Anyone who's ever watched TLC has probably both laughed and cringed, and finally applauded, at the work of fashion gurus Stacy London and Clinton Kelly on the cable network's long-running reality hit, "What Not to Wear.' Together they've taken hundreds of fashion neophytes and retrofitted them for work, love and life.
So how do you get to be a leading TV stylist, not only with your own show, but with juicy endorsement deals that can keep you in designer fashions for years to come? London took the traditional route, first getting a top-notch education at Vassar College, although it wasn't in fashion. London had a double major in 20th-Century philosophy and German literature -- which begs the question, where did she get her trademark expression of shouting "Shut up!"?
It also leads you to wonder how she so successfully transferred into style. It was a summer internship -- in Paris at Christian Dior's public relations department -- that helped London decide she'd like to pursue fashion as a career. She got a position as a fashion assistant at Vogue magazine, worked her way up to senior fashion editor at Mademoiselle, and also gained experience as a celebrity stylist for stars including Liv Tyler and Kate Winslet.
In 2003, London began hosting the makeover show 'What Not to Wear,' and it was an immediate hit (Kelly joined the show is Season 2). Audiences warmed up to London because she can relate to them, confessing that she has had weight issues of her own, and that she's been every size from 0 to 16 at one time or another.
As a brand ambassador for products like Sprint, Pantene, Woolite, Dr. Scholl's, and Riders by Lee, among other products, and a contributor to 'Today,' the 'Early Show,' 'Access Hollywood' and various other news and entertainment programs, London knows a thing or two about style in the workplace. She's helped people from every walk of life sharpen their images and stand out as a professional, rather than blend in as drab worker bee -- or, worse yet, appear lackadaisical about their jobs.
London sat down in an exclusive interview with AOL Jobs to discuss how, in the workplace, clothes really can make the man or the woman:
Q. What are the trends for work attire in 2011?
A. I don't think that work attire has trends from season to season. Suits are always appropriate, but I think that people are feeling more and more comfortable wearing polished separates, rather than just suiting in the workplace.
In womenswear, I think we'll see a wider trouser this season, more '70s inspired, but ladylike will still be relevant in terms of the huge 'Mad Men' influence: pencil skirts and kitten heels are not only work appropriate but comfortable.
In menswear, we continue to see a narrower pant. The skinny suit, much like the skinny jean for women, is becoming de rigeur these days.
Q. What is your favorite and least favorite work attire trend? Why?
A. It's not "trends" per se that I find better or worse but the interpretation of them in the workplace: for example, "business casual." This is a term that most people completely misinterpret. Somehow we forget all the "business" and just go with "casual." Even if you have casual Fridays and can wear jeans to work, wear a nice dark wash -- well-fitting jeans, not the ones you change the oil in your car in. Wear a blouse and a cardigan or a button front shirt and an easy sports jacket, not an extra large T-shirt from your local bar.
Q. Is it more important to be comfortable or look stylish at work?
A. It's essential to be both. You should never sacrifice one for the sake of the other. Comfort without style can look messy and inappropriate in business surroundings. Style without comfort will make the wearer LOOK, not just feel, uncomfortable -- which in and of itself, is not stylish. Clothing that fits properly will be comfortable; heels with added insole support can be comfortable; soft, wearable fabrics will feel comfortable; and all of these are essential to looking stylish at work.
Q. What do you recommend people wear to look and feel authoritative and empowered for a job interview or important meeting?
A. Well, suits are great for conveying an image of authority, for sure. For men, suiting is ALL about details of the way it fits. I don't think men have to play it safe with a white shirt and solid tie. I like to see bolder prints in the tie, even just a strong stripe or check, contrasted by a softer similar print in the shirt. You don't have to get too crazy. The suit can have a "neutral" print (meaning from far away it looks like a solid, like houndstooth, windowpane, glen plaid) to add even more visual interest.
Women can obviously wear suits (pant or skirt) as well and pair them with more feminine, colorful or textured tops. An alternative option for women is dresses, ones that are tailored well and appropriately hemmed at the knee. Straighter cuts in womenswear like pencil skirts and sheath dresses tend to have clean lines, which can look very authoritative.
A. A comfortable closed toe heel for suiting and separates, a pencil or simple A-line skirt (depending on preference and body type) and a suit -- ideally one that comes with a jacket, pant AND skirt option to make it as user-friendly as possible.
Q. What not to wear? Give us some examples of items no man should ever wear to work.
A. Rubber flip flops (unless he's a lifeguard at a pool), shorts (unless he's a lifeguard at a pool or a beach), or really any kind of sandal -- that just seems weird in a work environment: looking down and seeing Larry's hairy toes. Yuck.
Q. What not to wear? And examples of items no woman should ever wear to work.
A. Anything that reveals too much cleavage, or ANY tummy or too much skin, period. And anything sheer to the point of distraction. Oh, and leave the stripper heels at home, too.