Tim Gunn Targets 'Style'-Challenged
'Project Runway' mentor, model Veronica Webb makeover everyday women
"Project Runway's" favorite fashion mentor will take his avuncular personality, impeccable style and pithy catchphrases to his own Bravo show, "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style," sneak previewing on Wednesday, Sept. 5 after "Top Chef" and running in its regular Thursday night timeslot on Sept. 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Loosely based on principles outlined in his book "Tim Gunn's Guide to Quality Taste and Style," the makeover show with a difference takes a logical, intellectual approach to dressing the modern woman. With the help of his accomplice, supermodel Veronica Webb, Gunn gently guides the fashion victim to becoming a fashion victor.
"It's not an intervention," clarifies Gunn. "These women have self-declared their need for help. And basically, they share being in a fashion rut. Veronica and I are not pulling up in a van filled with clothes. We're not telling them what to wear. It's really an education about who they are, with whom they interact and how they want the world to perceive them. It's the semiology of dressing. It's all about the message that our clothes sends and how the world perceives that. So it's very individualized for each person."
Part of the multi-step process includes having the subject eliminate extraneous clothing from their wardrobe, identify flattering silhouettes with the help of 3-D technology, learn which foundation undergarments work for them, select their 10 basic wardrobe pieces and fully embrace the invasive and emotional process as a growing experience.
"We can't want you to succeed more than you do," is Gunn's latest slogan that sums up the importance of empowerment when it comes to the makeover.
Many of the women are in fashion ruts, such as new mothers who feel guilty about spending time on their appearance instead of paying attention to their child. Often, when the makeover subjects have their emotional breakthroughs, Gunn is right there with them, sometimes even getting teary-eyed himself.
"What you see is exactly what you get, and [Tim] has the most even temper of anyone I have ever met in my life," declares Webb. "Tim is the same at 8:00 in the morning, 8:00 at night, 2:00 in the morning. He is always kind, he is always patient. He is always polite. He is always considerate and he is always genuine."
Gunn insists that he's not always that calm or tactful, especially on a recent trip to Capitol Hill to advocate the Design Piracy Prohibition Act.
"I had more senators and congresswomen saying to me, 'Oh, don't pay any attention to my clothes. I'm not a fashion person,'" he recalls. "I finally lost my patience with this and I said to several of them that were standing in front of me, 'You're in an elected office. Don't you feel that your clothes send a message to your constituents about who you are and don't you think it impacts how they perceive you? Don't you think you should care about fashion?'"
In particular, Gunn would like to see Senator Clinton think more about the message her clothes are sending, especially with the 2008 election looming.
"Can I just tell you a presidential candidate who's disappointing me is Hillary Clinton," confesses Gunn. "I wish that the fashion trajectory that I thought she was beginning as First Lady -- I wish that that had continued. I became very excited when she was the senator from New York and I just find her uniform to be, forgive me, a kind of a crashing bore. I wish she'd step it up a notch."
Gunn, who is also the Chief Creative Officer at Liz Claiborne Inc., would probably start Clinton collecting the perfect 10 basic wardrobe pieces that include a basic black dress, classic dress pants, classic white shirt, cashmere sweater, skirt and trench coat, among others.
Gunn is similarly specific about fashion don'ts such as outdated, ill-fitting or unflattering styles. He's especially vocal about certain pet peeves that make him cringe.
"The bare midriff. That's it," he says. "I just don't believe in showing skin that people don't need to see. And I find it's as unattractive on a 16-year-old girl as it is on a 60-year-old woman. Sorry to sound like I'm pontificating ... and I think [Crocs are] just appalling, to be honest."
This doesn't mean that he's exempt from his own fashion faux pas. Gunn admits that he regrets "the first half" of the 1970s and that he's also guilty of hanging onto unstylish clothes.
"A pair of cargo shorts," Gunn says, revealing an item of clothing he's retained. "I know, I should throw them away. I don't wear them, either. So it's silly but they're there."
Webb comments, "That is scandalicious, but it's like Superman keeps a little bit of Kryptonite in a box just to remember."