Showing posts with label Tim Gunn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tim Gunn. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible- Book Review

"We have a glorious design tradition to be proud of here in this country, and it's a shame, in my view, that American designers of today know so little about American designers of the past."
"Every item we wear has a glorious (or sometimes not so glorious) history, and that history extends back years-centuries, even- before Oscar de la Renta's 2002 collection."    ---Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible, 2012
Season after season on Project Runway we get to see young designers who have little or no knowledge of fundamental fashion history. Nothing is more infuriating in this context than seeing a twentysomething guy gets the 1970s and 1980s all mixed up and claim he shouldn't be expected to know any of it because it happened before he was born. Then there's the vacant stare at the mention of Christian Dior's New Look (obviously, 1947 and the Mesozoic Era are one and the same if you were born in 1991). Tim Gunn who must have heard it all by now shares these frustrations and set out to do something about it. After all, he's first and foremost an educator (his short bio on both Facebook and Twitter says: "Educator, Author, Fashion Therapist, Project Runway Mentor"). That's where his newest book, Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible, enters the picture.

Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible was written in collaboration with Ada Calhoun who also worked with him on Gunn's Golden Rules. It's worth noting that the Tim Gunn-Ada Calhoun partnership somehow flows better and reads more Gunnish than his first book, Tim Gunn's Guide To Style that was written with Kate Moloney.  The book takes us on a tour from the beginning (well, not the fig leaf, but the toga, and even touches on cavemen apparel), explaining the origins and reasoning behind past and present fashion:
"In other words, the American wardrobe staple's likeliest origin is this: a German inventor used an English fabric with a French name to make an Italian pant".    --Tim Gunn on Denim
The book covers almost every clothing item in our closets, making sense of their evolution and gives advice on how to choose well. Tim Gunn includes both men and women's apparel and answers some of the most common questions, from what color of belt goes with brown shoes to what exactly to wear for a  formal morning event. In between, Gunn gives us his personal opinions on everything from pleats ("I maintain: never.") to Europeans ("I think of Europeans as being very fashion conscious, but their proclivity for wool socks with sandals is one egregious exception.").  It's an entertaining read just as much as it's educating, and Tim Gunn's beautiful personality shines through.

Now, about the name. I'd bet good money that Tim Gunn wasn't the one who came up with this name. It sounds like something from the publisher's marketing department and I can just about picture Tim Gunn's facial expression when he first heard it. This is a great book, but not quite a "fashion bible", and I don't think the author meant it to be one. Tim Gunn is just doing his part in broadening our sartorial horizon and making us give an extra thought to the clothes we wear, how we wear them, and why it matters:
"We should feel proud if we care about our appearance. I know vanity is supposedly one of the seven deadly sins, but I don't agree. I consider it a virtue. ... I think we owe it to ourselves and to each other to be a little bit vain. Pride may goeth before a fall, but it also goeth before a good social life and career advancement."      --Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible, Concluion: How to Shop With The Past, Present, And Future In Mind.

Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible ($12.74 for the Kindle edition) is available from Amazon.

Photo by Perry Hagopian

Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Tim Gunn!

Making it work since 1953!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Smurfs World Premiere In NYC

My sister will be the first one to testify how much I've always hated the Smurfs. And I mean really hate: I kept hoping that poor cat would once and for all catch and eat these stupid blue creatures. It could have been my favorite episode. So, no, I have no interest in watching the Smurfs movie, but even I have to admit there was a lot of adorableness and fun at the world premiere in NYC the other night.

From the wonderful Tim Gunn (don't forget the new season of Project Runway starts this Thursday!) to my beloved Alan Cumming- everyone seemed to be having a great time. There was also quite a bit of color, playful makeup and accessorizing. Katy Perry went all out there, including a Smurf manicure. Sofia Vergara chose purple, but her earrings were Smurf-appropriate, as were the ones on Brooke Shields. The one eyebrow raising choice was Jayma Mays' lipstick. That chalky coral didn't do her any favors.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tim Gunn- Gunn's Golden Rules- A Book Review

A few years ago when reviewing Tim Gunn's Guide to Quality, Taste & Style I said "The crisp suit is there, but the real man is missing". It almost feels like someone listened, because Gunn's Golden Rules ($14.39 on Amazon) definitely fills up many of the gaps and allows us a more intimate look at one of the most interesting and deserving TV personalities of the last decade.

