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Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work

Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work

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Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work

3.5/5 (162 ratings)
265 pages
4 hours
Sep 7, 2010


On the runway of life, Tim Gunn is the perfect life coach.


You’ve watched him mentor talented designers on the hit television show Project Runway. Now the inimitable Tim Gunn shares his personal secrets for “making it work”—in your career, relationships, and life. Filled with delightfully dishy stories of fashion’s greatest divas, behind-the-scenes glimpses of Runway’s biggest drama queens, and never-before-revealed insights into Tim’s private life, Gunn’s Golden Rules is like no other how-to book you’ve ever read.


In the world according to Tim, there are no shortcuts to success. Hard work, creativity, and skill are just the beginning. By following eighteen tried-and-true principles, you can apply Tim’s rules to anything you set your mind to. You’ll learn why Tim frowns on displays of bad behavior, like the vitriolic outburst by Martha Stewart’s daughter about her mother’s name-brand merchandise. You’ll discover the downfalls of divadom as he describes Vogue’s André Leon Talley being hand-fed grapes and Anna Wintour being carried downstairs by her bodyguards. And you’ll get Tim’s view on the backstabbing by one designer on Project Runway and how it brilliantly backfired.


Then there are his down-to-earth guidelines for making life better—for yourself and others—in small and large ways, especially in an age that favors comfort over politeness, ease over style. Texting at the dinner table? Wearing shorts to the theater? Not in Tim’s book. Living a well-mannered life of integrity and character is hard work, he admits, but the rewards are many: being a good friend, being glamorous and attractive, and being a success— much like Tim himself!


He is never one to mince words. But Tim Gunn is always warm, witty, wise, and wonderfully supportive— just the mentor you need to design a happy, creative, and fulfilling life that will never go out of style.
Sep 7, 2010

About the author

Beloved pop culture icon and New York Times bestselling author Tim Gunn is best known as the Emmy Award–winning host of Project Runway. He also hosted two seasons of his own Bravo makeover series, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, and was the host of the reality TV series Under the Gunn.

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Gunn's Golden Rules - Tim Gunn


On Project Runway, I enter the workroom and offer my thoughts—as a mentor, not a judge—on the designers’ work. The advice I give most often is to make it work.

That’s not just a catchphrase. It’s a philosophy I’ve followed my whole life, and I credit it with all the wonderful and surprising success I’ve had as a TV personality, teacher, and writer. What make it work means is that you should use what you have on hand to transform your situation. It’s always possible to use whatever tools you have at your disposal to create something that you’re proud of and that gets the job done.

Far too often in classes I’ve taught I’ve seen students throw out a lot of hard work and start again from scratch. They may wind up with a good garment, but they aren’t learning the skills that are essential to excelling in a creative field: patience, innovation, and diligence.

I love to see students trying to learn as they go along. The designers and artists I admire spend their whole lives learning. Everything they make may not be a commercial success, but every bit of effort they make gets them closer to realizing their vision.

One of the things I admire about Project Runway is that it’s really about developing creative design work. I’ll never forget a woman coming up to me at an airport and saying that she loved Runway because she felt it set such a good example for her nine-year-old daughter. It demonstrates that good qualities of character—like hard work and persistence—pay off, and cheaters never prosper, she said.

Well, that was one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. I love to think that we’re setting a good example in that way.

Few people remember it now, but Project Runway was quite controversial in the beginning. It took the mystique out of the fashion world and said, This is a demanding, gut-wrenching industry. You need a really strong drive and love for the work in order to be successful.

I guess we shouldn’t have been shocked, but people in this industry did not react well. They thought we were taking the glamour out of fashion. The design world had been enshrouded in a kind of veil of mystery, and Project Runway pulled it back to let the world see it for what it was, warts and all. We got some very nasty reviews and some very harsh comments from our colleagues.

But we wanted to tell the truth. And the truth is that in this business, crazy crises happen, like when you’re waiting for the knits to get off the boat from China and the show is tomorrow and the boat doesn’t dock. What do you do? Remove fourteen looks from the show? You make it work, somehow. It’s a fashion 911, and you have to respond to it. You can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.

Now the industry has bought in to the show’s concept completely, and everyone pretends they loved Project Runway all along. Well, I’m happy that the show’s become so popular and that everyone is so full of praise for it, but I do remember those early days, when we were treated as though we were magicians telling everyone how the rabbit got in the hat.

I like to think that my role in the fashion industry has been a bit like Project Runway’s position among reality shows, which is a voice of simple reason. Let others be shimmery and flashy and brilliant. (And no one loves daring geniuses more than I do.) I will always be there in the wings saying, You need to be good to people. You need to take your work seriously. You need to have integrity. You need to work with what you’ve got.

