Review #9: Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making it Work by Tim Gunn


Tim Gunn, oh what a refreshing breath of air you are. This year I’ve read mostly action, horror, and murder mysteries or thrillers. Picking up Gunn’s Golden Rules was like the ideal palate cleanser (not unlike the sorbet he described that he thought was a palate cleanser but turned out to be dessert). I am now ready to return to my usual world of serial killers, cops, lawyers, etc., but thank you for reminding me that it is important to pull myself out of my reading niche every once in awhile. Shaking it up is a good thing.

Tim Gunn made his rise to fame as the funny, but polite, mentor to the designers on Project Runway. Fans of the show fell in love with Tim, and I think most of us wish we had someone so supportive and encouraging in our lives. “Make it work” became a nationwide catchphrase. It was clear that the majority of the contestants adored him and respected his opinion, and we scoffed at those who ignored him or acted like they knew better. Who knows better than Tim? No one! Also, Tim is clearly a gentleman and I like to think he was a bit of a role model to others in similar positions as him.

His book definitely reflects his gentlemanly side, as Tim gives us his modern take on etiquette and manners. He discusses dress codes, holding the doors for people, subway behavior (yes Tim takes the NY subway!), gift-giving, being a guest, and being a host, among others. Some of what he says may be obvious, but when you have Tim Gunn saying these things, you might be more inclined to assess your own “bad” behavior and pay a bit more attention to your manners.

Tim also shows a bit of a bitchy side as he offers up anecdotes about celebrities. I enjoyed his stories about the fashion world the most. This is a world I will likely never get to enter, and their gossip rarely makes it to the tabloids. Did I love hearing about Anna Wintour being carried down stairs? YES! Did I also love hearing the stories of photographers, editors, and models behaving badly? Of course. I am only human after all. I love hearing how I can be a better mannered person in society, but also hearing about all the drama Tim has witnessed. No reason I can’t do both right?

Tim also shares with us about the start of Project Runway and his role in it. I loved reading about this. Project Runway has been one of my favorite shows since Season 1, but it is a mystery in a lot of ways, so this was fun to read about. I also enjoyed all his tidbits about the designers and judges.

We also get to hear more about Tim’s personal life, from his father being an FBI agent to his heartbreak nearly 3 decades ago, to his struggle as a gay (but also, slightly asexual) man. I think these were my favorite pieces to read about. Tim’s relationship struggles and decisions to no longer date are all too real, but also very sad to read about. He offers advice to young gay readers as well which is truly lovely.

It’s unclear how much assistance Tim had in the actual writing (he alludes to possibly having some in his Acknowledgments), but I like to think the entire thing was written by Tim. His voice is incredibly strong throughout, and he flits between stories quickly with lots of asides. This was mildly distracted at points, but ultimately worked because it feels like TIM wrote this and not a ghost writer. I laughed out loud at several points, and felt reverential at others. I was a bit sad when I got to the last page, as I could really “listen” to Tim all day long. Overall, I truly enjoyed this book. I’ll end with my favorite quote from the book.

In discussing weddings of the rich, where they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an over-the-top event:

“I always say in a case where you’ve already broken the bank (as on one of those ridiculously priced designer handbags), you should spend 10 percent less that you’ve budgeted and give that extra money to charity. Your wedding guests won’t notice if there’s one less tier of oysters and lobster claws, but 10 percent of a fortune can make a real difference to people who truly need it.”

What a wonderful idea. I think everyone, rich or not, can do this.