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Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 07/31/2009

Catching Up with 'What Not to Wear's' Stacy London: Special Pleat Debate Edition

By Liz Kelly


Regular Celebritology readers know there are few things I truly hate, but among those few number Diane Keaton, Michael Jackson's doll collection and -- most detested of all -- pleated pants (especially on men).

After two frustrating years of debate with some pleat-loving stalwarts, I agreed to submit to the judgment of an expert: "What Not to Wear's" Stacy London, who -- along with fellow stylist Clinton Kelly -- has been beautifying America (one person at a time) for the past six years.

London's verdict? She's firmly in the anti-pleat camp, thankyouverymuch, though allows that one pleat is permissible when paired with a cuffed pant leg.

"My argument is that if you do carry your weight on your lower half as a man," said London in a Thursday phone interview, "meaning your tummy -- or there are men with hips or heavier thighs or even junk in the trunk -- pleated pants just make you look wider."

Okay, so case closed. Now that we've settled that and I don't expect to hear any more peeps from pleaters, read on to get London's take on the Obamas' style ("genius"), more trends to avoid (maxi dresses) and her take on celeb style -- from Kate Gosselin ("cotton jersey") to Lady GaGa ("I don't get it") to Paris Hilton ("trashy").

The full Q&A is after the jump...

Liz: My readers have an ongoing debate about pleated pants -- it's persisted for about two years now. I wanted to get a definitive Stacy London expert opinion: to pleat or not to pleat?

Stacy: Here's the thing -- pleated pants are very traditional. I still have this argument with my father, who is 70, who refuses to believe me when I tell him that flat-front trousers are a much more attractive, sleeker fit. So there is this perception of a pleated pant as somewhat of a more classic sense of style. Especially in Washington the pleated khaki has not budged in terms of workwear or business casual wear for men.

My argument is that if you do carry your weight on your lower half as a man -- meaning your tummy or there are men with hips or heavier thighs or even junk in the trunk -- pleated pants just make you look wider. And while you may have to go up a couple of sizes in order to find a flat-front, a flat-front is still going to give you a longer, leaner silhouette.

As far as suits go, a single pleat is acceptable if you have cuff. It helps to hold the cuff in place. If you're under 5' 9" you really shouldn't be doing a cuff anyway, though, so that's sort of a moot point for smaller men, I think.

Liz: Is there ever an excuse for wearing a pleated pant?

Stacy: Just the one pleat for the cuff and that's it. Multiple pleats look caricature-ish, like you're in a revival of "Saved by the Bell." It's not even that it's traditional. It's not even geek chic. It's just sort of geek nerd. It says "older" to me.

Liz: What about for women?

Stacy: For the past two or three years there's been this trend back toward the pleated pant. Some of this has to do with it's a crop and pleat with a sort of '80s rocker vibe to it. My thing is women should never follow trends just to follow trends. You should wear the thing that looks most flattering on your body type.

Celebrities can get away with it. They're tall or they're tiny. They're skinny enough where they can wear pleats and they don't add volume. But for the average, every day woman I don't think pleats are the way to go. Even with pleated skirts you have to be careful. So my feeling is that for women, it becomes an issue as it becomes a hotter trend women attempt to wear it just because they see it. But frankly, I'd still argue that in terms of body flattery, pleats are not going to do anything for you because women tend to carry their weight in their tush and their thighs.

If you've got the long, lean body to pull it off -- fantastic. But for most of us who are of average weight or size, those trends [pleats, high-waisted jeans, skinny jeans] tend to look unflattering. And whether or not you can fit into them isn't the period at the end of the sentence. To me everything has to fit you well and flatter you.

Liz: What's your take on the Obamas' style?

Stacy: I keep asking Michelle to call me. Not because I think she doesn't have style -- she's one of the most exciting first ladies we've had in a long time because she's involved in style and cares a great deal about what she looks like. But my feeling is that while she's really trying to hit a lot of different notes by using new designers and mass designers. It's genius that she wears J. Crew. I think it would be very helpful to have someone do specific tailoring for her, even with pieces she's buying off the rack. She has an interesting body type and that's where I see she misses -- there are a lot of things proportion-wise that don't look as good on her as they should. I'm talking about the length of skirts, where she's wearing her belts on her waist, a lot of these signature necklaces with complicated necklines that look confusing and take away from her natural beauty.

In general, I think President Obama is doing an incredibly job style-wise. His suits fit him incredibly well. I think as president it's a shame he can't take more chances in terms of color, but I understand that. And in terms of his "dad jeans," they weren't great, but if the man was wearing designer jeans we would've blasted him for that, too. [Liz note: Obama's Dad jeans.]