A woman behind me in line at Starbucks the other day introduced herself as an assistant at a popular women’s magazine.

Are you taking a break? I asked.

No, I’m here getting coffee for everyone. She laughed a bitter laugh and showed me a mile-long list.

It’s all in the details, I said. Do everything one thousand percent. You could be editor in chief some day!

I’m afraid she thought I was teasing her, but the fact is I am constitutionally incapable of being snarky. I’m not throwing out barbs and making fun of people. I believe in giving a dimension of seriousness to the whole enterprise of creating and talking about clothes, even to red-carpet reportage, and I’m very proud of that.

As anyone who’s been on the red carpet can tell you, the experience is terrifying. You’re always just a hair shy of enduring a humiliating moment or facing someone who’s just there to make fun of you. I thought: I need to be an antidote to all this horrible stuff.

As many people who watch Project Runway know, I am a stickler for good manners, and I believe that treating other people well is a lost art. In the workplace, at the dinner table, and walking down the street—we are confronted with choices on how to treat people nearly every waking moment. Over time these choices define who we are and whether we have a lot of friends and allies or none.

So how do we do this social thing well? And by well, I mean: How do we become more respectful and further our own goals at the same time? Dear reader, these two concepts are not mutually exclusive; they’re mutually beneficial—and that’s what this book is all about.

To maintain anything like a good working relationship with people, to get by in the world successfully, you need to have good manners. (And you need a sense of humor or you may as well slit your wrists.)

I reflect on manners, or the lack of them, each and every day. There are times when I want to stop the world for a moment and ask certain people some probing questions, such as: All of these people are trying to get off the subway train. Why do you six people think you should enter before we leave? Don’t you realize that if you just clear a path we can get off and you can get on?

In the Internet age, even the very word manners seems antiquated.

Life moves so rapidly these days that it’s easy to feel justified in being rude.

I’m rushing home to the babysitter. That’s why I didn’t say ‘thank you’ to the cashier.

If I treat my assistant humanely, maybe it will be taken as a sign of weakness and I will lose my job.

I get so many e-mails, there’s no time to respond, much less to be eloquent.

With the advent of certain omnipresent technological devices, with chivalry long gone, with message boards teaching young people that anonymous rudeness is acceptable, we are looking at a great amount of change for the worse.

But let us not be swept up in this tide of rudeness. This book (in addition to being a fun excuse to tell some of my favorite fashion-world stories) is a call to arms, a manifesto for kindness, generosity, and integrity. I hope you will join me in trying to make society a friendlier, more polite, and less aggressive place.

Of course, it’s not like I am perfect. I’ve made many mistakes, and I continue to slip up now and then in my effort to behave well. And you’ll hear all about it!

And yet I always atone for my errors, and there are certain fundamental social protocols I’ve come to hold dear: I don’t believe in texting while dining, sending one-word e-mails in lieu of formal thank-you cards, wearing shorts to the theater, or settling for any of the modern trends that favor comfort over politeness, ease over style.

Being a good friend to other people, being glamorous and attractive, being a success are no accidents. Having a rich career and home life are the result of a great deal of hard work.

But that doesn’t mean the work isn’t fun.

In this book, I will share my thoughts on what constitutes a life well lived. These rules are what I’ve always tried to impart to my students and have tried to follow in my own career and social life. In writing these chapters, I’ve tried to think of you, the readers, as beloved students who have come to me during office hours to ask advice, talk over a dilemma, or just hang out.

Good manners lead to better relationships, more career success, and less personal stress. Manners are a relief, not a terrible obligation. It’s my belief that etiquette isn’t cold and formal; it’s warm and flexible. I am very concerned with manners, but I am not a robot. Manners are simply about asking yourself, What’s the right thing to do?

I deeply believe that if we all have this simple question in our minds, we will do right by one another. We won’t always succeed … As you will learn from this book, in the course of trying to do the right thing, I have let a closet full of unopened gifts pile up in my apartment, overextended myself to the point where I almost had a nervous breakdown, and even put a dear old lady in the hospital!

But I’ve learned from every mistake, and I’m eager for you to learn from them, too. In that spirit, I will be offering my thoughts on manners, reminiscing about my own experiences adhering or failing to measure up to them, and telling what I hope are entertaining stories—not too many scandalous ones, but I do have a few doozies …

So please, pull up a chair and let’s start our chat!

Make It Work!

AS A LITTLE KID, when confronted with a difficult situation, I would run and hide somewhere in our Washington, D.C., house. I wanted to escape from the world. School, sports, church, birthday parties—anything social terrified me. All I wanted to do was hole up until the event had passed and I could go back to reading alone in my room.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay hidden for very long, because the house wasn’t that big and eventually my mother figured out my favorite hiding places. But usually it would be long enough to scare the living daylights out of her, which for me was not an unhappy side effect.

