What Not to Wear: World’s Worst Dressed

Wednesday, September 4, 2002 by

In a special edition of BBC2′s bitchy clawfest, the living nightmare of every 15-year-old prep school girl with the misfortune not to a) have thighs like Cadbury’s White Chocolate Fingers or b) have an uncle with a middle-ranking executive job at Channel 4, presenters Trinny and Susannah – whose very names sound like a clarion call to class warfare – decided to compile a list of the world’s worst dressed people, the ultimate offender to be named and shamed on the night.

To pad out proceedings a bit, the “Jobbing Celebrity” Handbook was desperately trawled to bring a style makeover for – gasp – Leslie Joseph and Jeremy Clarkson! You could easily sense right from the beginning that this was going to be an exercise in kicking blind puppies, but nontheless entertaining for all that. Joseph, predictably, arrived to face the firing squad in loud Marks and Sparks cast-offs and her eyes plastered with so much Kohl pencil that she’d “have had to tip her head back to get the lids open” [© Victoria Wood 1989]. It’s undoubtedly sad that sub-repertory theatre panto-hams like Ms Joseph get stuck in the same “I’ve had one famous part and now I’m such a living stereotype that I’m to be found in every hole with a TV camera from here to the end of the world” rut, but having Lesley Joseph torn to pieces for looking like Lesley Joseph was more than a little self-defeating. As the great father of functionalist sociology Emile Durkheim once said: “However unpalatable it may be, for every society to function, there must be at least four Trude Mostues to every one Rolf Harris.”

That said, it was disquieting in the extreme to discover that Lesley actually keeps her Dorien Green outfits in her own wardrobe – leopardskin and all. Not exactly helping her own cause, was she? And mark you, no punches were going to be pulled. After watching a bit of Birds of a Feather, and comparing Joseph unfavourably to Kevin Keegan crossed with a pantomime dame, the loathesome presenters introduced the woman herself, and then started throwing all her clothes across the room whilst slagging her off to the heavens. It sounds like fun – in fact it sounds mightily well-deserved – but it was actually more akin to watching two distinctly vicious playground bullies humiliating the fat kid in the flowery dress. Majorly uncomfortable viewing – Leslie’s defeated “I think they’re a bit sharp” was the very definition of pathetic. “Is there anything about me that you like?”, she wanted to know. I’m still thinking. Answers on a postcard.

Clarkson, on the other hand, seemed to work his affably boorish charm on the presenters right from the beginning; no desire on their part to make him out to be a) old, b) fat and c) dressed like his mother. It was interesting to see the difference. After an initial assessment that he looked like he should be “selling vegetables in the market” (come the Revolution!), Jeremy simply whined at them in the manner of a rather endearing 12-year-old, and tried desperately to escape their fitting-room clutches. “I’m not wearing a blue suit and a purple shirt”, he whined, à la Partridge (“Just try talking, Lynn, and see what I do!”) Apparently he himself hates the jeans-and-Geography-teacher-jacket look, but their suggestions for an update were not at all to his liking. “I know this programme’s all kind of – ‘cushions’ … But I’m a man! I like fighter jets!” This is Clarkson’s world-weary faux-chauvanist schtick, and you either like it or you don’t, but it was highly entertaining to watch. (Trinny: “When I look at this wardrobe I feel …” Clarkson: “Moist?”) The aforementioned suit, apparently, made him look like “a photocopier salesman”: “I’ve never worn a jumper in my life. People who wear jumpers are bullied.” Nuff said.

The list of celebrity fashion disasters themselves was rather odd and contradictory. Joan Collins, for instance, who Trinny and Susannah themselves pointed out was actually one of the more restrained members of the “My wardrobe lived through the ’80s” club. So why the brickbat? Sophie Wessex, apparently, “looks like Nick Faldo”(!): “That’s not a haircut. That’s just something growing out of the top of her head.” Ah, the benefits of the Chingford School for Girls education. Kirsty Young was buttonholed at some party to be slagged off by these (distinctly forgettable) harpies, and looked mightily close to telling them exactly where to stick their braying opinions. Some of the stuff they said just plain didn’t make sense. Chris Evans, apparently, is making a “grubby anti-fashion statement” which is “actually quite pretentious”; Sting, on the other hand, is “cool”, because he has “that anti-fashion thing going on …” Excuse me? J-Lo has a “fat arse”, Gwyneth Paltrow has “saddlebags”, and Dawn French has a “Bedouin” look that appears like she’s “wearing a tent”. Strange sub-juvenile jealousy complexes abound, and both presenters are obsessed with references to “tits”. They do say you are what you espouse …

Bizarrely, there was a brief appearance from David Dimbleby, who appeared to have been accosted in his Question Time dressing room, poor man. His summing-up was majestic: “Now, look here. I think you two are extremely nasty. You just seem to be out to destroy your own sex. I happen to think these ties are delicious.”

Their eventual Worst Dressed person, if you’re interested, was Liza Minnelli. “Her clothes wear her”, apparently. Go figure.


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