How to Get the Right Look for Your Lips

Six simple steps for picking the best shade for your lips and making the color last, from makeup guru Laura Mercier, author of The New Beauty Secrets.

Let’s start with your lip care routine. This involves gently exfoliating your lips and treating them with a balm that both nourishes and moisturizes. Exfoliate as often as needed using a special lip scrub, a gentle face scrub, or even your toothbrush. Don’t ever use anything harsh, like a loofah. The skin on your lips is much too delicate. I like to exfoliate my lips in the shower. Once I’m out, I cover them with a thick coat of balm. Give the lip balm time to sink in and do its job. Once you’re ready to apply your makeup, wipe off the excess lip balm with some tissue. You don’t want too much emolliency because your lipstick or lip gloss won’t last as long.

You should also practice good lip habits such as drinking enough water. Your lips dry out quickly when you’re dehydrated. Smoking is the worst habit for your lips because it stains, dehydrates, and cracks them.

The Right Shades for You
Once you understand the lipstick and gloss colors that are most flattering on you, you’ll be able to create a variety of lip looks. Best of all, you won’t waste money on colors that don’t work. To begin, you need to know the lipstick or gloss tone that’s right for your complexion. All shades can be divided into two families — warm tones and cool tones. The cool ones include anything with a hint of blue — mauves, fuchsias, milky pinks (imagine fuchsias mixed with white), purples, blue-reds, and berries, just to name a few. Warm tones have a hint of yellow or orange — browns, chestnuts, brown-pinks, beiges, taupes, caramels, corals, and orange-reds. If your skin tends to be yellow or sallow, shades from the cool family will probably look best on you. Extreme warm tones tend to play up the yellowness of any complexion, so try them if your skin is on the pinkish side.

Experiment with different lipstick shades when you have no other makeup on your face. You’ll be able to see which colors brighten your complexion and work best with your eyes and hair. You may find that you can wear warm and cool tones, or you may discover that one tonal family suits you best.

If you are always unsatisfied with your lipstick, mix two lipsticks or other lip products together to find the perfect color. Try mixing warm and cool tones. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

What Is Your Lip Tone?
Another thing to consider when picking lipsticks or glosses is the natural color of your lips. A highly pigmented pout be it pink, blue, or purple, will affect the shade of any lipstick or gloss you apply to your lips. This explains why a lipstick may look one way on you and another way on a friend or a model in a magazine. Keep this in mind when you sample lipstick on the back of your hand and wonder why it seems so different on your lips. It’s because the undertones are completely different. Look for shades that complement or counteract your natural lip color.

Getting Started
The next steps depend on the look you want and your needs. You can simply put on some gloss or sheer lipstick, or you can use a lip pencil to color your lips and cover it with lipstick or gloss. Since I’m sure you have these fundamentals down pat I’m going to take you beyond the basics and teach you some advanced lip tricks.

Pencil Makes Perfect
Lip pencils are a great tool to use to make your lipstick last correct any asymmetric proportions, provide definition, or make your pout larger. Make sure to chose a color that’s a slightly enhanced version of your natural lip tone.

If you like the shape of your lips and just need a little definition, follow the outline of your mouth with the pencil. Next, color in the rest of the lips from the outside to the inside. It’s like coloring inside the lines in a coloring book. You don’t want to see a dark, obvious outline around lighter colored lips. Nothing’s more old-fashioned, and it doesn’t look elegant or sophisticated.

THE LIP CANVAS
For Serious Lipstick Work

Just as your face sometimes needs to be prepped before applying makeup, so do your lips. The tips and tricks that follow all require the same lip preparation, which I’m going to describe here. You need some camouflage, your lip pencil, translucent setting powder, and a powder puff. Using your finger, press a little camouflage into and around your lip line until it disappears into your skin. (Don’t cover your lips entirely.) Dip your powder puff into a small amount of translucent powder and shake off the excess. The amount that remains is all you need. Press the puff very lightly over your lips. You want a surface that is dry, not dry-looking. Now your pout is prepped and ready for you to use your lip pencil as directed in the paragraphs that follow.

Get Bigger Lips (Naturally)
Almost everyone dreams of having sexier lips, but few people use their lip pencil correctly to achieve this look. Instead of drawing outside your entire lip line, just widen the middle of your top and bottom lips. (You may not need to do the top and bottom. Some people have naturally plumper bottom lips or vice versa.) Once you prepare your lips, raise the bow of your top lip by drawing slightly above it and reconnecting it at the middle on either side. Make the lower lip a little rounder at the center.

