The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

November 21, 2010

Linda Cannon, book review: Gunn opens up in fashionable ‘rulebook’

JOPLIN, Mo. — I’ve always watched “Project Runway” and liked Tim Gunn, so I thought I’d give his new book, “Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work,” a go.

There are 15 rules. All the rules are set forth and accompanied by examples, both good and bad, to illustrate.

Many of the examples are from the fashion world, ranging from the famous (such as Anna Wintour of Vogue) to contestants on “Project Runway.” There may be some knives sharpened for Mr. Gunn after some folks get a load of his stories about them.

The first rule is “Make it work” (his best known catch-phrase), meaning “Find a solution” to whatever dilemma is at hand.

The second, “The World Owes You É Nothing,” is a protest against all the “entitled” behavior that seems so common these days ranging from the famous on down.

Examples include Wintour being carried down five flights of stairs (she’s a healthy woman who was in her forties at the time of the incident) sitting on the linked arms of two bodyguards. Evidently, there was one freight elevator at the fashion show site, and Ms. Wintour doesn’t like being in elevators with strangers. Evidently, she doesn’t like to wait either, hence the rather silly spectacle of her leaving in such a manner.

Rule No. 3 is “Take the high road.” When possible, he advises, avoid conflict. You’ll feel better about yourself and others will feel more kindly toward you.

It’s a matter of good manners and also self-interest. As he points out, you may have to deal with someone again in future, and it will be easier if you haven’t made an enemy unnecessarily.

Rule No. 4: “Don’t abuse your power--or surrender it.” Abusing people is not nice and can backfire on you, so behave but don’t let people walk over you.

Rule No. 8: (I’m skipping some in interests of space) is “Physical comfort is overrated.” Not that he wants everyone to be miserable, but he is in the fashion industry and hates the oversized and excessively casual clothing people wear in order to be “comfortable.” Nothing wrong with jeans and a T-shirt, but they should fit and be clean and well-cared-for.

Dressing appropriately for the occasion is also emphasized. You may like to wear sweats all the time, but that’s nothing anyone should wear to a wedding!

Some things are never appropriate as far as Gunn is concerned: No one should expose their midriff unless they are at a gym, beach or pool. Low rise jeans? Fine, but wear a top that covers the waistband, particularly when you bend over. I’m with him there!

Rule No. 10: “Be a good guest or stay home.” Poor Tim apparently hadn’t developed rule four when he had a semi-permanent guest some years back.

A colleague was in the habit of sending her family to the country in the summer, and foisted herself off on Tim Monday through Thursdays two summers in a row. He writes, “I was living paycheck to paycheck and buying groceries for two. I would get home earlier than she would and would cook and leave her food. She would get home, collapse into a chair and say, ‘Meat loaf again?’ She never even bought a bottle of wine.” Now, that’s a bad guest.

Aside from the rules, there’s a fair amount of scoop on Project Runway personalities, designers and judges alike, and a great deal about Tim’s own life story. He is a very shy man and abhors conflict, so growing up with a macho FBI agent father (J. Edgar Hoover’s ghostwriter) and a rather difficult mother made for considerable discomfort.

At the time of the book’s writing, the 57-year-old had still not officially come out to his mother and she simply willfully disregards the fact of his sexuality -- up until the last couple of years, she tried to fix him up with various women.

In his acknowledgments, he writes “Finally, I must thank my family, especially my mother (God willing, she won’t read this book, because it may kill her).”

My guess? She’ll continue to ignore the obvious and he’ll keep avoiding the conflict, but here’s hoping for a nice outcome for the gentle Mr. Gunn. 

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