As my mother caught on to each new scheme, I got more creative. I think it was maybe the third or fourth time I hid, I actually ran away outside and found a good secluded spot in the yard. I was thrilled when I heard her inside tearing the house apart. Finally, I had really succeeded in terrorizing her. I could have stayed out in that yard forever.

Well, unfortunately for my escapist fantasies, we had a basset hound, Brandy. My mother sent Brandy out to find me, and she did so immediately.

This made me more determined. I thought: I need to get smarter about this. I need to run away with Brandy.

That didn’t work, either, because my parents would yell for me and Brandy would bark back.

Then it became a challenge to run away with her and to keep my hand over her mouth.

The whole project got more and more complicated until, ultimately, I decided it was less trouble just to stay home and be miserable.

In that moment, the seeds of make it work! were born. Running away from my problems didn’t help. I had to face up to whatever it was that I didn’t want to deal with—my homework, an angry parent, a fight with a friend—rather than just trying to put it off until it went away. Until you address them, I have since learned, such problems never truly vanish.

I had to make the best of the bad situation. What I found was that if I did that, the situation would rapidly become less bad, whereas if I hid from it or tried to make it go away, I would get more and more anxious and the situation would get worse and worse. I learned very early the wisdom of making it—whatever it was—work.

The phrase make it work! came later, but it didn’t originate on Project Runway. I began using it in my classroom when I was a design teacher at Parsons, the celebrated design college in Manhattan where I worked for twenty-four years. I found it to be an extremely useful mantra when my students were in trouble.

One such example came during a later phase of my academic career. I was teaching Concept Development to seniors. This was a six-hour class that met once a week for the entire academic year—two fifteen-week semesters. It was a long time to work on a single project, and students learned a lot by having to go deep into their own unique concepts.

The year began with the crystallization of each student’s thesis: five to seven head-to-toe looks that represented their point of view as a designer. (It was Joan Kaner, the celebrated style maven and former vice president of Neiman Marcus, who once said to me, I can tell everything that I need to know about a designer from five looks. I think about that all the time.)

Those looks were executed in muslin (an unbleached cotton fabric used for prototyping) in a corresponding course that was appropriately called Studio Methods. I would visit that class on a regular basis, especially during fittings, which happened every two weeks.

On the topic of fittings, I forbade my students from designing for themselves or using themselves as fit models for their collection. Why? Because when you wear your own designs, you lose objectivity. It’s important that each designer maintain a well-honed ability to critically analyze his or her own work. If you’re only ever designing for your own body, you’d better be prepared to have a clientele of one.

I like the Project Runway Season 7 designer Ping Wu, who famously used herself as a mannequin, as a person even though she’s exhausting to be around. She has so much personality. When I told her at the end of Episode 3, The workroom won’t be the same without you, I meant it! I had to talk Jesse LeNoir off a ledge during their team challenge. He’s a lovely guy and quite talented. He recognized many of the problems the judges saw, but he couldn’t convince Ping to fix them.

When we had the auditions, I found her work compelling but her pieces were all hand knits. I said, "How do you translate this to Project Runway? Would you do sewn knits? They won’t have the same Möbius-strip quality."

In some ways I think she was handicapped by being a hand-knit designer, and by using herself as a dress form. As you may remember, in Episode 2, the model’s rear end was hanging out of her skirt. It was vulgar. Ping’s practice of using herself as a model clouded her objectivity. I think that’s a big part of why she made it only to Episode 3.

One instance in which make it work! came in particularly handy was during the spring semester of 2002. One of my students, Emma, was seriously struggling with the silhouette and proportions of the items that made up the looks in her collection. We had three fit models before us, and frankly, the collection was a hot mess.

I was struggling, too, in my efforts to get Emma to see solutions. What exactly was it that was so wrong? Even I couldn’t describe it. The only word that came to mind was everything. She was frustrated to the point of tears when she declared that she was going to throw everything away and begin again from scratch.

You are not starting over, I responded. Besides, even if I agreed that you should, you’ve put twenty-five weeks into this collection, and it will be presented to the thesis jury in a month. It will be impossible to present anything of quality in that short amount of time. (This was before Project Runway, which would recalibrate my thinking about time!)

Then what am I going to do? Emma asked, looking at me helplessly.

You don’t have time to reconceive your designs, to shop for new fabric, or to make new muslins, I replied. You’re going to diagnose the issues with your collection and offer up a prescription for how to fix it. You don’t need to start from scratch! What’s at the core of this is working. The problems have to do with fit and proportion. Do you need to create new patterns? No! You need to take these existing pieces and retool them. You’re going to make it work!

And she did. Emma’s collection was a success, and she learned so much from seeing it through.