This looks more natural and is an easier correction than going from corner to corner and drawing outside your entire mouth. The exception to this rule is if you have very thin lips. In this case, you can draw outside the entire lip line to enhance its appearance. Don’t forget to fill in the space between your natural lip line and the correction.

If your lips are asymmetric, then you can use a pencil to correct them. Again, make sure your lips are prepped correctly. This will help you draw in the shape more beautifully and help the color last longer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Mercier, the author of The New Beauty Secrets: Your Ultimate Guide to a Flawless Face (Copyright © 2006 by Gurwitch Products, LLC), is one of the most renowned beauty authorities in the world today. Her 20-year career as a makeup artist has brought her from Provence, Paris, and points around the globe to red carpets, photo studios, and movie sets. Laura’s work has appeared on the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Allure, Elle, W, and other magazines, plus countless advertisements, album covers, movie posters, and more. Laura Mercier Cosmetics, her beauty brand, has enjoyed great success since 1996.

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5 Beauty Products You Love but Don’t Need

Despite all the advertisements to the contrary, skin truly needs the barest minimum. You may love your eye creams, toners, face masks, and other beauty products, says Dr. Ellen Marmur, author of Simple Skin Beauty, but they’re unnecessary luxuries.

They sure are fun to buy and lovely to use, and all the jars and bottles look pretty in your bathroom, but these cosmetic options are far from essential. If they’re not in your budget and you don’t have the time for a twenty-minute face mask or an added step in your nightly regimen, then skip them — and don’t feel guilty about it. When it comes to cleansing, moisturizing, and protecting, these three things won’t do anything more for your skin than your three essentials. If you want to treat yourself to a special skin care purchase or an at-home facial, go for it. I don’t blame you, and I do it too. But please don’t be tricked into thinking you need it.

Eye Cream
If you’re going to cancel one item from your shopping list, this is the one. It’s just as effective, and far more efficient, to multitask with your regular moisturizer and daytime SPF. Yes, it feels nice, but, no, it is not a necessity. In actuality, it’s simply redundant. The skin around your eyes is more delicate, but unless you are massaging a thick balm on the rest of your face, the moisturizer you use on your face and neck has the same formulation and many of the same ingredients that you get in any eye cream. The same moisturizing ingredients can treat the fine lines and dryness around your eyes just as well as they take care of the same issues anywhere else on your face.

What about puffiness or dark circles? I’ll tackle both those issues in chapter 8, “Skin SOS,” but suffice it to say that an eye cream isn’t going to eliminate them. Dark circles are due primarily to your anatomy, while puffiness is often a sign of water retention inside your body (often from lack of sleep). A cool compress or cold, damp chamomile tea bags will calm puffiness better than a special eye cream, although they are both temporary cures. If you are bothered by puffiness around your eyes, make sure your regular moisturizer contains anti-inflammatory ingredients such as chamomile, cucumber, or aloe vera (which would be found in an eye cream as well).

Toner
In a classic comedy bit, Jerry Seinfield speculates about why women need all those truckloads of cotton balls. How can they possibly use so many, and for what possible purpose? The answer: toner. How many cotton balls and bottles of astringent did we go through in high school and college, anyway? Toner is meant to remove residual makeup and oil from the skin. But since most cleansers these days do that just fine, toner is an unnecessary added step. Gentle, soothing alcohol-free toners (they usually contain moisturizing or anti-inflammatory substances like rosewater or cucumber) are totally superfluous if you use a moisturizer. (However, I do prefer them, even to makeup remover, to take off any extra bits of eye makeup or concealer because the consistency is so watery.) An alcohol-based astringent toner (similar to the antiseptic version we all remember as teenagers) usually contains ingredients such as witch hazel or salicylic acid to get rid of oil. For those who are addicted to washing their faces in the morning, a quick swipe of toner instead may be just the right remedy. These are great for combination skin conditions, to eliminate oil from one area of the face (rather than all over). For the most part, I, like Seinfeld, don’t have much use for cotton balls.

