In the early noughties, taste in Britain was largely dictated by two women: Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine. The straight-talking double act stripped women naked, placed them in a stark 360-degree mirror and chucked most of their wardrobes in black bin liners during the process of the often brutal BBC TV show What Not to Wear. I imagine most households received at least one of their spinoff handbooks for Christmas, so as we are experiencing a '00s resurgence, I decided to revisit their style advice to see how their rules stand up in 2017.
The particular book I found at the back of my own family bookshelf was What You Wear Can Change Your Life, which focuses on identifying your body shape, effectively clearing out your closet and finding the colours that suit you. There are many passages throughout this book that I can't quite believe were ever allowed to be printed—according to their philosophy, finding "Mr Right" has a lot to do with the right outfit, and words like "podgy" and "saggy" are commonplace, highlighting quite how much has changed in how women talk about other women (and themselves) over the last 15 years. Their show was all about making women feel confident and empowered, despite the often searing language. My mission, however, was to focus on their trend advice, so ignoring some eye-raising rules on the difference between big bones or small bones and the chapter where they wear fake baby bumps, keep scrolling to revisit what Trinny and Susannah once wanted us to wear.
They thought black clothes were the chief enemy of modern Britain.
In 2017, many of the most stylish women often wear head-to-toe black, such as Ashley Olsen and Victoria Beckham, but according to Trinny and Susannah, "black has become the tedious uniform of modern Britain." This book calls for it to be banished except for "high occasions and funerals."
They explain why it is plaguing our wardrobes: "Black is not a colour. It is an absence of colour. It is drama, a pool of nothingness, a depth. Do not treat black lightly. It is not a background for bright colours, nor is it a catchall shade for shoes, handbags and dreary suits. Black goes with black and that's it." They will allow you to wear black with white, grey and 'bitter chocolate' but have stern words about it being worn with any other colour.
Biker and bomber jackets horrified them.
In their "culling" section, Trinny and Susannah have some strong words to say about bomber jackets: "Bin anything with big shoulders or a blouson style, and certainly bomber and biker jackets—sooo unflattering. Leather jackets can stay if they are fitted." So our 2017 jacket collection is in trouble, then.
Their handbag advice might surprise you.
When it comes to handbags, Trinny and Susannah think the "kitchen sink bag is unsightly," but most surprisingly they question Chanel's classic 2.55 bag—writing that you should bin "anything that is quilted and has a gold chain." Never.
If nothing else, you must own a G-string.
Sales of thongs and G-strings might have plummeted over the years, but Trinny and Susannah were big fans back in 2004. "The G-string gives the VPL freedom," they write. "Low-waisted shorty shorts are great for jeans, but bikini briefs and cami knickers along with any granny pants aren't flattering can go, together with anything discoloured or gaping with loose elastic." Anyone else not exactly sure what these shorty shorts they speak of are?
They are unsure of this season's biggest colour.
Trinny and Susannah are particularly fierce when it comes to colours, so what do they make of this season's biggest hue, red? "Red is difficult to wear and you really must find the right tone for your complexion," they write. We might be advising these days to wear it head to toe; however, back in 2004, Trinny wouldn't have been impressed, as she wrote, "Solid red just wears me but broken up into [a] pattern. … I can just about get away with it."
For more noughties fashion, see our guide to the '00s trends that are back.
Opening Image: Getty