It's a little irritating that once again the publisher is trying to package Tim Gunn's message as a guide or a book of rules, and that the book has a co-author (this time Ada Calhoun).  I'm somewhat of a groupie and would have preferred to get Mr. Gunn's story unfiltered and in a pure autobiography format. Don't be misleaded by the "Rules" thing- this is a very personal book of stories and anecdotes about the author's life, family and career. Tim Gunn shares with us his philosophy, spirituality, encounters with luminaries such as André Leon Talley and views on human sexuality. He's a big advocate of etiquette and kindness but doesn't confuse manners with owning fish forks (he doesn't). He talks about his own gaffs (regifting!) with the same humor he uses when telling a hilarious story about Diane von Furstenberg and a hotdog.

It's interesting to note how even when telling gossipy stories, Mr. Gunn doesn't crosses the lines into malice territory. That includes the now infamous Anna Wintour anecdote (she was carried by her her bodyguards down five flights of stairs and tried to get Tim Gunn to retract the story until other witnesses came forth), or when criticizing the people who make the wardrobe choices for Suri Cruise. There are some fun Project Runway behind-the-scenes stories (he disliked Kenley just as much as we all did), but it's far less about the dirt and more about the lessons one can learn from it.

The best parts, though, are the more personal tales from Tim's childhood, painful adolescence and career as a teacher. It's fascinating to read about the evolution of the shy and stuttering boy from Washington DC into a worldly fashion authority. The book, like its author, is inspiring in a feel-good way. It's a little flawed (a couple of typos and maybe not enough Project Runway stories) but very human.  Fans of Tim Gunn will find it quite satisfying, at least until he takes the next step and releases a real memoir.

Photo of Tim Gunn signing his own bobbleheads by Gothamist LLC, 2006.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tim Gunn on the Real Housewives Of New Jersey

It's not like we don't have enough reasons already to love Tim Gunn, but what he had to say in an E! interview about the Real Housewives Of NJ sums it up perfectly:

It's like we've gone back to ancient Rome. We've gone back to the Colosseum where we watch people rip each other limb to limb. I want a DNA test-- how far are these women from wild animals?

More Tim Gunn quotes here.

The Real Housewives on New Jersey by Philip Herman
Tim Gunn photo: Abrams Books

Monday, September 10, 2007

Someone needs to say it

Once upon a time, a TV executive in England had a brilliant idea: Let's create a TV show in which an average woman opens her heart and her wardrobe to the scrutiny of two semi-celebs/fashion gurus, wins some tough love and a chunk of money while confronting her demons and her muffin-top in front of the nation. This concept has launched the careers of Trinny and Susannah, spawned an American version and brought Stacy and Clinton into our lives. Your mileage may vary.

It's been years since the first seasons. Everyone and their husbands have learned a few basics. We all know now how to elongate the leg, get our jeans tailored and find a well-fitting bra. I've met people who have drinking games around words and phrases like "Shut up!", "ruching" and "cinch the waist". Trinny and Susannah have started to delve into the psychological aspects of women's wardrobes. They have shows in which they literally walk in the women's shoes: They change places with them, wear their clothes and try to understand what made them buy that hideous Laura Ashley-on-crack dress. Meanwhile, on our shores, Stacy and Clinton have been bringing their 360-degree mirror to exotic locales like Miami, saving the happy winners from schlepping their college hoodies all the way to Manhattan. Not a bad idea, but doesn't show much evolving.

Enter Tim Gunn's Guide to Style.

The show may be trying to go that extra mile: To give someone a fashion makeover combined with a deep and meaningful epiphany (the sound you might be hearing is Stacy and Clinton snorting in amusement). The problem? It fails miserably. This isn't the fault of Tim Gunn and his new sidekick, Veronica Webb. Mr. Gunn is as charming, mentorish and lovable as ever. You'd still want to take him home and let him rummage through your unmentionables. Even with the scary and tall ex-supermodel hovering in the background. You might even tolerate her as a shopping companion, knowing she'll never scream at you or talk about the size of your "girls". Neither would Tim, for that matter.

It's not the concept as much as the format, editing and directing that is failing Tim Gunn. He's as gracious and as authentic as ever. I met him earlier this year in a charity event, and can testify how his charm and manners light up the room and make you feel oh-so-special when he's talking to you. All these charm and grace can't help when molded into a tacky and cheesy opening sequence in which our candidate receives a "surprising" phone call telling her Tim and Veronica are coming. Seriously, this is a script worthy of the HSN or QVC. Who needs it?