Face Masks
I relish the thought of giving myself an at-home facial, relaxing in front of the TV wearing some kind of blue or green face mask. The odds of this happening (with four kids, a crazy schedule, and a husband who would laugh himself silly) are slim to none. But so are the chances that a mask — whether it be one for moisturizing or a clay mask to “soak up” oil — can do something really transformative or long-lasting to my skin. Can a mask super-moisturize your face and seal the hydration in? Yes, but only until it’s rinsed off. Truthfully, masks are like ChapStick for your face — an occlusive film over the surface that provides a nice, temporary fix. For someone with sensitive or rosacea skin, a mask packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients (such as aloe vera, allantoin, and chamomile) and humectants will feel wonderful and soothe the skin, but only while it’s on the face. Again, it’s always important to read the label, especially if your skin is feeling sensitive. Fruit acids or menthol, which are commonly found in masks, could cause irritation.

Moisturizing Masks
If a mask has active ingredients, such as anti-inflammatories or antioxidants, they might be better absorbed into the skin because of the occlusive barrier of the mask. But that’s a big “if,” since those ingredients would have to be lipophilic (oil-loving and compatible with skin) and microscopic enough to penetrate pores in the first place. By the same principle of occlusion, I sometimes treat eczema on the body by applying a steroid cream, then putting plastic wrap over it to provide an occlusive barrier so the cream doesn’t evaporate or wipe off. This also provides a slight pressure that pushes the medication onto the skin. It’s similar to slathering on a rich foot cream and then covering the feet with cotton socks — although, unlike a medicine, the moisturizing effect wears off the minute you wash your skin.

Clay Masks
Clay masks don’t actually absorb or “soak up” oil, and they can’t really “purify” and “detoxify” your pores either. A mask with kaolin (a mineral-rich clay), sea mud, or even charcoal does provide a gentle way of exfoliating by coating the skin like an adhesive. When it dries and is rinsed off, the mask theoretically pulls off some dead cells, debris, and oil with it. It’s the same concept as rolling a lint brush over the surface of a sweater. Pore strips work the same way, and they’re terrific. Sometimes a clay mask contains active ingredients like sulfur, which is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, or tea tree oil, a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. But a treatment like this won’t be more effective than a salicylic acid exfoliant and diligent nightly cleansing. A clay mask can reduce the oil you have right now, but unfortunately it’s just going to build up again in no time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ellen Marmur, MD, author of Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin (Copyright © 2009 by Dr. Ellen Marmur), is the Chief of Dermatologic and Cosmetic Surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical center in New York City and specializes in skin cancer surgery, cosmetic surgery, and women’s health dermatology. She lives in Manhattan with her family.

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Behind the Scenes of Project Runway With Tim Gunn

Playing it safe is never really safe, says Tim Gunn, cohost of Project Runway and author of Gunn’s Golden Rules. Risk taking in fashion is fun, and risk taking in our careers is essential. Here he describes how he took a chance and became involved with the now-successful TV show Project Runway.

How I became involved in Project Runway is a funny thing. The producers were looking for a consultant because they knew little about the fashion industry. They had produced Project Greenlight, about the film business, so this was a new world for them. A few people had given them my name, so they called me at Parsons.

I will tell you that I had my snob hat on as I was talking to them on the phone. Fashion reality? I thought. That sounds disgusting. Who’s telling them to call me — my enemies?

I was reluctant to meet with them, but I agreed to go. Truth be told, I was a little curious. The meeting went very well. I was instantly more interested when they said they wanted to work with real fashion designers. I thought, At least there’s some integrity operating here.

Then they asked me the question that, upon reflection, I realized they were using to get people. “How would you feel if we told you we wanted the designers to design and create a wedding dress in two days?”

“Well,” I said, very matter-of-factly, “they’d have to design and create a wedding dress in two days.”

They looked at each other meaningfully.

“Did I give you the wrong answer?” I asked.

“No,” they said. “You’re just the first person who said it could be done.”

“Why?” I asked. “What have you been hearing?”

“Everyone says it would take days, a minimum of a week, that they’d need help, that the process is so complicated . . .”

“Look,” I said, “in two days you’re not going to get an Oscar de la Renta wedding gown. You’ll probably get a basic column without sleeves, but it will be a wedding dress.”

They looked at each other again, and I thought I saw them smile.

I left the meeting feeling really excited about the project and hoping they’d pick me.

Then I waited and waited. I was feeling disappointed when they hadn’t called a week later. But then a couple of days after that they did call, and they said they wanted to work with me. I was thrilled.