If you look at the process of creating a work of art or a design as a journey of one hundred steps, steps one through ninety-five are relatively easy. It’s the last five that are hard. How do you achieve closure? How do you finish it? That’s the hard part.

MAKING IT WORK MEANS finding a solution to a dilemma, whether it’s a senior-year thesis collection, a difficult boss, or a flat tire. When my students made it work, they reached a new level of understanding about their abilities to successfully problem solve, and that gave them additional resources when moving forward to the next task at hand. When we figure a way out of a tricky situation in our own lives, we learn something and gain confidence in ourselves. Making it work is empowering.

On Project Runway, the phrase serves as a constant reminder of the seriousness of our deadlines and of the finite limitations of each designer’s material resources; in other words, when we return from shopping at Mood, that’s it. Whatever they purchased is what they have to execute the challenge. If they discover that they’re without some critical ingredient, then they’re stuck, and it’s make-it-work time.

There’s a big difference between my relationship with my students and my relationship with the Project Runway designers. When my students were in a jam, I could tell them what to do to get out of it. By decree, I cannot tell the Project Runway designers what to do, nor can I assist them in any way other than through words. I learned this the hard way.

During Season 1, Austin Scarlett was having difficulty threading one of the sewing machines. In my then state of naïveté, I sat down at the machine to help. After all the years I’ve spent around designers, I can thread a sewing machine with my eyes closed.

Within seconds, one of the producers called me out of the sewing room.

What are you doing? she asked. You can’t do that.

It’s just a sewing machine, I said. It will take me one minute to fix.

But if you do that for Austin, then all of the other designers will expect you to do it for them, she said. And if you don’t, then it may be perceived that Austin had an unfair advantage.

I hadn’t thought of that. She was right. I had to let go and watch the designers struggle. It took a little while, but eventually I got used to this new role as a hands-off mentor.

But I still enjoy being a hands-on instructor whenever I get the chance. I love how fresh young minds are, and I love watching them grow to take in new information. It’s so satisfying to see them come out the other end of the school year more sophisticated and closer to knowing what they need to know in order to accomplish their goals.

Truth be told, I never dreamed that I would become a career educator. In fact, it’s ironic, because growing up I hated school. And I do mean hated.

Don’t misunderstand me: I loved learning. As a child, I always had a million creative projects going on at home. But I hated the social aspects of school. I was a classic nerd with a terrible stutter. I preferred the sanctuary of my bedroom, and I was crazy about books because they transported me to another time and place (one far less oppressive than Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School in the 1960s, I can assure you). I was also crazy about making things: I was addicted to my Lincoln Logs, Erector Set, and especially my Legos.

I would spend almost all of my weekly allowance on Legos. And in my youth, Legos weren’t packaged in the prescriptive way they are now; they came as a bunch of anonymous blocks that you would purchase according to size and color, plus doors, windows, and, later—be still my beating heart—roof tiles.

As you can probably imagine, between my stutter and my fetishizing of Lego textures, at school I was taunted and teased. I knew that I wasn’t one of the cool kids, and I never tried to pretend otherwise. I was always the last kid picked for games at recess. (Perhaps it’s no wonder that I hate, loathe, and despise team sports even to this day.)

My big macho FBI-agent father, George William Gunn, was J. Edgar Hoover’s ghostwriter, and he not entirely happy about the oddness of his only son. He coached the Little League team and did everything he could to get me on a sports field. It was a disaster. I was bullied. I was beaten up.

Looking back, it seems like having a tough-guy father would have been helpful, but the truth was, he

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What people think about Gunn's Golden Rules

162 ratings / 27 Reviews
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  • (4/5)
    My daughter and I are big fans of "Project Runway" and Tim Gunn is one of my favorite things about the show. His manner is always so gentlemanly. He is honest, but kind. The book would be wonderful on tape, but only if Mr. Gunn were to narrate it himself.His rules of behavior are what one would expect. His examples are hilarious (most times). He has so many stories of how NOT to behave which feature the creme de la creme of high fashion. You will also learn a lot about Mr. Gunn's family and personal life, much of which is somewhat surprising given Mr. Gunn's status in the fashion and TV world. He was extremely shy, bullied, almost no self-confidence and he studied sculpture -- not fashion in school.Overall, and enjoyable book.
  • (5/5)
    I am a Project Runway fan, but have truthfully only watched a handful of episodes. I was worried that this book wouldn't have the impact because of that, but Tim provided a useful, heartfelt, funny book that is relevant whether you've seen PR or not.
  • (3/5)
    Tim Gunn hereby displays his "golden rules", which are chapters often adhering to old-school etiquette. It's not strict as "respect your elders", but are often somewhat coherent, nice and strict. The book, as a whole, is quite interesting as Gunn has a few very valid points (in my view) and, strangely enough, from a gossipy view contradicts himself as far as not talking pap about people is concerned. Anonymity is mostly not kept, especially when he quotes examples that go against his rules, which mostly is from episodes of "Project Runway"; he often mentions "taking the high road", but sometimes veers from it, methinks.