The "life coach" (the guy looked 19. How much life has he really seen, to be "coaching" others?) part was edited to death, making the whole session look more goofy than life-changing. While it was fun to watch the dress fitting with Catherine Malandrino, the rest of the show was much more about emotional manipulation, both of the show's subject and of the viewers than about fashion, style or Tim Gunn. I'm all for family reunions and young love, just not with my fashion fix, thank you very much.

Tim Gunn's Guide to Style airs on Bravo every Thursday night at 10 PM/9 CT

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Little Pleasures

Fabulous coverage of fashion week:

  • NY Magazine has photos, videos and interviews and blogs. They also added “The Model Manual,” a guide to over 200 models, with career bios, quotes, video, and photos (50 per model on average), and “Runway Rankings,” live updates of the top 100 favorite (and least favorite) looks from the collections, as voted by readers ( A great time waster if there ever was one.

  • InStyle magazine isn't bad, either, with live coverage, photos and videos. More reasons not to do any work this week.

Also, tonight is the premier of Tim Gunn's Guide to Style on Bravo (10pm/9 C). My TiVo is giddy with anticipation.

(photo from

Friday, May 04, 2007

Book Review- Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style (Tim Gunn's Guide to Style) by Tim Gunn and Kate Moloney

Tim Gunn is all grace and vocabulary, two traits not too common in the world of fashion advice (consider the difference between his "Make it work!" and Stacy London's "Shut up!"). I adore him on Project Runway and was very excited when I got to meet him in a charity event a couple of months ago. He's just as charming in person, the "taste, quality and style" radiating from his perfect skin.

I couldn't take him home with me and make him my best friend and shopping buddy, and neither can any other woman. But someone in Abrams Image realized that they could bank on this female obsession and gave him a book deal. Thus, giving us all a chance to own a little style guide with Tim Gunn's photo on the cover and quotes by Kierkegaard and Jonathan Swift.

My first problem here is with the very question of the real author behind the book. The front cover gives credit to Kate Moloney, who was Tim Gunn's Assistant Chair at Parsons, and whom he calls his "spiritual partner". The blurbs inside the dust jacket, as well as the dedication and preface led me to suspect that it's not exactly a Tim Gunn original. Also, the way the book reads, despite the high-brow literary and cultural references and the several Gunnisms that are woven into it, feel somewhat hollow at places. The crisp suit is there, but the real man is missing.

I might have been more forgiving for the bait & switch trick, if the first three chapters were less boring and predictable. The first one is all about being yourself and dressing for your lifestyle. The second chapter reveals that you should wear items that (gasp!) fit your shape. Here you will learn that clothes that are too big and shapeless will make you appear even bigger. If you hear echos of Clinton and Stacy, you aren't far from the truth. The only saving grace of this chapter is that it uncovers the secret of clothes size in America (and as far as I know also in the UK): it has changed over time, and unless you've only been buying couture (which stayed the same), you need to adjust the size of your clothes accordingly, even if your waistline hasn't changed.

Chapter three is the worst: Editing one's closet. Here you'll be subjected to advice such as "don't keep items that don't fit" and get rid of clothes you never wear". If you are having a mental image of Trinny and Susannah rummaging through someone's closet and tossing out lilac colored capris circa 1989, you'd be totally right. You've heard it all before, but maybe Tim Gunn will succeed where the English ladies have apparently failed to make you finally get rid of that flannel shirt from your grunge days.

It gets better afterwards, despite having some of the usual suspects in the fashion icon chapter. I appreciated the statement regarding fashion risk takers like Sarah Jessica Parker and Chloe Sevigny: "We can admire, but we cannot endorse". The extensive discussion of good posture was great, as well as the chapter about must-haves and the importance of quality in perennial items. I could live without the obsession for ballet flats. There's a lot of other sound advice regarding accessories, such as to forget about the "It" bag and to invest in good quality scarves.

A nice surprise was the sub-chapter dealing with perfume. I'm glad to report that it is far from mainstream and doesn't include advice to wear something light and citrusy to the office. There's a real discussion of scent families, it explains what a chypre is and even endorses less conventional notes. The book doesn't go as far as to explain and recommend niche fragrances, but it's a step in the right direction.

To sum it up, the book is cute and would help you pass a nice rainy afternoon at the bookstore. But it's not the ultimate must-have that you'll find yourself cracking open year after year. Too bad, really. I expected much more than that.