We worked together for six months, and there were just two major points of disagreement. During their fashion-industry interviews, they had become convinced that the designers shouldn’t make their own clothes. In this scenario, there would be a sample room full of seamstresses and pattern drafters who would do the actual fabrication.

“Unless the audience sees the designers getting real and metaphorical blood on their hands, why would it care about them?” I asked. “Also, whom does Heidi send home? If there’s any problem with the garment, the designer can just blame it on the seamstress.”

We know I won that. The other point of disagreement had to do with the workroom. Originally, it was going to be in the Atlas apartments, where the designers would live. The belief was that they should have twenty-four-hour access to it. I said that would make the show a stamina test beyond the stamina test it already is. I insisted they be forced to go home at a specific time and then return the next morning.

Not only was it marginally better for them mentally and physically, it would give them some fresh perspective on their work, a break from what I call the monkey house.

I won that, too. (Essentially, the Bravo show Launch My Line is all the things I didn’t want for Project Runway.)

In the end, they didn’t have the budget to outfit Atlas with a loft like workroom, so they were scrambling for an alternate space.

“Do you want to look at Parsons?” I asked.

Once the show was a success, people started speculating about how Parsons scored such a huge coup. Well, now it can be told!

I called downtown to Parsons headquarters and said we wanted the uptown design building for filming over the summer. I asked what the feeling would be and how, if it was
indeed okay, we would facilitate it. The auditorium space where the judging happens had been used by outside people conducting seminars, and, ahem, sample sales. A staff person, Margo, was in charge of it. We talked to her about it, and Project Runway made a deal to pay the fee plus the cost of extra security and all the other expenses associated with keeping the building open after hours. Everyone was happy, or so I thought.

Two days before wrapping, one of the university’s executive VPs called and yelled at me. “I’ve just heard about this show!” she ranted. “You’re putting this entire institution at risk!”

I didn’t see the danger, but she kept insisting I had singlehandedly destroyed the college.

“We’re coming up and stopping this right now,” she said.

I went to see Margo, who had received the same call I had.

“What do we do?” she asked, starting to panic.

I thought about it for a second and then said, “I’ve been in academia long enough to know that when they say, ‘We’re on our way up there,’ it will be a couple of days.”

Sure enough, wrapping was long finished by the time the VPs arrived with their torches and pitchforks to shut it all down.

But I was still kicking around, so they took their anger out on me. I was royally raked across the coals by the Legal Department and by the president’s office. They scolded and shamed and told me what a disgrace I was and how much jeopardy I’d put the college in. Finally, I asked, “What did I do wrong? I called and asked you about it. You said to work it out with Margo. We worked it out. You got a hefty chunk of change. What’s the problem?”

Naturally, when the show was a big success, they were congratulating themselves on how bright they’d been to get in on the ground floor. I didn’t remind them how they’d almost fired me over it. I just said, “You’re right! Good job!” Take the high road.

The Runway producers were very hesitant to have me go on the auditions, because it was a lot of time and they weren’t paying me, but I really wanted to go anyway. I was curious and wanted the show to succeed, and I said, “I’ve invested this much time and energy into this project. I’d like to stay involved through each phase and help get the right people for this.”

So I followed them around to see the applicants. It was really interesting, and very hard work. We were doing twelve-hour days, looking through hundreds of portfolios and garments. In New York City, I did prescreenings out in the courtyard of the Soho Grand Hotel, where the interviews were being conducted, and I saw a procession of odd people who just wanted to be on a television show. They had brought clothing, but in some cases they were items from their closets, or pieces they had designed but not made. In some cases there were no clothes at all, just some drawings or photographs. It was a big potpourri.

I would say three-quarters were design students, and while I don’t object to that in theory, they’re still in an incubator. They almost never have their own point of view yet.

Some of the future stars of the show were in that line, and I had no early indication that they would make it on the show. Jay McCarroll, who went on to win Season 1, arrived pulling a wagon containing what I recall were dolls. Austin Scarlett was in the line looking incredibly androgynous and strange. Looking at the two of them, I thought: Is this going to be a freak show? But of course we wound up discovering some amazing talent, including Austin and Jay.

In Miami, on the last day of auditions, the producers came to my hotel room and said, “We think we need a mentor to be with the designers in the workroom. Would you be interested?”

