Have you ever been asked this age-old question – if you could invite any five people in the world to your home for dinner, who would they be? Would your dinner guests be historical figures? Philanthropists? Poets or politicians? It’s a fun question to ponder, but I can tell you without hesitation who I would place at the very top of my invitation list. The host of Bravo’s newest hit show, Tim Gunn. (Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, Thursdays at 10 pm EST)
Most people recognize Tim Gunn from Bravo’s exceedingly popular prime-time show, Project Runway. Tim was catapulted into fame when viewers couldn’t help but fall in love with his discerning-yet-nurturing personality as he mentored hopeful designers with signature phrases, “Carry on!” and “Make it work!”
No stranger to the fashion world, Tim Gunn spent twenty-five years at Parsons The New School for Design, most notably as the school’s Associate Dean, and as Chair of the Department of Fashion Design. Currently, he serves as the Chief Creative Officer at Liz Claiborne, Inc. Rounding out his impressive list of credentials, Tim Gunn is the author of the book Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style, upon which the Bravo show is based.
In advertisements, Tim says, “Your style. My rules.” He isn’t kidding. Each episode, co-hosted by supermodel Veronica Webb, begins with the strict rules of The Contract, laid down by Gunn himself. Women seeking to discover the fashionista within must agree to participate in every aspect of the journey, whether triumphant or heartbreaking. That includes letting Tim and Veronica poke through their dainties.
After agreeing to The Contract, the purging begins. Using Tim’s list of the ten essential elements of every woman’s wardrobe, Tim and Veronica ask the women to divide the contents of their closet into piles – keepers, menders, throwaways and giveaways – in an effort to begin finding the building blocks upon which fashionable, interchangeable outfits are made. Tim’s “visceral” (as he calls them) reactions to some of the items in the closets make the entire show worthwhile. While Tim prepares his upcoming lesson on fashion, he temporarily turns the women over to confidence-building experts, including supermodel runway coach Benny Ninja.
Three words – proportion, silhouette, and fit – create the mantra that Tim Gunn emphasizes with each woman in her personalized lesson. In the second episode of the season, Tim teaches JeAnne, an amazing woman who shed 145 pounds through sheer determination, dedication, and perseverance, that at-or-above the knee skirts are the correct proportion for her frame, and that properly-fitting undergarments provide the foundation for properly-fitting clothes.
Never let it be said that Tim Gunn is an enabler! Handholding while shopping is not part of The Contract. Armed with a close friend or relative, and Tim’s list of the ten essentials, the women must brave the stores alone, searching for items that will not only make them look and feel beautiful, but will “wow” Tim and Veronica, as well. Once Tim and Veronica give their stamp of approval to the selected items, Tim takes each woman to visit a “very special friend”, also known as a very famous fashion designer. The engaging, charming, and delightful Tim Gunn must have an infinite number of very special friends, and I imagine Bravo will never run out of designers who would be willing to take part in any venture involving Tim.
Some may think the most emotionally charged parts of the show involve reuniting with family members or hearing the word “beautiful” as a descriptor. I find the visit to the designer’s shop to be the most moving moment. Many women like me - “regular” women with "regular" bodies - only dream of a chance to walk into a famous designer's showroom and walk out with one of that designer’s creations on a hanger. The designers featured on the show so far, Catherine Malandrino and Carmen Marc Valvo, seem genuinely happy to dress women who are truly appreciative for the opportunity. Could anyone but Tim Gunn make this possible?
New hair and makeup, a special gift from Tim, and a fashion show for friends and family round out the Tim Gunn experience. At the end of every episode, I’m elated for the deserving, lovely women whose lives have been changed by the touch of Tim Gunn’s expert, caring hands, and I take away a bit more knowledge about proportion, silhouette and fit. And I’m jealous. Very jealous.
Tim Gunn, please consider this an open invitation to dine with me at my home. If your schedule won’t permit it, I understand. I’ll just push back the dinner hour to 10 o’clock every Thursday evening and pretend.