    His style of writing is simple, clean, mostly coherent and entertaining, for instance:

    Usually people think of me as a surprisingly nice person as fashion people go, but occasionally someone will corner me on the street and say: “You’re so mean!” Often this is because people mistake me for Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear—which I’m sure would disturb him to no end, because I could be his grandfather. When I determine that’s the case, I say, “I think you have me mistaken for—” Then they’ll interrupt and say, “I’ve been watching that show for years!” And I will say, “Then you really should know I’m not Clinton Kelly.”

    I quite liked some of the rules where he simply and strongly states what he believes in:

    With a certain amount of maturity, we can set up our own constraints. That’s a lot of what education is about—letting people set those assignments for us so that when we graduate we can start to set them for ourselves. Even now that I’m in my fifties, I still face certain situations where I have to admit that I need some rules to help me figure out what I should do. Bosses should think of themselves as fulfilling this kind of boundary-giving function that school and parents do. They need to be clear about expectations and rules so everyone knows when an employee is doing well or not doing well. And when expectations are not met, there should be logical consequences, whether that’s the loss of the job, a decrease in salary, or something less drastic. There is no reason, in any case, ever to yell. And yet we’ve all seen it: bosses who lose their tempers constantly.


    When the news is happy, e-mail is fine. You can e-mail congratulations about babies, weddings, anything. But when it’s not? If it’s a death or other bad news, you have to be more formal. I wasn’t the only one who was a little horrified by Ashton Kutcher’s reference to his former girlfriend Brittany Murphy’s death. He wrote on Twitter: “2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany’s family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon.” People use texting and e-mail for everything, but it’s not appropriate for somber situations. If you win an Oscar, tweet away, but if you’re talking about a death or an illness, you need to use more formal channels.

    ...and we also have some tips that I think are quite insane, e.g. where supply/demand should be understood:

    One little technology-taming tip, If you, too, are surprised by typos: I like to print out things I’m working on to read them on paper before I send them off. You miss a lot of things on the screen that are apparent when you’re looking at them on the page. Yes, there is the environment to think of, but—to paraphrase a certain celebrity on the topic of her fur coat being dead when she got it (“I didn’t kill it!” she said)—the tree’s already been taken down.

    ...or he's just downright funny:

    Going to church was not my favorite thing when I was young. From a very early age, I was very suspicious of our priest. My parents thought I was crazy and just trying to get out of going to services, but I said, “No, there really is something weird about that man.” Indeed, one day when I was nine or ten, the priest was up at the pulpit. He went into a silent prayer and … never came out of it. After a few minutes the ushers realized he’d left the plane of reality the rest of us were on, so they had an intervention and took him away. And yes: I smiled very smugly at my parents all the way home.

    The book turns a little dull about half-way, but regains strength appx. 70% in, where Gunn unveils his personal life in many ways, not least where his family life is involved. About his personal life:

    When people hear that I haven’t had a boyfriend since 1982, they often whisper, “Does he not have sex?” That’s right! You know, much of my one long-term boyfriend’s “I’m over this” was about not having the patience for me with regard to sex. I’ve always been kind of asexual. So now I can’t even consider sex without thinking about him and his disapproval. Talk about something that will make you lose the urge. That breakup was a cold shower to last a lifetime. Could I get psychiatric help and resume some kind of sex life at some point? Probably. But it’s a little late for that. And frankly, I am happy being celibate. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had thoughts. I am a human being. But I love my life and don’t feel any need to change it. Getting used to being alone was hard, but now that I’ve made a life for myself alone, I really like it. It’s been years since I’ve been interested in anyone. And I really think if you don’t need it, you don’t need it. As hard as it is for a lot of my friends to believe, I really am happy alone.

    His life-affirming and positive words shine through:

    What do they say: Do what you love and the money will follow? It’s always been true for me. I had no expectation of personal success through this show. I never expected there would be a second season, much less a seventh. And I never expected to get famous in a million zillion years. While we were making Season 1, I just thought, If nothing else, this is going to be great cocktail-party-conversation fodder.