I thought about it for a second and then asked, “Do I have to live with them?”

They laughed and said no, I wouldn’t have to live with them.

“In that case, sure!” I said.

When I called my mother to tell her I was being considered for a TV show, she responded, “But you’re so old.”

“I think I’m meant to be a counterpoint to the young designers,” I said. What I was thinking was, Gee, thanks, Mom.

But even then I still had to prove myself. Bravo needed what’s called B‑roll of me talking on TV. Luckily, I had done a couple of little fashion-related interviews that they could look at, including one on CBS Sunday Morning. Based on that, they gave me a chance. As you know by now, I’ve always been shy. Project Runway was either going to kill me or cure me. But I thought it was a great opportunity. I had to just do it and hope I didn’t die from fright. It made it easier that I didn’t think I was actually going to be on camera much, if at all.

No one has ever said this, but I am pretty sure that the producers speculated that if they just sent the designers alone into the workroom with a challenge, no one would talk. They would just work, heads down and eyes on their garments, and the tops of these designers’ heads wouldn’t make for must-see television. Sending me in to probe and ask questions would at least elicit some dialogue.

Accordingly, the entire time we were taping, I had every confidence no one would ever see me or hear my voice. I thought they were cutting me out and just leaving in the designers’ responses. So I was very relaxed, assuming I was just a ghost on the cutting-room floor.

As we now know, they wound up leaving me in as a character. I was pretty shocked when I saw the first season and realized I was not a disembodied voice or a mere prompter. But I was happy with how smart the show was and how much it revealed about the creative process. The rest is history.

I was an unpaid consultant for the first two seasons, and then I signed with an agent and began being paid for my work, which made the situation even better.

People are often shocked to hear that I was unpaid for so long, but I did it for the love of it, and (please don’t read this, anyone associated with the show) I would do it again for free in a heartbeat. And it all worked out. My West Village apartment was falling apart, so even though I couldn’t afford it at the time, I joined a waiting list for a more expensive place called London Terrace Gardens on West Twenty-third Street. I was nervous that my name was going to come up before I could afford it, but luckily, it wasn’t until I was given the appointment at Liz Claiborne Inc. that my name was called, and by then I had the means to move.

Yes, those early days of Project Runway were hard work, but they were also deeply fulfilling. What if I’d said no because I wasn’t being paid? I would have turned my back on an incredible opportunity. I wanted to help them because I was concerned with the quality of the show. I wanted it to show reverence for this industry I love and prevent anyone from making a joke out of it. Luckily, the producers were all about quality and integrity. It was a great marriage.

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Gunn is an American fashion consultant and television personality, best known as cohost of the Emmy-winning reality show Project Runway. He was the chair of the fashion design department at Parsons The New School for Design and is now the chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne. In his book Gunn’s Golden Rules (Copyright © 2010 by Tim Gunn Productions, Inc.), he shares personal secrets for “making it work” — in your career, relationships, and life — and dishy stories of fashion’s greatest divas, behind-the-scenes glimpses of Project Runway‘s biggest drama queens, and never-before-revealed insights into his private life.

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PHOTOGRAPH OF TIM GUNN BY HENRY LEUTWYLER

Tim Gunn

Why, When It Comes to Fashion, Comfort Is Overrated

Sure, oversize T-shirts feel soft on your body, says Tim Gunn, co-host of Project Runway and author of Gunn’s Golden Rules. But you know what’s genuinely comfortable? Being dressed appropriately for your surroundings.

Whenever I meet new people, almost without fail they say, “I was so afraid of what you’d say about my clothes!” The truth is: I really don’t take note of what other people wear unless their outfit blows my mind for good or for ill, and even in that case I will rarely say anything unless I’m asked.

When I was taping Extra! the other day, the camera guy said, “Oh God, I just know you’re going to be disappointed in what I’m wearing.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “You’re hoisting a camera and down on your knees and moving around. You need to be agile. It wouldn’t be right for you to be in a tailored suit! You’re dressed appropriately!”

I get a little shrill when I talk about it, because it seems like people are either too worried about what they have on or not worried enough. People are really intimidated by fashion, and as an educator and a fashion lover I think that’s such a shame.

Meryl Streep said in a 2009 Vanity Fair article that she was over trying to appeal to men. “I can’t remember the last time I really worried about being appealing,” she said.

