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Lesson in ‘What Not to Wear’ to Grammys

AP reporter enlisted some help — fashion mavens Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, who give weekly makeovers to fashion wrecks on the TLC series — to help her buy her Grammy dress.
/ Source: The Associated Press

It’s hard to feel sorry for a celebrity who turns up at an awards show looking like a fashion “don’t.”

After all, when it comes to looking fabulous, the A-listers — shoot, even the D-listers — have all the help in the world. Designers trip over themselves to give them free clothes; they have someone to tailor-make any frock for their size-two frame, and on the day of the event they have an army of stylists to make sure everything about them looks perfect.

On these occasions, it’s actually the poor souls stuck in the same galaxy with these megastars who really deserve sympathy: the behind-the-scenes artists, assistants to the stars, industry insiders, and perhaps the most fashion-challenged of them all, the media.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: no one is looking for them on the red carpet anyway, so who cares? In theory, they could wear a fitted potato sack and no one would be the wiser.

But everyone wants to look somewhat classy when they are going to be in the presence of a Beyonce — even if they know they’ll never be blessed enough to look like Beyonce.

So as this Associated Press reporter attempted to picked out her outfit for this year’s Grammys, I enlisted a team of my own — fashion mavens Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, who give weekly makeovers to fashion wrecks on the TLC series “What Not to Wear”. If they can make a woman wearing a feather bob and an ‘80s sweater look good, surely they can make me look fabulous for Grammy night.

Looking red-carpet ready at discount pricesThough I wanted to look worthy enough to rub shoulders with celebrities, I didn’t have celeb money, so we met up at the ultimate discount trendy shop — H&M. It only took the well-dressed duo minutes to pull a plethora of possibilities: a paisley coat, an orange dress with a plunging neckline, a white beaded baby-doll cocktail dress, and a satin blue dress, among others.

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While some celebrities may spend weeks selecting their Grammy duds, I only had a couple of hours. So I tried on, and they critiqued at a quick pace. A pair of high-waisted pants? “It’s looking a little MC Hammer — the ‘80s are back, but we don’t want to bring them back THAT much,” London smirked.

“What I like about this is that this narrows your waistline,” Kelly surmised as I squeezed into one dress — saying the magic words every woman wants to hear.

As they surveyed the possibilities, they also threw out a few tips:

“In general, when you’re going with stuff that’s probably a little less expensive in terms of quality, black is always very basic, it’s always going to look expensive,” said London, as we crowded into a dressing room while I threw another outfit on my frame. “When you go for color prints, you want to make sure that what you’re doing fits really well, because the materials probably aren’t as expensive as if you were shopping at Armani.”

Also, I learned, it’s a big mistake to go shopping for that perfect little dress for a specific special event. Instead, just go shopping for a perfect little dress — and pick it up anytime, whether the event is months away or not even in the cards. Otherwise, you’ll be harried and pressured, and choose an outfit that you’re likely to be disappointed with in the long run.

Get thee to a tailor!
Once you get that outfit, go to a tailor and get it fitted just for you. That’s something completely foreign to this reporter: I admitted, rather shamefully, that I’d never been to a tailor — a statement that elicited a look of complete shock, then befuddlement, and, finally, deep admonishment from London. (It was similar to the look when she found out I once wore a corduroy outfit to the Grammys — you had to see it, it wasn’t that bad).

“It’s something you are going to have to get used to doing,” Kelly said in a serious tone, as if talking to a student who has admitted never doing homework.

Finally, after about a dozen outfits were strewn about the dressing room, the outfit was found: a black mod-style mini-dress, with a lace collar and embroidery down the front. Cost? $69. I also picked out a couple of backup options for other events during Grammy week, including satin black pants and a white-and-black print satin top.

But we weren’t done. Just to make sure I don’t mess up the outfit, London wrote down instructions to pull off the look, including no “everyday” jewelry. That means that as much as I may love my cross necklace or rings I’ve had since college, ditch them: “People make this mistake all the time,” London lamented.

Instead, she suggested a nice cocktail ring, drop pearl earrings and no necklace at all. They also suggested specific makeup, shoes and accessories, and insisted on a trip to a tailor and a lingerie shop (most women are wearing the wrong bra size and it only took them one glance to determine I was one of them).

They left me with one more bit of advice on my goal for the evening: Forget about trying to out-Beyonce Beyonce.

“No one can compete with Beyonce,” laughed Kelly.

With their help, though, I might just get closer to her stratosphere.