Michelle really takes her cues in terms of cutting-edge style and that's really making it's way quickly to a mass audience.

Liz: Okay, so let's play style word association. I'll say the name of a celeb and you tell me in a word -- or a sentence -- what you think of his or her style. Cool?

Stacy: Oh gosh, I can try. That sounds daunting.

Liz: So Kate Gosselin?

Stacy: Wow. Really what comes to mind is cotton jersey. I see her in a lot of cotton jersey dresses lately.

Liz: Jon Gosselin?

Stacy: Yeah, umm, uhh -- Ed Hardy T-shirts. Oversized tees.

Liz: What about Katie Holmes? I read where you've worked with her in the past.

Stacy: I just saw pictures of her from her "So You Think You Can Dance" number. She's got legs that go on for days. Sometimes I feel she hasn't defined her style as well as she could. She's looking for it. I think the short haircut was the smartest move she ever made. It was fresh and new and flattering. And I will tell you that from styling her, in person she really took my breath away. Her eye color is almost grey. When I first met her she reminded me of a young Elizabeth Taylor -- everybody used to say Elizabeth's eyes were violet. There's just something so striking about Katie's eye color it kind of stopped me dead in my tracks.

Liz: She was trying to design some of her own clothing last year. Did you see any of that?

Stacy: I don't know how necessary that is. To me that doesn't seem like the right avenue for her and I think that some of the things she was trying to do were too edgy in an unflattering way. Some of those jumpsuits just had too much going on. And I would prefer to see her in high designer clothing that's really well cut for her.

Liz: What about Rachel Zoe?

Stacy: Yeah. Well, Grecian. That's the first word that comes to mind there. She wears a lot of maxi dresses. Look -- the thing about Rachel is I think she has a style that is very particular and has really cultivated that style. Whether or not it's applicable to other people I really don't know. I have a tendency to have reservations about stylists who try to dress their clients like them. I think the most important thing is to understand your clients' needs instead of trying to make them mini-mes. So while the style is great for her, I don't think it's great for everybody.

Liz: Since you mentioned the dreaded maxi dress, can you please tell me this trend is dying?

Stacy: I wish I could tell you that. Unfortunately I think we're going to continue to see them. Maxi dresses have become this sort of fallback. It's a little like the Juicy sweatsuits. It's a mumu that if you show skin up top it's somehow sort of earthy, crunchy and with tousled hair it's flattering. Sure, it's flattering if you're 20 and Lauren Conrad and not a mother of three.

Liz: Okay, so Gwyneth Paltrow?

Stacy: Classic. Very Grace Kelly. She's got one of the most amazing jaw lines I've ever seen. I'm kind of obsessed with her jaw and her neck. She looks like American royalty -- her bone structure, everything about her. Sometimes I think she takes chances that aren't as figure flattering on her as when she plays it a little bit safer. I recently saw her in that silver and gold Versace mini-dress with silver leggings and was like, "whoaa." But when she wears a simple white gown or black cocktail dress she's just absolutely stunning.

Liz: What about Lady GaGa?

Stacy: I don't get it. I have no words for that. I just don't understand. In terms of publicity stunts, I guess wearing clothes that make no sense works.

Liz: Nathan Fillion? (Note: Before the interview, I'd read Stacy's Twitterings, in which she named Fillion as her celeb crushes.)

Stacy: Did you read my Twitter? I have a school girl crush on an actor. I just like the fact that he's made some really pseudo-crappy B horror movies, but has this great caustic air about him. Even when he's acting it's like he knows what he's doing is sort of trashy and I appreciate the irony so much. I follow him on Twitter. I think he's very funny. Very smart.

Liz: So, a couple more... Paris Hilton?

Stacy: Is it terrible to say "trashy?" It's not that she doesn't dress up. She's a really pretty girl, but to me is that the image we want young girls to carry around wanting to emulate. It's too sexy.

Liz: Speaking of too sexy, has Miley Cyrus gotten too sexy?

Stacy: I think she's getting there. I just read about her new clothing line and she was talking specifically about wanting to make clothes she would wear but that were appropriate for girls her age and it's funny how sometimes she crosses that line herself.

But again that's part of the problem with being on such a fast track in Hollywood. Youth is robbed from you in terms of a style point of view. You start needing to compete in this bigger arena and the younger you are and the better your body the more you're going to want to wear the really high designer fabulous sexy stuff that's out there.

Liz: So what celebrity out there has a style you admire the most?