I don’t totally believe that she doesn’t care. It is true that she’s really eschewed fashion. I think it’s smart, intellectual Meryl speaking, saying she’s too smart for style. But no one’s too smart for it. Providing we leave our cave, it matters to all of us.

When we look good, we feel better. That’s true for everyone. You feel better able to tackle the world. It’s not a good feeling going into an exam without having prepared, and it’s not a good feeling leaving the house without having dressed to be around people. Just the way it never rains when you have an umbrella, you’ll never run into people if you look fantastic. But go outside in pajamas, and you’ll run into every ex you have.

The key is not being dressy. The key is being appropriate. Someone at my neighborhood grocery store once said to me, “Wow, you really do wear jeans and a T‑shirt!”

“Yes,” I said, “at the grocery store.”

It’s all about context. I wear a suit to work, to weddings, to funerals, to the theater, and to church. When shopping at the grocery store or running errands, I have been known to wear jeans, because it’s totally appropriate. The jeans fit me and are clean, and I usually pair them with a jacket, but yes, jeans! Some people think of dressing up or being polite as a burden. They think having to wear a tie or use the right fork or send a thank-you card is a kind of shackle. To these people I say: Getting out of bed is a shackle. If you feel that way, stay in it! Invest in a hospital gurney and wheel yourself around on it when you need to go out.

I get very impatient with this whole “comfort issue” with clothing. Yes, you don’t feel as comfortable in clothes that fit you as you do in your pajamas and robe. That’s a good thing. 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.

Would I be more comfortable in a business meeting wearing my pajamas?

No! It would feel, honestly, very weird. I would think, Where’s my IV? When do I take my next meds?

Wanting to look good in public has to do with the respect that I have for myself and the respect that I have for the people around me. One of the things I love about New York City is how much people dress up for one another. Walking down the street is such a pleasure, because people are really turned out. Yes, it probably took them more than five minutes to get ready, but it was so worth it. They make the city a prettier place.

In her wonderful memoir D.V., Diana Vreeland (who was born exactly fifty years to the day before me — lucky me!) talks about how she prepared nightly for the arrival of her husband. She dressed up for him every single night:

Isn’t it curious that even after more than forty years of marriage, I was always slightly shy of him? I can remember his coming home in the evening—the way the door would close and the sound of his step . . . If I was in my bath or in my bedroom making up, I can remember always pulling myself up, thinking, “I must be at my very best.” There was never a time when I didn’t have that reaction — ever.

That’s kind of lovely, I think. It’s always better to err on the side of beauty over comfort. It might get tiresome in practice, but it’s a sweet idea.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Gunn is an American fashion consultant and television personality, best known as cohost of the Emmy-winning reality show Project Runway. He was the chair of the fashion design department at Parsons The New School for Design and is now the chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne. In his book Gunn’s Golden Rules (Copyright © 2010 by Tim Gunn Productions, Inc.), he shares personal secrets for “making it work” — in your career, relationships, and life — and dishy stories of fashion’s greatest divas, behind-the-scenes glimpses of Project Runway‘s biggest drama queens, and never-before-revealed insights into his private life.

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A Dishy Tale of Outrageous Fashion Divadom From Project Runway‘s Tim Gunn

Out-of-touch behavior is certainly nothing new to the fashion world, and Tim Gunn, author of Gunn’s Golden Rules, has an infinite number of less-than endearing stories where it morphs into outrageous divadom. Here he shares a one of his favorites about Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue.

In the summer of 2006, a writer named Robert Rorke called to interview me for a New York Post story about Project Runway. He asked me, “Of all the things you’ve seen since you’ve been in the fashion industry, what’s the one thing you will never forget?”

And I said, without hesitation, “That’s easy. Anna Wintour being carried down five flights of stairs from a fashion show.” He said, not surprisingly, “Tell me more,” and I told him what happened. He ran only one line about it, but I’ll tell you the extended version, including the ridiculous epilogue.

I was at Peter Som’s show at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West Eighteenth Street. It was held on the fifth floor, and there was one large freight elevator. Knowing Anna was a Peter Som fan and knowing she famously dislikes riding in elevators with other people, I thought, How will she ever get down? I didn’t have a seat so I was standing, coincidentally, in a place where I could see Anna sitting in the front row with a bodyguard on either side of her.

