutual respect, affection, and witty banter to sink a ship.

While I and many others definitely miss WNTW, it's awesome to see Stacy and Clinton kicking butt in their post-TLC endeavors. Stacy published a memoir in 2012 and has been opening up about personal topics such as her struggles with eating disorders in her 20s, as well as what it's like to be a 40-something single woman. Meanwhile, Clinton has been busy with his new gig on TLC's Love at First Swipe, not to mention his co-hosting duties on ABC's The Chew. He's also been busy writing: he authored a style manual in 2014 and publishes a memoir in January 2017. Since the end of WNTW, Stacy and Clinton continue to be — in Clinton's famous words — freakin' fabulous.

Twitter drama

Fans of TLC's What Not to Wear were sad to see the show end in 2012 — but recent revelations about apparent drama between former co-hosts Clinton Kelly and Stacy London have WNTW fans shocked. On November 15, Kelly posted a screen shot to Twitter — a screen shot showing that London had blocked him from her own Twitter account — with the caption "Alllll righty then."

Kelly refused to elaborate further on any conflict, past or present, between himself and London, saying in follow-up messages on Twitter that he only discovered that he was blocked from London's account because someone had tagged them in the same tweet. When Twitter followers asked for more details, he demurred, saying that "the tea is old. And I never spill tea unless I'm shook, and I'm not."

A complicated relationship

Despite his reticence to divulge any other details about the drama unfolding now, Kelly had hinted at friction and tension with London in his 2017 memoir, I Hate Everyone, Except You.

"I either adored her or despised her and never anything in between," Kelly wrote. "We spent nearly sixty hours a week in captivity, rarely more than an arm's length away from each other. Trust me when I tell you that is just too much time to spend with any other human being you didn't choose of your own free will." 

He went on to say that he and London had a relationship akin to two siblings stuck together "in the backseat during an excruciatingly long car trip." Kelly also explained that he and London eventually settled for being "friends at work," which was a much more peaceful coexistence, but said that while part of him will always love London, there's also "a part of me that would be just fine if I never saw her again for the rest of my life."