Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Men We Love: Tim Gunn

No matter who you are— petite to plus, ingenue to grande dame—  Tim Gunn is on your side. The charming Mr. Gunn, whose professional career is almost a Cinderella story— is one of the best spokespersons the real woman can have in fashion.

Tim Gunn has no axe to grind, no products to push. He is not a designer; his background is in fine art and education. Through 12 seasons (9 years) of Project Runway his role has been mentor to the designer contestants. As is so often the case in fashion, it ain't just about the dress. His advice has ranged from the technicalities of construction to the needs to both "be who you are" and "listen to the judges". Is that not a metaphor for life???? If Tim says, "Make it work" you know he has faith in you to work it.

Can they make it work???

I don't know whose idea it was to "humanize" Project Runway. It would have been easy to alternate unconventional material challenges with red carpet looks. That is fashion with a capital "F". Instead there are also episodes featuring "real women"— teachers or returning soldiers or relatives of the contestants themselves. Through it all, Tim Gunn shows how to weave fashion magic into challenges that may indeed be a challenge. One of this season's contestants was heard to lament, "But I don't dress real women." That contestant will remain nameless because he should be ashamed of himself.

How was Tim Gunn plucked from mortal life to this celebrity? Born and raised in Washington, DC, he graduated from Washington's Corcoran College of Art and Design with a BFA in sculpture. For a time he had a sculpture studio in DC but joined the faculty of Parsons The New School for Design in 1982. He rose through the ranks and in 2000 became chair of Fashion Design, a position he held till 2007. He successfully upgraded the department's curriculum to make Parson's program one of the country's best. Gunn was reluctant at first to participate in Project Runway. He feared it might be a less-than-serious portrayal of fashion and designers, but early on changed his opinion. His appearances quickly became a major component of the show's success. Since then he's written three books, hosted his own spin-off tv series, held a position as creative director at Liz Claiborne and appeared as himself in numerous guest shots.

I realize I've led you off on a tangent. You can find bio stuff on the internet, as did I. It's pretty hard not to like this utterly sincere and charming man. He never ever plays to the camera and manages to deliver the most intense put downs to those deserving of them by saying nothing at all.

It's what he said recently about the state of the industry in regards to those real women that will endear him to you as well. "When I'm working in the real world with real women and we're shopping, we find that fashion seems to end when you get any larger than a size 12. How ridiculous is that?"

He has some choice words for Lord & Taylor (former sponsors of a few seasons as well). "Go to Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue, I think it's the 8th floor, and it's just a department called 'Woman'. ...You've never seen such hideous clothes in your entire life. I mean, it's simply appalling. Thank God there are no windows on that floor, because if I were a size 18, I'd throw myself right out the window."

He has also said "... there are two markets: The women who are larger than the 12, and then there are women who are petite. And most designers that I talk to have absolutely no interest in addressing either of those populations, which I find repugnant."

Imagine this being said not by someone who is grandstanding or out for gain but because he really cares. Ask him, and I'm sure he would espouse on the sorry lack of choices for we OACAs (Of A Certain Age) as well.

Meanwhile I have to thank Zara for coming up with a beautiful dress for an upcoming special event. Disregard the lovely face, undone hair and clunky shoes. This is a dress even a 71-year-old can wear. The lines are simple and skim the body. It's on-trend lace (the nice chunky kind called guipure). It's short ("the legs are the last to go") but skirted with a layer of lace. The arms are covered but lacy as well. It was a reasonable $120 American. Has Zara been talking to Tim Gunn???



  1. I adore Tim Gunn and admire him for the same reasons you articulated. The Zara dress is nice but I have a Karen Kane navy lace dress that I like even better. It is a bit longer but still above the knee and it's made in the USA.

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  3. I love the Zara dress- so great for a special event!

  4. I love the Zara dress. This outfit is really nice and ll give a new and stylish look to the person. I ll make an outfit like this for my birthday. Thanks for sharing this.