Tim Gunn's Guide to Style

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
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Makeover show is solid, but not a runaway success.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Instead of emulating impossibly skinny models and celebrities, women are encouraged to embrace their own bodies and strive for their personal best. As part of the closet-cleaning process, they're also asked to donate unwanted items to "Dress For Success," a charitable organization.


Women are sometimes told they look sexy, but that's as suggestive as it gets.


"Ass" is allowed to fly, but more serious offenders (like "s--t") are bleeped.


Brand names and fashion designers (including Catherine Malandrino, John Barrett, Trish McEvoy, and Ice.com) are prominently featured.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this reality-style makeover show primarily targets adult women, but its content is fine for most teens. Language is clean for the most part, and the show also imparts positive messages about self-acceptance and body image. The only real downside is that the show subtly reinforces materialism by promoting expensive brand names and luxury retailers that are woefully out of reach for most Americans.

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What's the story?

With the premiere of Bravo's Project Runway in 2004, buttoned-up Parsons fashion design chair Tim Gunn became a pop culture icon (and, let's face it, a bit of a media darling) with his calls to "carry on" and "make it work" and his casual usage of 50-cent words like "zaftig," "sturm und drang," and "faux bois." So it was almost a given that Gunn would get his own show, reality-style makeover series TIM GUNN'S GUIDE TO STYLE. But diehard Runway fans may not be quite as taken with Gunn's latest venture. In each episode of Guide, Gunn and his partner in crime, former supermodel Veronica Webb, agree to work with a woman whose personal style is in need of some serious rehab. But the tone of their mission is so serious that it robs the makeover process of any sense of fun. Gunn and Webb even make their charge sign a strict contract outlining the rules of the makeover experience -- and since they don't make it clear what will happen should their student violate the terms, viewers are left to assume the worst.

Is it any good?

Aside from its inherent starkness, the show also suffers from some minor pacing problems and a few awkwardly scripted opening segments in which the makeover recipient answers a phone call, only to find out (with a forced sense of surprise) that Gunn and Webb are on their way to her house. The show would certainly be stronger without those elements. On the plus side, Guide offers an intriguing take on the makeover process by using a computer-generated schematic of a woman's actual body to show her how different clothes can subtly enhance -- or grossly exaggerate -- her shape. This leads to several valuable "take away" lessons that can be applied to everyday life and real-world fashion emergencies. Bravo, indeed.

In short, Tim Gunn's Guide to Style can be a little bit boring, yet it's ultimately educational and inspiring to watch a young woman who used to loathe her curves slowly learn to love her hips, among other epiphanies. (It's also entertaining enough to motivate a certain TV reviewer to go through her own closet and eliminate at least two troubling tops that did absolutely nothing for her.)

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why so many people -- especially women -- judge their self-worth by the way they look compared to others. When you shop for new clothes, are you more concerned with buying a pair of jeans that are trendy and popular, or a pair that actually flatters your shape? Do you ever catch yourself comparing your body to other people you know and wishing you looked a different way? How does our current culture of celebrity worship contribute to the way we feel about ourselves? And can changing the way you dress, do your hair, or put on make-up really change your personality?

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