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What Not to Wear: A Few Advices


What Not to Wear is a TV show currently airing on BBC Lifestyle, and hosted Lisa Butcher and Mica Paris. The show’s purpose is helping people solving wardrobe malfunctions. The format of the show consists of inviting a person, a woman most of the time, where usually a friend or a relative who is aware of the wardrobe malfunctions asks the program for help.

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At the arrival of the guest, the program’s hosts, who are experts in fashion, take a close look at her problems, usually with a parade in underwear, in order to know the specifics of the body and its proportions. General advices are given at this segment of the show, after which is given a particular budget and left on her own shopping, where she is expected to follow the advices given earlier.

The shopping process is documented on camera, and each time the guest makes an attempt for a wrong purchase, the experts stop her, making comments directed to her and to the viewers, explaining the bad choice. At the end of the show, the guest is going through a process of transformation, in which she is dressed beyond recognition and make her appearance in front of an audience, after which the guest should state if she is convinced or not with her new look, and will she abandon her previous style in wardrobe.

The target audience of the show can be examined through narrowing the audience of the channel, or the channels, in which the show was broadcasted to the genre of the show and finally to the program itself. The slogan of the BBC Lifestyle, as the title implies is focusing on the lifestyle directed toward “home, family and life” (BBC).

Looking at other channels at which the show was aired, it should be stated that with the exception of the hosts, neither the format nor the content of the show changed, since its premiere in 2001. Thus, being aired within the schedule of the BBC3 channel, which target audience’s age group is known to 24-35 (Wells), it can be assumed that What Not to Wear is fitting in the same target audience, and the same age group.

Switching to the genre of the show, which is reality makeover TV, it can be seen that it is generally a female genre, and thus the target audience can be set to 24-35 females. As explained in Notes on ‘What Not To Wear’ and Post-Feminist Symbolic Violence by Angela McRobbie, addressing women was primarily resulted from the changes in their identity, where the competition between them is associated with women no longer defined by their male environment.

It should be mentioned that makeover programs being a subgenre of the reality TV format, the distinctions between such shows such Extreme Makeover and What Not to Wear is in their opposing views on surgical involvement. Accordingly, the unwritten slogan of What Not to Wear can be assumed to be “proper selection of wardrobe is enough for transformation”, and thus the emphasis on consumption and shopping is greater than in surgery-based programs.

The reflection of the target audience can be seen in the intended association of the viewers with the guests nominated in the program. In that regard, the footage of the guest’s homes, their wardrobes, relatives, and friends, directly acknowledges the group targeted by the show. Accordingly, the representation of the hosts in the show, the role models in terms of the style objectives that should be reached, as middleclass women, implies that the target audience would be fitted into the category of middle and lower middle class, possibly extending to the skilled working class (lower supervisory and technical occupations). The sum given for shopping in the show can also reflect the targeted audience, i.e. £2000.

The program is somewhat slow paced, where enough emphasis is given to the background of the participant and her style, habits and wardrobe, so that the association of the viewers is clearly outlined, and which can be seen as a distinct characteristic of reality TV. The shopping tour in the program can be seen as one of the elements fitting to the target audience, and one of the uses of product placement in the show.

The shopping centres and the retail stores does not include the selection of clothes for the upper class, and thus the viewer acknowledges that the change sin the wardrobe can be performed using the sum given by the show. Analyzing the average earnings for a full-time female worker in UK, it can be seen that as of 2008 it reached about £480 a week.

Considering that wardrobe purchases are not that frequent for the assigned group, specifically considering women with children and families, it can be seen that the money given and the choice of shopping stores is perfectly selected, so it can be affordable for the target audience of the show.

In addition to the product placement in the program, the type of products that can be seen during the advertisements reflects the target audience as well. As seen on BBC Lifestyle channel, the episode aired on the first of November 2009, contained advertisements for cosmetics, hygiene products, and perfumes, which can be also reflecting of the female target audience. Nevertheless, the show sometimes has episodes with male participants, an approach that can be seen as an extension of their target audience. However, the majority of the episodes are fitting into the established female audience.

It can be seen that targeting specific audience is detailed process, the reflection of which is contained in the slightest details of the broadcasted program. In that regard, it can be assumed that changing such element as the brands of the cloths purchased by the participants can shift the audience either by narrowing or extending in gender or age group. Accordingly, the interest in such specific group, rather than the upper class, can be seen in that population with high income in upper classes, constitute smaller portion in the population, and thus advertisers are not interested in niche products during prime time.


The show’s popularity also can be traced to the shift into the reality TV culture, in which people can associate themselves more with the participants of the show, or have the ability to peek into their lives. Playing on such popularity, the main revenue of the channel is coming from advertisers, where the show is adjusted toward the appeal of their average viewer and the advertised products.

Works Cited

Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. “Earnings”. 2008. Office for National Statistics. Web.

BBC. “About Bbc Lifestyle”. 2009. BBC Lifestyle. Web.

“What Not to Wear “. 2009. BBC Lifestyle. Web.

Franco, Judith. “Extreme Makeover: The Politics of Gender, Class, and Cultural Identity.” Television New Media 9 6 (2008): 471-86. Print.

McRobbie, Angela. “Feminism after Bourdieu.” Feminism after Bourdieu. Eds. Adkins, Lisa and Beverley Skeggs: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004. Print.

Murray, Susan, and Laurie Ouellette. Reality Tv : Remaking Television Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2004. Print.

“The National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification”. 2008. Office for National Statistics. Web.

Wells, Matt. “Bbc3 ‘Trapped by Youth Obsession’”. 2004. The Guardian. Web.


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