From the first time I saw him on Project Runway, I have been madly in love with Tim Gunn. He’s probably the single person from the world of fashion I most want to gossip with over home-baked scones (I’ll make the scones, Tim! Call me! Or would you prefer pie? I rock at pie). So when I heard he was getting his own show, I was excited. Then I heard it was a makeover show and I cringed.
I hate makeover shows. Most of them seem to involve people being hijacked by their nearest and dearest, and then bullied by complete strangers. More often than not, the goal seems to be to make the victim cry and then brainwash her into wearing what the hosts like rather than actually teaching her anything about herself or her clothing choices. It concerned me – in the Tim Gunn version of the lexicon – that he would associate himself with that sort of entertainment.
Then I started hearing more about the show. My soul perked up and I put away my hanky of disappointment. In fact, I liked what I was hearing so much that I put aside my distaste for makeover shows and gave it a try on Thursday night.
I ought to have trusted Tim all along. Unlike so many shows, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style isn’t about hijacking unsuspecting victims, but offering help to those who want it. This alone puts it head and shoulders above other shows of the ilk. The thing that makes it even better is that the subject makes all the decisions. Tim and former model Veronica Webb advise, cajole, encourage, and occasionally chastise, but the woman is always in charge of the final decision from what to remove from her closet to what she wants to replace it with.
Education is a big part of the program. In the first episode, the subject, Rebecca, is shown different lines on a computer model of her figure to help her learn in a non-threatening way what cuts are best for her, and sent to a lifestyle coach who helps her build self-confidence before she goes shopping for the ten wardrobe pieces Tim insists every woman needs. Over the course of a few days, she went from being terrified of anyone noticing her waist or breasts to reveling in her femininity and owning her curves in a big way. Instead of living in badly fitted jeans and dull tee shirts, she learns to wear pretty dresses and makeup. As her fashion confidence builds, so does her personal confidence.
By the time Tim takes Rebecca shopping at Catherine Malandrino’s, she understands how her body is built, what makes her comfortable, and that not all dresses are built for all bodies…so if the dress isn’t flattering, it’s not because there’s something wrong with her or with the dress, but they aren’t meant to be together. Watching her strut her stuff in a gorgeous, flirty dress in a huge navy blue and grass green print on a white background did my heart good. She hadn’t been thrust into someone else’s mold, but had learned how to express herself through clothes. The self she discovered in the process is beautiful and every inch her.
There are a couple reasons I won’t be calling on Tim and Veronica myself, not the least of which is the fact that nobody but NOBODY is ever going through my underwear drawer but me. And I was frankly skeeved by the fact that the show provided a new diamond and platinum engagement ring for Rebecca’s husband, Augie, to present to her. Also, readers of this space already know what I think of the Little Black Dress that Tim feels every woman should have and would insist on me picking up. More than that, he feels one of the fashion musts for every woman is a trench coat. Sorry, but if I wear a trench coat I look like a bad Humphrey Bogart joke. I’ll stick with the glorious purple suede coat I already have that makes me know just how damn much I own the planet and the sky that comes with it.
But I’ll be watching Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, too. There are some great tips to be picked up and it just plain feels good watching someone learn to feel better about herself. Besides, it’s not just for skinny girls! Next week’s episode features a woman who has lost nearly one hundred and fifty pounds, and is still every inch a Big Girl. By the end of the episode, I fully expect her to hold her own with any fabulous fashionista reading this blog.
The primary lesson of the show is one I think everyone here can get behind: to help each woman find her own style and her own beauty.
Or, as was so beautifully stated in the mantra Lifestyle Coach Jared Weis gave Rebecca: “I cannot control the way I am perceived, I can only control how I am presented.”
By the end of the show, Rebecca was presenting an amazing, gorgeous, vibrant, confident woman. Somehow, I think that’s what people are going to perceive, too.