I’ve been watching TLC’s What Not To Wear for so many years now that when I’m in a dressing room and feeling particularly indecisive about a garment, I sometimes think to myself, “what would Stacy and Clinton say?”
But for Delaware County native, Frances Ruiz, channeling the fashion gurus is much easier.
Eight months ago, the contemporary fantasy writer and Swarthmore College computer science academic support coordinator was going about her day as usual when BAM!—out popped the loveable duo and their camera crew.
Ruiz took their $5 thousand credit card, braved the dreaded 360-degree mirror, had her entire wardrobe criticized and trashed, shopped till she dropped and finally, underwent a complete style transformation.
Before her episode finally airs tonight at 10 p.m, I talked to the 28 year-old about her experience and what it was like having to reveal so much about her personal life to a national audience (such as the fact that she only recently had her first kiss). Oh, and of course, I had to find out what Stacy and Clinton are like when the cameras aren’t rolling.
So how would you describe your old style?
My style before the show consisted mostly of hand-me-downs. I rarely bought clothes for myself. If anyone I knew was about to donate a bag of clothes to a local charity, I would always go through the bag first. I was not very picky, but I did have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with stripes.
Were you familiar with the show prior to being ambushed and if so, why didn’t their fashion tips ever sink in?
Yes, I had seen the show before. But I never really stopped to examine my own style. Most of my family is as fashion-challenged as I was, so no one had ever given me a hard time.
How did you wind up getting nominated?
When I reconnected with a very fashionable childhood friend in NYC, she was appalled at my wardrobe choices and felt compelled to submit me immediately. That said, she was very sneaky about it, so I didn’t have a clue.
Did you ever regret accepting the $5 thousand or consider backing out?
When I was ambushed by my friends and Stacy and Clinton, I didn’t consider declining. A five thousand dollar shopping spree is very appealing, and in the moment you sort of forget that there are rules you will have to follow. I did have a few difficult moments during the filming, especially at the beginning. Once Stacy and Clinton came shopping with me, though, things went much better.
I’ve always imagined that Stacy and Clinton are a lot of fun behind the scenes, but that they both have moments when they completely loose their patience. What were they really like?
Stacy and Clinton are so nice! It is clear that they both get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people. The look of joy on Clinton’s face when I came out in my final outfits was just priceless. Both Stacy and Clinton are hilarious, and the atmosphere on set was very fun because they were cracking jokes all of the time. I was really impressed by how they could be so entertaining and witty on the spot.
Did they make any jokes that you felt were really below the belt?
Even though they can be somewhat harsh in their criticism, deep down they have good intentions, so I never felt like I was under a personal attack. I felt like they were on my side, trying to help me, and they always listened seriously to what I had to say, even if they didn’t agree.
Is there anything that they trashed that you wish you had gotten to keep?
Honestly, there is nothing that Stacy and Clinton threw out that I miss. Being on the episode opened my eyes to how old and worn out most of my clothes really were. After the makeover experience I found pretty much all of my old wardrobe to be entirely unappealing.
What would you say was the best piece of advice you got from Stacy and Clinton?
That you absolutely have to try something on before you reject it. I can’t tell you how many times I thought something would look horrible on me based on how it looked on the hanger, but with Stacy and Clinton’s prompting, I tried it on anyway, to find it looked great. They also gave me many invaluable pointers about how to define my own personal style. Before the show you would never have heard me say, “oh, that outfit looks great, you just need an accessory to tie it all together.” But now you can routinely hear me giving that exact advice to my friends.
As much as I like to shop, I imagine doing it morning to night for two straight days was absolutely brutal.
My shoulders got sore from trying on so many different outfits! I actually lost count of how many stores we went to. I can confidently say that I did more shopping in those few days than I had ever done in my entire life. Since the show was filmed, I have been shopping a lot more.
Since most of your old wardrobe consisted of hand-me-downs, was it hard to shop in all those high-end boutiques they sent you to?
I definitely had a lot of sticker shock! However, I do find that the quality of the clothes I got is quite good in comparison to some of the cheaper items I’ve bought since being on the show. After several washes, the cheaper clothes are already fading and showing some wear, whereas the clothes from What Not to Wear still look brand new. So, there is definitely a benefit to buying the more expensive brand-name clothes, within reason. I always wait to shop until I can take advantage of sales, though, because it still pains me to pay full price.
What would you say was the worst part of the whole experience?
Getting asked a lot of personal questions on TV. I tend to be a very private person, so it was uncomfortable to be asked to be so open with personal details of my life.
And the best?
Probably the knowledge I gained, and my newfound appreciation for fashion. Of course, just getting to meet Stacy, Clinton, Carmindy, Ted, and the rest of the What Not to Wear team was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.
Are you planning to throw a party tonight to watch your episode?
I am actually a little nervous to see the episode, so I am going to watch it by myself first. Then I plan to get together with some of my friends after that to watch it as a group.
Here’s a before and after of Ruiz. To witness her entire transformation, remember to tune in to TLC tonight at 10 p.m.
Premiering tonight at 10 p.m. (right after one of the greatest reality shows of all time, What Not Wear), the show is a lot like Project Runway, but with glue guns instead of sewing machines. And considering how many cooking/baking reality competitions there are on TV these days (I swear there’s got to be at least 50), it’s about damn time a network jump on the craft movement.
For those who haven’t seen the commercial, here’s the overall gist: each week three contestants are given one hour to create a popular craft item using surprise materials during the “Pop Craft” challenge. Judges Jo Pearson (author and creative expert for Michaels), Stephen Brown (author and founder of the dollar gift wear company Glitterville Studios) and Erica Domesek (author of the DIY book, “P.S. I Made This”) will then evaluate their creations and eliminate one contestant. The other two will have to really prove their skills in the ultimate crafting battle royal aka. the “Master Craft” challenge.
Acting as a mentor to the contestants is the show’s host and executive producer, Tori Spelling who it turns out, is quite craft enthusiast. It addition to penning a new party planning book titled, “celebraTORI,” the limelight leech even has her own line of craft products, “The Tori Spelling Collection.”
In tonight’s episode, the contestants must create a fashion-forward duffle bag out of sports equipment and for the “Master Craft,” the final two will be making a playhouse out of school supplies.
I’m definitely tuning in. How about you?
Those in attendance at last night’s PFW event did not disappoint—they came to the glamorous affair appropriately dressed to the nines.
Held outside under the Headhouse Square pavillian, luckily the weather cooperated. Though, they should have given more thought about forcing women to walk on cobblestone in heels for two hours. After three influential voices and talents were awarded for their contributions to Philly’s fashion scene—including Inquirer fashion writer, Elizabeth Wellington—the runway show finally began…
First up were the vintage fashions of several local consignment/thrift shops including, Philly Aids Thrift, Twice Boutique , Green Street Consignment and some really sexy heels from Bus Stop Boutique.
Next, three local design students wowed the crowd…
And then guests were given a sneak peak at some of the upcoming PFW designers…
And then the grand finale! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch the names of the two lovely ladies who designed these incredible dresses and for whatever reason, they aren’t posted anywhere…
Oh, and I almost forgot–chef Dana “Sugar Daddy” Herbert from TLC’s The Next Great Baker brought some very fashionable treats…
Here were my two favorite looks from the night…
**All photos courtesy of Nicole Leyrer (who did her best despite having to compete with the incredibly bright lights and a group of wild photographers)