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What to wear in recession

Series looked for bargains before economic downturn

Before the economic downturn separated many fashionistas from the cash they once used at high-end boutiques, TLC’s “What Not to Wear” had already been advocating smart shopping at more reasonably priced stores for years.

In fact, co-host Stacy London says she makes a deliberate effort to wear and show clothing from retailers that are likely to be affordable and approachable for viewers. It’s part of a strategy to make her recommendations on the show actually doable for viewers in real life.

“Style doesn’t have a price point,” she says. “And we’re very conscious that when people are concerned about just having enough money to cover the basics, spending a lot of money on their wardrobe isn’t realistic.”

London is openly enthusiastic about stores like Gap and H&M, which often feature pieces inspired by the latest trends as well as basics like classic trousers or white cotton shirts. She’s also excited about mass retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart partnering with designers like Rodarte and Norma Kamali to create stylish lines that aren’t costly.

“Before you go shopping, you really need to create a budget that works for you and pick stores that make sense for that budget,” says London. “I love stores like Zara because they do a lot of great pieces, and most people aren’t going to be able to afford Chanel.”

It’s part of what Jane Tranter — exec veep of programming and production for BBC Worldwide Prods. — believes makes the show so successful, in any market where it airs. Tranter thinks it’s a fundamental desire to want to better yourself and that the show puts the methods within reach of the viewer.

“Everyone wants to make the most of what they have, look the best they can look,” Tranter asserts. “So, when they show you how to make 25 outfits out of 8 pieces and you can get those basic pieces at a shop near you, then it’s a lot more fun to watch.”

London is also quick to point out that the thing she really wants viewers to spend on their wardrobes is not money. It’s time.

“It’s not about the $1,500 suit,” she says. “You don’t have to have that to look great, but you do need to put the time into thoughtfully selecting the pieces of your wardrobe so that they work together — and then you should have them tailored to fit you.”

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