An announcement is made — “Ladies and gentlemen, please uncross your legs” — which they do so the people in the front row won’t accidentally trip the models walking by them and so
the photographers’ shots aren’t obscured. Anna is the only one who doesn’t uncross. Her foot’s sticking out there ready to put some unsuspecting model into the hospital. But anyway, the show ends. The models survive. And as the lights come up, bam, Anna’s gone!

I was there with a colleague from Parsons, and we had been discussing the will-she-or-won’t-she-take-the-elevator question, so we ran over to the elevator bay to see if Anna would deign to get on. She wasn’t there. Then we looked over the stairway railing. And what did we see but Anna being carried down the stairs. The bodyguards had made a fireman’s lock and were racing her from landing to landing. She was sitting on their crossed arms.

I ran to the window to see if they would put her down on the sidewalk or carry her to the car like that. They carried her to the car. And I thought: I will never forget this.

So the Post printed the following version of that story on July 9, 2006, a day that will live in infamy: “After leaving a fashion show held in a loft building with only one freight elevator, Gunn wondered how the Vogue editor, who doesn’t ride with mere mortals, would get downstairs. ‘Her two massive bodyguards picked her up and carried her down five flights of stairs and then — I looked out the window — they carried her into her car.’ ”

I didn’t think anything of it, but then the next day, Monday morning, Patrick O’Connell, Vogue‘s director of communications, called and left a message that I was to call Anna Wintour right away. I was too scared to call her back that day, but on Tuesday I called Patrick and was told, “Hold for Ms. Wintour.”

Forgive my language, but I’m thinking I’m about to have diarrhea, I’m such a wreck.

He comes back on the phone and says, “I’m terribly sorry. She’s unavailable at the moment.”

“I can’t handle the suspense,” I said. “Can you please tell me what this is in regards to?”

“Yes,” he said. “She wants you to have the Post print a retraction of your statement.”

“That would imply it’s not true,” I said.

“It’s not true,” he said.

“It’s very true,” I said, “and I can tell you exactly when it happened.” Thankfully, I keep a diary. I looked it up and told him the exact date, time, and location.

“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,” he says. “I’ll get back to you.”

There are then many more phone calls, each one insisting upon a retraction or at least an apology. I refused.

“I didn’t malign her character!” I insisted, and still do. “My statement was a matter of fact.”

“Ms. Wintour knows how to work a Manolo,” Patrick finally said, angrily.

“Is that what this is all about?” I asked. “If you want an apology from me, here it is: ‘I apologize if I implied that Ms. Wintour doesn’t know how to work a Manolo.’ The goal for her departure from the fashion show was clearly speed, and that’s what she received from these bodyguards. Furthermore, I wasn’t alone in seeing this. Dozens of people saw it.”

In his next call to me, he said, “We’re going to have to get the lawyers involved.”

By this time I am not only a ball of anxiety, I’m also spitting mad. I said, “Well then, you’ll please permit me to get some corroborating witnesses.”

As luck would have it, that afternoon a fashion executive was in my office. He asked me why I looked so distraught, and I said, “I’ve been through hell. That person over there at Vogue is threatening me over a quote in the Post.”

I told him the story.

There was a pause, and then he burst out laughing. “I was at that show!” he said. “I saw exactly what you saw!”

He grabbed the office phone and called Patrick right then. Just like that, my nightmare was over. He told Patrick that he, among many others, could attest to the by‑now-infamous stairs story. After days of torment, I was off the hook.

But I knew Anna still must have been seething, so I decided I was going to take the high road. I called Richard, the florist I use, told him the basic situation, and asked for a fabulous and tasteful arrangement of all-white flowers to be sent to her office. I got on the subway and delivered a card of my stationery, on which I said something like, “I apologize if my comments in the Post caused you any unrest or unease. It was never my intention. With respect and regards, Tim Gunn.”

There was never any acknowledgment, but I felt like I’d done everything I could to put the matter right. And thankfully, I never heard a peep about any of this again. When I met Patrick in person sometime later, I told him, “I am so happy to see you. I was afraid that Anna had hurled the floral arrangement at your head and you were in a coma somewhere. It’s good to see that you are alive and well.”