Stacy: Well, my style icons change. I've talked a lot in the past about Angelina Jolie -- not so much for her casual wear, but for what she wears on the red carpet. Halle Berry is one of those people who is absolutely beautiful. When I was doing the Emmys one year I saw her in person and she does take your breath away. She's just stunning. Her skin is perfect. Her body is perfect. And she's 42. I love Rachel Bilson. People talk about her being sort of a style, trendsetter. But watching her and seeing her style evolution, she's smart. She's very tiny and very smart with how she proportions her clothes and puts things together in a really innovative way. I don't know if she has a style or not, but it doesn't look that way. It looks personal. [Liz note: Rachel Bilson.]

Liz: And the worst celeb style?

Stacy: Britney Spears for sure. She's someone who is a beautiful girl who I wish I could make over. And Lindsay Lohan. I've talked about her before -- these are beautiful women who do themselves a disservice by showing as much skin as possible or wearing leggings and a T-shirt. I guess when you have an awesome body you can get away with that, but they have the potential to be and look so much more elegant.

Liz: Thanks so much for talking to me today.

Stacy: Thank you!

By Liz Kelly  | July 31, 2009; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Catching Up With..., Fashion  
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Best line: Don't follow trends just to follow them.

From your lips to everyone's ears. Remember bubble dresses? In miniskirts????

Fashion comes and goes, style is forever.

Posted by: epjd | July 31, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Liz, you made my day! I'm thinking of pulling out some pleated pants and dayglo leggings just so someone would nominate me for WNTW. Would love to hang with her and Clinton!

Posted by: hodie | July 31, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Did a fashionista just call the maxi dress a muumuu? YAY!! Validation!! (I'm a fat chick, I can spot a muumuu a mile away... while I'm still far enough away to run for it and have a hope of escaping.)

Posted by: northgs | July 31, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Finally validation on the pleats-are-bad-mmmkay issue!!!

I'm slowly phasing out the pleated pants from the hubby's wardrobe.

As for my wardrobe, I don't think I've owned anything pleated since I was a toddler & wasn't allowed to dress myself.

Posted by: wadejg | July 31, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

She likes Nathan Fillion too!

Great interview, Liz. She was tactful but didn't hold back it seems.

Posted by: LittleRed1 | July 31, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

A friend of mine did WNTW and said it was a wonderful experience.

Posted by: mdreader01 | July 31, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

One of my fav WNTW whas when they had viewers ask questions and some lady asked if her and Clinton were an item... Priceless.

Love that show!

Posted by: Osteph | July 31, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Ha, was. not whas.

Long day.

Posted by: Osteph | July 31, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I love Stacey!
And, I'm so glad to hear her reiterate the 'wear what looks good on you' rule. I'm 40. I'm short but thin, and can wear a lot of the crap out there now, but so much of it is designed for 20 year old girls who are thin and close to 6 feet tall. I try the stuff on and I just think 'yuk'!
I wish there were more stores for my age range. Too many hookers R Us stores for teenagers and not much else. And, I'm not ready for Talbots just yet.

Posted by: caroleg1 | July 31, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh Stacy,


Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | July 31, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Ha, was. not whas.

As opposed to Was Not Was, may we assume?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | July 31, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

that witch's lock always did it for me... swoon

Posted by: quintiliusvarus | July 31, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Were you not allowed to ask about her first partner?

Posted by: Guest1234 | July 31, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Way to lead the witness. I like pleats. My wife likes pleats on me. When I'm trying to pick YOU up, I'll find my $10 Costco flat front khakis. Until then, I'm sticking with pleats.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 31, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

that witch's lock always did it for me... swoon

Posted by: quintiliusvarus


Wooo hooo witchy woman, see how ·
High she flies ·
Woo hoo witchy woman
She gives pleats the stink eye

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | July 31, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I really like Stacy - she seems like she isn't a snob or stuck up about how beautiful she is. Also, she seems sincere in her desire to help people change and move forward from whatever is holding them back. And honestly, I've learned so much from WNTW. Thanks Stacy!!

Posted by: sh522 | July 31, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Stacy London looks like she got an @ss transplant on her face.

Posted by: bendan2000 | August 2, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm a fit guy, 5'10", 165#, with my ass on backwards: I have a flat butt & a protuberant abdomen. I look better in single pleated pants, and killer in a kilt! And I don't care whether you like it or not. I wear what's comfortable, not what you or the fashion police tell me to.

Posted by: kabuki3 | August 3, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

so you look down at the clothing on the lower half of your body and you see a "pant"?

As in, "I like a flat-front pant," or a "denim pant."?


I'm telling Gene on you.

Posted by: proxl | August 3, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Admiring my svelte figure in the mirror, I noticed that cargo pants perform a similar function to pleats. (Good thing, since they don't perform the "cargo" function very well.) Does fashionista Liz have a problem with cargo pants, too?

Posted by: kabuki3 | August 3, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

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