“You had a lot of opportunity here,” Stacy London pronounces.
It was not quite like having your entire wardrobe gleefully dumped in the trash a la London and co-host Clinton Kelly on their long-running TLC makeover show, “What Not to Wear.” But after the style savant’s assessment — “Style is the quickest shorthand to who you are,” London writes in her new book, “The Truth About Style” — it’s hard not to question a lifetime of sartorial choices.
And yet London is somehow on your side as she rips you apart, sipping lychee red tea in a Manhattan hotel. She understands the psychic roadblocks manifested by the ill-fitting outfit from Washington. She says there’s more to bad dressing than bad taste — women, she argues, literally cloak their emotional issues in their clothing.
“My whole life I’ve had a love-hate relationship with style, and my body, and myself and self-consciousness,” she says. “And I have not met very many women who haven’t.”
The book — which will bring her to Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in downtown Washington on Thursday — transposes the show’s makeover format to the page. It features nine women in fashion ruts. With empathy, a little therapy and an eye for what’s flattering, London diagnoses their fashion problems and proposes common-sense solutions. As she does on the show, London shifts the conversation from the runway to real life, focusing on practicalities such as helping the working woman “who just needs a great pair of jeans.”
Makeovers notwithstanding, a more apt title for the book might be “The Truth About Stacy London.” It turns out that the stylist who inspires godlike reverence from her fans is just like them — highly imperfect. London writes about a traumatic bout with psoriasis that started at age 4 and left painful scars on her arms, torso and thighs, as well as dramatic weight fluctuations caused by anorexia and compulsive overeating.
“After 10 years of being the expert, I wanted to make myself a little bit more dimensional,” she says. “I started to feel a little bit boxed in by the idea that people will tweet me and Facebook me and say, ‘You’re so pretty and you have such confidence.’ Well, I don’t feel that way.”
With the book launch and publicity tour imminent, London is terrified. Turning the tables on herself wasn’t so easy.
“Dredging all that stuff up,” she says, “it brought back a lot of pain that I haven’t looked at in a long time. To be honest, I wish I had been in therapy while I was writing the book.”