    All in all, the book is part modern etiquette - the bits about using gadgets like mobile phones, laptops, et.c. are brilliant - written in a snappy, elegant, funny and modern way. Simply understood. The parts about where to draw lines in life are also to be saluted. It could have been edited better, but at the end of this book, I felt even more respect for Gunn having read this book, and that comes from somebody who's seen every episode of "Project Runway" so far.
  • (3/5)
    Fluffy fluffy fluff. I kind of love Tim Gunn, and it was delightful reading. His editor should have worked harder to keep everything organized, though. Maybe she did work really hard and he's just a nightmare to edit, I don't know. But lots of the chapters had anecdotes that didn't really fit together. But still, the book is kind of like hanging out and chatting with Tim Gunn, so it gets props for that.
  • (5/5)
    Such s great book from this amazing man called Tim Gunn
  • (3/5)
    A fun, fast, gossipy read that I picked up due to dg's comments at BookBalloon. I've had quite a week, with in-laws and holidays and assorted school-related mini-dramas, and I wasn't quite ready to go back to Parrot and Olivier yet. I enjoyed the juicy bits of this, but the format--Tim Gunn presents his rules for life--necessitates a somewhat self-righteous tone, and so Gunn comes across as more arrogant and judgy in prose than he does on television.
  • (3/5)
    I love Tim Gunn. I was really surprised to not fall head over heels in love with this book. I suspect this has to do with the genre. I don't tend to read self help books. And as much as it pains me to say I found some of his dishing about past PR contestants to be contradictory to his always try to take the high ground advice. I think secretly I either wanted the book to be full of dishy gossip or etiquette tips. It didn't feel right to have both. That said did I mention I love Tim Gunn?
  • (5/5)
    Yup, I still want to be Tim Gunn when I grow up.
  • (3/5)
    Tim Gunn, best known as the co-host of Project Runway, is a man of civility, style and grace. He is a consummate gentleman and always somehow, the best dressed man in the room. His book “Gunn’s Golden Rules; Life’s Little Lessons For Making It Work” is a peek into his particular kind of genius. It is part etiquette guide and part industry dish, but it is also filled with surprisingly solid advice for a well-lived life.

    I originally picked up this book for my sister Bullish or at least I thought I did. After all, she is the family fashionista, while I am the queen of oversized t-shirts and sweatpants. It may seem strange then, that I am also the one who has watched every episode of every season of Project Runway. Initially, it was an ongoing interest in the creative process , which drew me to the show as well as the possibility of “figuring out” fashion once and for all. I’ll admit right quick, that I still don’t understand fashion, am perhaps more confused by it than ever, but I enjoy the show and the process nonetheless.

    These last two years, I have coerced Bullish into watching the show with me. Her favorite bit is near the end of each season, where Tim Gunn visits each of the finalists and critiques their collections a couple of weeks before the finale. His ability to give an honest critique and encouragement to the frenzied designers has earned him big mushy props from us both. The “Make it work!” which has become his catchphrase simply encapsulates the idea of finding a solution to a dilemma with creative thinking and determination.

    “Gunn’s Golden Rules…” cannot help but be a book about fashion, but it is likewise a book about living life with dignity, civility and of course, style. If anything can get me out of sweatpants more often, it just might be this: “You’re navigating a world where you need to have your wits about you. If you’re in a lackadaisical comfort haze, you can’t be engaged in the world the way you need to be.”

    Thanks Tim.
    Carry on.
  • (3/5)
    A bit catty at times, but otherwise an enjoyable light read for people interested in Mr. Gunn and the fashion industry.
  • (5/5)
    I love Tim Gunn... I loved this book, I just wish he could have read it to me outloud over dinner.

    I laughed, I read parts to my mom... it was the perfect book for sitting on the porch and smoking with.
  • (2/5)
    Welll, I do love me some Tim Gunn, but I felt like the title should have been something more like "Gunn's Golden Rules: How I Met a Bunch of Assholes and Felt Superior to Them".

