With TV shows like TLC’s “What Not to Wear” and ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” dominating the ratings, it’s no surprise that makeover features are popular in magazines. From renovations that make your home more “eco-friendly” to style transformations that turn frazzled soccer moms into vivacious vixens, makeovers are all the rage. And some shows, like “What Not to Wear,” are even teaming up with women’s magazines to give the makeover and its lucky recipient even more exposure.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a good makeover as much as the next person. In fact, if someone knocked on my door and offered to make over my closet, kitchen, bedroom or anything, I wouldn’t stop to think before saying yes. One of my favorite recent O, The Oprah Magazine articles takes six shabby guys, nominated by their girlfriends, and gives them head-to-toe makeovers. I have a few friends who would jump at that chance!
My qualm isn’t with the makeovers themselves; it’s with the way these transformations spoil us. Sure, I would love to turn my bathroom into a spa sanctuary with relaxing cool blue walls and artsy tile on the floor. But what if your landlord, like mine, won’t let you paint? Or what if you don’t have the money to spend on new cabinet and faucet fixtures? If Southern Living magazine was redoing my bathroom I’m sure the magazine would foot the bill, but how does that help other readers who aspire to do the same? Wouldn’t it be more instructive to give me tips on renovating within my budget, go to Bed Bath & Beyond with me to shop for affordable shower curtains, and help me rearrange my towel racks and knickknacks?
Maybe along with the before and after photos and a step-by-step breakdown of hair, makeup and wardrobe tricks, makeovers could include more about the person in the chair: What does she have in her closet that she can work with? How can she build her wardrobe without breaking her budget? How much time does she have to spend on her hair, and how will this cut make styling it easier? What staple tones should she add to her makeup palette?
Take Julia Ashenhurst, a housewife who received a Ladies’ Home Journal magazine makeover in the ’50s. Though honored to be chosen, she was photographed in a dress she would never buy, makeup she never wore and a hairstyle that lasted less than a day, writes Mary Ellen Zuckerman in “A History of Popular Women’s Magazines in the United States, 1792-1995.” Julia Ashenhurst summed up her experience this way: “I cannot but question the wisdom and fairness of presenting me as the wife of a teacher and mother of four young children in clothes not my own with a face and hairdo not my own. Even my waist was not my own for I was hooked to a cinch corset which was nearly the end of me.”
Hmm. Something for magazine editors to consider?