This is the one to watch. All the pre-season fuss about Tim Gunn’s Gunn’s Guide to Style on Bravo! was 100% correct: this is THE makeover show… IF you’re an intelligent, fashion-loving and interested human being. And while it’s tempting to write this off as yet another makeover show (see the strangely uninteresting and bland NY Times review in yesterday’s paper), it’s the details that make this something different and something special.
First, Tim Gunn is a presence and not a "personality." Simply translated, he’s not bouncing around the screen and screaming about how great a dress is or how great it’s not. Instead, Gunn takes the higher and more interesting road with sidekick Veronica Webb and prides himself on asking questions like "why do you do this?" rather than simply add a few new dresses to some lucky girl’s closet. He doesn’t need to coast through the show on enthusiasm but can rely on his experience, education and actual aptitude to make his points.
Second, what makes her interesting to viewers is that she wasn’t just a caricature of "fashion run-amouck." By most makeover show standards she was pretty normal and wasn’t a stereotypical "housewife," "slutty dresser," "tomboy" or the like. Her fashion fears were explored in terms of their universalality (at which point the Lifestyle coach Jarrod Weiss took the reigns) and specificity, which they kept emphasizing with their focus on her moving around, wanting to fit in and what she did (things like walk the dog and her upcoming trip to Mexico).
The third element that lands this show my praise (and I am a tough TV critic and despise most makeover shows) is the fact that it wasn’t a perpetual advertisement. OK, with the exception of Ice.com, Guide to Style the episode wasn’t about people running round shopping and either getting a bunch of cheap stuff or a bunch of pricey goods. While Ms. Malandrino isn’t exactly inexpensive what was emphasized throughout the show was how shopping should feel (not like you’re wrong but the dress is wrong) and the inevitable conflicts. In fact, it was the dispute between Webb and Gunn that centered around a pair of leggings that gives the show it’s charm and authenticity.
Instead of trying to convince thir subject that shopping would solve all her woes, Gunn and Webb emphasized the fact that the experience was SUPPOSED to be exhausting and frustrating and coma-inducing. They wanted to show her a new way of seeing in general and not just a new way to shop. I mean,I don’t think shopping is "fun" but like their guinea pig at the end of the show, I do love beautiful and interesting things– and there is a big difference.
Finally, confronting your fears isn’t a pleasurable experience most of the time, right? And it’s this point that made Jerrod Weiss’ mantra one of the most refreshing things on the show. "I cannot control how I am perceived. I can only control how I am presented." You don’t have to go to grad school and study post-structuralism to figure this out (complete with mirror-stage references and everything.. wow) and it’s nice to hear someone not say the same stereotypical phrases like, "the outside matches the inside" or this is the "real you."
Gunn’s point is more interested in how people’s way of living is the world is at the crux where there is no inside or outside neatly packaged and waiting to come in and out. Fashion is more or less a series of choices you make and to make the choices that give you pleasure and reflect a self that you enjoy you (with Gunn’s assistance) need to figure out why you’re making the choices you do. No smoke and mirrors, no quick fixes and no pain, no gain.– Joanne Molina, Senior EditorSee the Top Ten Summer 2016 Trends for Women Over 40
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