    Lots of amusing Martha Stewart stories, though!
  • (3/5)
    Reading this books felt like Tim Gunn was my grandfather giving me advice on life combined with anecdotes from his experiences. It is a nice and easy read. He often goes off on tangents with his stories, which makes me think this would be a good audio book because the writing is kind of like how people talk. They start off at one point, throw in some stories, get slightly off-topic, then realize and come back.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this book. Tim Gunn really nailed it! It was like hearing my own voice and the things I complain the most about people. There is such a lack of basic good manners, tolerance, kindness and "taking the high road" in our everyday society. What have we been teaching our children? Thank you, Tim Gunn, for saying outloud and pointing out (humorously I might add) bad behavior, the feelings or entitlement by so many people. Made me think twice about my own self and maybe cleaning up my act a little.
  • (5/5)
     I thought it was impossible for me to love Tim Gunn anymore - he is my favorite person on TV, because the warmth and dedication he brings to Project Runway is par to none - but this book is fantastic! It's part etiquette guide, part thoughts of what it means to be, well, just be, and part autobiography. All told in his characteristic clear, direct way - and I believe he is one of the few who can be so entirely unambiguous about their opinions but still remain charming! This book is really a great read, I could barely put it down and enjoyed every second of my time within its pages.
  • (5/5)
    I loved it! Tim Gunn's unique voice really comes through in this advice/tell-all book. He expounds on his philosophies of good behavior, ambition, teaching, and even parenting. The book is deeply personal as Gunn's family dynamics (including his father's relationship with J. Edgar Hoover) and professional life play a major role throughout.A must read for any Tim Gunn fan going through withdrawal when Project Runway is not airing.
  • (4/5)
    Tim Gunn's unique voice and cadence ring true throughout the book. Ernest etiquette tips, juicy gossipy moments from Gunn's life at Parson's School of Design and among various fashion designers as well as life in NYC and growing up as a gay individual are simply and engagingly written.
  • (4/5)
    Artist and educator Tim Gunn, improbable star of the mega hit TV series Project Runway, introduces the timeless rules to succeed in life for a new generation in this, his second published book (the first was A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style). Most of his rules are based on old-fashioned values that have gone dangerously AWOL in modern society, like honesty, politeness, industriousness, fairness, consideration, team work, contributing to your community, etc. You will enjoy this book immensely if you are a fan of Mr. Gunn’s approach to mentoring the designers of Project Runway, but even if you don’t follow the series, this is a book that can be enjoyed on its own. While the rules can get pretty basic (Rule 4: Don’t abuse your power) his way of presenting them, with examples from his own life, make you reminisce about times when you might have broken them, and then banged your head against a wall for having done so.One of the best elements of this book is the way the author talks about very private stuff, without giving away too many embarrassing details. We get to know about the man who broke his heart while Gunn was just a young man in love, and the retrospectively funny story about Anna Wintour, hard-as-nails Vogue magazine Editor-in-Chief.Some of the stories that Gunn presents in the book are so far removed from the experience of normal people (i.e. those who actually work for a living in an average office) that they can be a bit hard to believe, like the story of the young girl and her mother whom Gunn met at a dinner and who talked about the rest of the world as if she was the owner and everybody else in it were her servants, including Tim Gunn. It’s not that Gunn’s exaggerating or lying, but that it can be unbelievable that people like that really exist.The book can get a little sprawling, all over the place, but Gunn’s voice remains authentic all along. This book was co-written with Ada Calhoun, author of Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids, and founding editor-in-chief of the online magazine Babble.com.
  • (4/5)
    I picked up this book because I had watched Project Runway here and there...well, haven't seen probably the last five seasons minus a couple episodes I saw. Needless to say, Tim was one of my favorite people. He always combined two things I love in a person honesty and kindness. This book was, as the title suggests, about "making it work." Making it work means, work with what you have and make it great! He shows in his book that this can be applied to all topics: money, relationships, time, environment and more. The name dropping and fashion references passed me by, as I personally have never had an interest in the wearing "what's in" part of fashion. What I liked about the show and Tim is that it focused more on creativity. Though the book is not amazing and at times sporadic, but isn't that our thinking. Our thinking is never really flowing. So, all in all, I really enjoyed it. Tim has A LOT of stories to share. I did laugh out loud to a few of them. Some we did not agree on, but more importantly he was very good at laying out his perspective. I enjoyed it!
  • (5/5)
    I learned a lot about fashion and I have a new respect for Tim, who is an overall smart guy. I loved his rule book – the rules were little lessons about life. These rules are not like the repetitious stuff in most self-help books – these were a breath of fresh air.
  • (4/5)
    If you know who Tim Gunn is, then telling you that this book is like sitting down to a cup of coffee with Mr Gunn and listening to him talk will give you a very clear idea of what this book is about. In chapters loosely organized around various "rules", Gunn tells us about his life, dishes a bit about the excesses of the rich and famous (especially those who work for Conde Nast) and shares his approach to life, which can be summed up by take the high road, good manners never hurt anyone and, of course, make it work.Gunn comes across as a man comfortable in his own skin, but having had to struggle to reach that. He reveals details about his own life that could fuel a pretty good misery memoir, but he's good-hearted and optimistic and doesn't dwell on any of it, but moves directly on to fun stories about the fashion industry or a bit of gently delivered advice. This was altogether an enjoyable and happy read.
