Tim Gunn tells Madison how to 'make it work'

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Posted by madcityradio.com on November 23, 2008 at 13:36:44:

Tim Gunn tells fans how to 'make it work'

Project Runway's Tim Gunn brought his fashion advice -- and a few juicy tidbits from the popular reality show -- to an adoring crowd of several hundred people (mostly women and girls) on Saturday afternoon at the Alliant Energy Center.

It was Gunn's first visit to Madison. He arrived to the Edgewater Hotel late Friday night and said he was "thrilled" to be in the "beautiful city."

"When I woke up, there was this huge lake," said Gunn, dapper in a dark pinstripe suit and gray tie. "It's unbelievable. It's stunning."

Gunn was one of the celebrity guests at the 10th annual Madison Women's Expo, an event that featured more than 200 vendor booths with topics ranging from beauty to foods, fitness and health. Several audience members said they had attended the event just to see Gunn.

The mentor to aspiring fashion designers on Project Runway, Gunn is known for his candid opinions and constant pleas to "make it work" no matter what the fashion design challenge. He's also branched out with a TV show called "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style" and has written a book, "A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style."

"I'm not a fashion dictator," he said. "I'm much more of a fashion therapist."

Flanked by seven mannequins in smart outfits and a faux living room set behind him, Gunn started by talking about his book and offered some standard fashion advice, like the "slippery slope (of) the comfort trap."

"I'm forgiving up to a point," he said, but watching people wear pajamas on red eye flights between Los Angeles and New York City, he was stunned.

"There it is! There are no boundaries," he said. "And I think some boundaries should be put back up."

He stressed that the 3-part formula to looking good, fashion-wise, is silhouette, proportion and fit.

"Depending on the variables, anyone can get it right," Gunn said. Whether a woman is "104 or 114, there's no reason to be dowdy -- ever," he said. But there are some basic no-brainers: wearing mid-calf skirts, for example, "is the fastest, speediest route to dowdy. It just is."

Gunn uses, as he put it, the "Socratic method" when confronting a fashion quandary, asking questions to help individuals best achieve their own fashion point of view.

Questions about where a person works, for instance, can help him better offer fashion tips. For instance, he asked dryly, "What if you appear to me as a circus clown? Well, maybe you work for Barnum & Bailey."

To the delight of the audience, Gunn also shared his favorite Project Runway challenge: the first episode of the first season, when designers had to create an outfit using supplies from a grocery store, and Austin Scarlett made a dress out of corn husks.

The biggest "what are they thinking" moment on the show was in the third season, when the judges (Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia) kicked off Alison Kelly over Vincent Libretti. The two designers had made outfits out of recycled materials; Alison made a cute dress but goofed with her model's hairstyle, but Vincent's ensemble looked like a "sandwich board," Gunn said.

There's another "what are they thinking" moment coming up on the next (sixth) season of Project Runway, which has already been taped but hasn't aired, Gunn confessed.

One dress Nina Garcia favored was baffling: "I don't know what she had eaten that morning but it wasn't good," he said. "I'm buying that outfit for Nina and making her wear it."

When asked about how to add color to outfits in a conservative work environment, Gunn pointed to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as a fashion role model for working women.

"Capitol Hill has been a dreadful place, fashion-wise, with the exception of Nancy Pelosi," he said. But, he noted, she's not alone anymore.

"The Obamas are coming to town. Thank God!" Gunn said. "It's a great moment for fashion."

"If Hillary Clinton does become Secretary of State, I'm sending her a few notes about her clothes," he quipped.

After he spoke, hundreds lined up to get Gunn's autograph or have him sign a copy of his book.

"I thought he was wonderful," said Lauren Young, 22, who attended the expo with her mother Kathy Rutlin, 56. The two women watch Project Runway together "religiously."

"He's a very intelligent man talking about something he was clearly passionate about," Young said. "He was extremely genuine. His TV personality matches what we saw today."

"I appreciate his really dry sense of humor," Rutlin said. "His jokes are so appropriate and he really makes his point."

(Katie Dean, 77 Square)

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