Trans Joy

‘What Not to Wear’ was ahead of its time on trans representation, and these viral clips prove it

What Not to Wear was infamous for the cruelty of its hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, who would tear their fashion-challenged guests’ wardrobes to shreds before giving them complete makeovers. But when it came to its handling of trans topics, the show was much kinder than you might expect.

In Season 11, Episode 7 of What Not to Wear, London and Kelly styled trans woman Casey D., a firefighter from Philadelphia nine years into her transition. Several clips from the episode recently went viral on TikTok, and for an episode that aired more than ten years ago in February 2013, its portrayal of Casey is a breath of fresh air.

The first clip sees Clinton and Kelly critiquing Casey’s pre-makeover style, which involves low-rise khakis, plaid sneakers, and an athletic skirt. But even as they diss her, they do it with respect, something all too rare for the time.

That’s not to say London and Kelly went easy on Casey — they certainly still had plenty of cutting remarks about her pre-show fashion choices. But they never made digs at her transness, instead treating her like any other woman they had on the show. It may sound like the bare minimum, but for 2013, treating trans people with respect on national television was far from the norm.

The comments were in agreement, sharing how wonderful it is to see London and Kelly helping Casey feel comfortable in her skin.

“I’ve never seen such supportive roasting,” joked one commenter.

“I feel like this is the most respectful I’ve ever seen them,” wrote another.

“It’s so hard trying to dress yourself as an adult who’s transitioning because you didn’t have the teen years to figure it out like everyone else (myself included),” shared a third. “I’m so glad they’re supportive.”

In perhaps the most heartwarming clip of the episode, Casey gets her hair done by stylist Ted Gibson. He wants to make a radical change, but Casey’s not so sure.

“In the transgender world, our hair is kind of our power,” she explains. “It’s the first thing we work on, and it kind of gets to the point where we just keep growing and then get afraid to cut it. I mean, I know it’s long and it’s not that stylish, but the point is it’s long.”

But she decides to trust Gibson’s judgment, and he gives her a dreamy layered cut and red dye-job that makes Casey’s jaw drop. She jumps from the chair and gives Gibson a massive hug — cue the waterworks.

“I feel gorgeous,” she says in a confessional. “I’ve never felt pretty, and I think that’s one of the reasons I avoid the word so much, because I’ve never actually felt it. Now I feel it. I’ve never felt this good.”

The comments section was similarly in awe of Casey’s transformation.

“With the blue eyes?!? Are you kidding?!? She looks STUNNING!” wrote one commenter.

“I will never get over the complete 180 in her demeanor just from a simple styling,” commented another. “She went from reserved and nervous to happy and confident. You can tell in that moment that she truly loves herself.”

A final clip sees Casey get the wardrobe to match her new ‘do, and London and Kelly’s work more than paid off.

As one commenter suggested, maybe it’s time for a reboot of What Not to Wear, but with the twist that “all they do is help trans and NB people dress better.” A whole series celebrating gender euphoria? We would like to see it!

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