  • (3/5)
    Tim Gun's motto is "You can be too rich and too thin, but you can never be too well read or too curious about the world." Another motto could be that there are many worse things than a room temperature nut {a reference to a comment made by Martha Stewart). What a delightful man. He indicates he can be prickly at times, but he believes in honesty, education, hard work, setting boundaries, and living a life that brings you and others happiness. Then he gives hints on how we can do the same. It was a pleasure spending a couple of days with this enjoyable book. It was also a kick to find that I was right, The Countess from "The Real Housewives of New York" is tacky.
  • (5/5)
    It's about time a prominent figure in today's society comes out and tells the world "It's NOT about "ME"! He gives GREAT advice to follow in life, right down to talking about his own most embarrassing moments, and tunring them around to 'make them work'.
  • (4/5)
    I really like Tim Gunn. On Project Runway, he comes across as kind, warm, and sage--all characteristics of a good mentor. However, Gunn's Golden Rules which is a sort of memoir/advice/etiquette book, does not reveal Gunn's good side. First of all, the writing lacks elegance or wit. Gunn (or, perhaps, his "co-writer", Ada Calhoun) writes in short, blunt statements. He tells, rather than shows. He injects exclamation points in a way that comes off as cutesy. And he flits from anecdote to anecdote with only a slight thread holding the overall narrative or message together. The amateur writing makes it difficult to enjoy the book.But worse than that is the relentless gossip and martyrdom. Gunn name-drops and tells unflattering (if funny) stores about not only big wigs, such as Anna Wintour and Diane von Furstenberg (who, one could argue, deserve to have their vanities revealed), but also smaller people, such as Emilio Sosa and Kenley Collins from Project Runway. This is where Tim lost me. I thought it was low of him to gossip about the very people he mentored not very long ago. The gossip is made all the worse since Tim spends half the time declaring etiquette and simple politeness a lost art. If he values integrity and "taking the high road" so much, why does he stoop to the level of supposedly petty or vain people? I can understand that Tim wants to give his point of view, but it only makes him come off as 1) a hypocrite and 2) a powerless martyr. Although Tim holds all the cards in this book--after all, it is HIS book--his gossiping and complaining about how Emilio and Jay Nicolas Sario "didn't like me" make him come off as oddly submissive. It was surprising and disheartening.Throughout the book, Tim shares wisdom and good advice--but nothing relevatory. Some of his stories (Anna Wintour being carried downstairs by bodyguards rather than take an elevator) are hilarious, but many others are ho-hum. Overall, Gunn's Golden Rules is pleasantly entertaining, but also a little depressing and disappointing.
  • (4/5)
    Gunn’s book, “Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work,” is a light-hearted, motivating, and inspiring work that all readers can really appreciate. His eighteen lessons illustrate to his fans and readers that one can learn how to live a well-balanced and respected life. With humorous personal anecdotes (of family, fashion, etc.), his readers can “meet” the real Tim who the public has grown to love and respect through his involvement on “Project Runway,” and take his lessons and apply them to their own lives.I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the show, of Tim, or just seeking some good-humored advice about life.
  • (4/5)
    Part etiquette, part memoir, and part gossip, this book has much to recommend itself to various audiences. Fans of Project Runway will appreciate the behind scenes Gunn includes about various designers throughout the different seasons of the show. His descriptions of various fashion designers' behaviors may not surprise anyone who intently follows the fashion scene. I found the stories from Gunn's teaching days to be particularly amusing, especially when it involves his students. My husband is a studio art professor, and Gunn's stories echo what I hear from my husband. Its an easy read with a light tone. All in all, I would recommend this book to most people, but especially to anyone who is entering college for art or design.
  • (3/5)
    This is an instance where my Kindle is the best thing ever. I pre-ordered Gunn's book and boom! there is was on the day it came out. Love that.This book is subtitled Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work. Naturally. As an avid fan of Project Runway, I often wish I had a Tim Gunn in my life. With this book, I kind of do. Gunn is a huge advocate of manners and I'm a somewhat less huge advocate of manners. We both agree that technology is getting in the way of people interacting with each other. People now live in their own little bubble that they forget there are humans around them and whoops, that was a human they just ran into without so much as an "Excuse me". Gunn realizes that he probably sounds like a schoolmarm and I do too. It's not that hard to just pay attention to the people around you, although it obviously IS that hard now.Gunn shares many many behind the scenes stories, not just of PR, but of the fashion world. God bless the dishy man. He talks about his family, about how Make It Work came to life, and how to navigate the world ... nicely. While most of me agrees with him, I recognize that I suffer no fools and have no filter on my mouth. I have gotten much better at taking the high road in life, but I'm still apt to take the low road on occasion. A lot of Tim's advice I knew to be true. Yes, things would function so much better if people did have manners. Things would function better if I had better manners (although in today's society, I'm probably a schoolmarm too).Tim is very frank about his past relationships and current single status. As one perpetually and happily single person, I want to give him a hug. Like he said, it's perfectly fine and normal to be happy and single. I've been preaching that for years!I love fashion but often look like a clown dressed me, so I admire it from afar. Gunn is my mentor into the fashion world. May he keep writing books and being on my television to make this middle of Indiana girl feel like she can be fashionable and polite.