He laughed, and I felt like I had closure on the whole ordeal. But it made me think that perhaps the devil really does wear Prada. I couldn’t believe how sweet she seemed in that great movie The September Issue. Of course, she did know the cameras were on . . .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Gunn is an American fashion consultant and television personality, best known as cohost of the Emmy-winning reality show Project Runway. He was the chair of the fashion design department at Parsons The New School for Design and is now the chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne. In his book Gunn’s Golden Rules (Copyright © 2010 by Tim Gunn Productions, Inc.), he shares personal secrets for “making it work” — in your career, relationships, and life — and dishy stories of fashion’s greatest divas, behind-the-scenes glimpses of Project Runway‘s biggest drama queens, and never-before-revealed insights into his private life.

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PHOTOGRAPH OF TIM GUNN BY HENRY LEUTWYLER

Tim Gunn

Fashion Rules to Follow — and Break — From Tim Gunn of Project Runway

You can wear anything, as long as you wear it well. It just comes down to silhouette, proportion, and fit. At every age. But there are a few “rules” you should keep in mind. From Gunn’s Golden Rules by Tim Gunn, co-host of Project Runway

I love writing my fashion advice column for Marie Claire. Those are real questions. One question I received was from a woman who said she had a Hervé Leger dress in dark purple, which I assume was the famous Leger color aubergine. She was wearing it to a swanky Beverly Hills engagement party with a beige patent-leather peep-toe stiletto. Her mother said her clutch should match the shoes, and my questioner asked if that was indeed the case.

I began by saying I love Hervé Leger and I love aubergine, but why would you wear beige with that? Matching is hard. Make it easy on yourself. Go with a metallic! Beige dresses things down. Really, a good rule is no beige after five.

If it’s after five, people call it “nude,” but that’s not in my vocabulary because it’s a racist color name. Depending on what your skin tone is, that beigy color may or may not be nude.

Now, wearing a true nude, meaning matching your skin color, is a whole different matter. You usually look odd, I think. It’s like a body suit even when it’s a voluminous dress. Kirsten Dunst does that all the time, and I don’t consider her a fashion role model. (Sorry, Kirsten.)

You don’t know what colors work for you until you try a bunch of things on. If you’re pale and you look at Iman and think, That color’s fantastic on her. I’m going to get that dress, stop right there!

Dark women are blessed in many ways, because they have so many more colors that look great on them. Lighter women don’t know it, but there aren’t as many colors that work with fair skin.

So try to think outside the box and try on colors you would never consider. You’ll probably be surprised that some unexpected color — persimmon, coral, or teal — works like magic with your skin.

And don’t worry about the so‑called rules of colors. The No White after Labor Day rule was meant to be broken. But it’s true that white is not very practical in New York City. I have a pair of white jeans that the J. Crew catalog convinced me to buy. What I learned once I put them on: thin white pants need to be lined, because otherwise they reveal the line between your leg and your underpants, and that’s not my favorite look. The jeans have languished in my closet.

What’s another “rule”: Don’t wear black and brown together? That’s ridiculous. You do have to be careful about the brown. It shouldn’t be tan or some midtone, but chocolate brown is really chic. I once saw a woman on the street wearing chocolate suede boots with black opaque tights and a black dress. She looked fantastic.

I will say that I think it’s funny that strangers take my fashion advice when my own family completely ignores it. Case in point: During the holiday season, my family wears Christmas sweaters every single day. Christmas sweaters! Is there a bigger fashion don’t?

But for those of you who do listen to me, here’s my general advice about keeping your wardrobe fresh: It’s helpful just to drop into stores and try things on for information whenever you think of it. It’s essential to get a sense of what cuts and colors look best on you, and you can’t always do that when you have to find a dress for a wedding during your lunch hour. You can learn so much just by asking yourself objectively, “Does this look good on me?”

Size is difficult, because different brands run small or large. So you’re likely to have a range, 8–10 say, or 2–4, or 14–16. But if you don’t spend the time figuring out your range, you’re likely to be very frustrated each time you go shopping, because you won’t even know what sizes to pick off the rack.

Figuring these things out is just a part of everyday life.

You know how I am about all these matters. You can reject any or all of what I say, obviously. These are just the things that I think are good rules of thumb for enjoying your life as a social being. I also have no problem if you want to find a cave and have someone roll a boulder in front of it. To each his own.

In a recent memoir about filming Some Like It Hot, the 1959 comedy with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis says at first he was resistant to dressing in drag for the role. He was a sex symbol and was embarrassed that he had to put on a dress. But then when he did, he had a new concern: He wasn’t pretty enough! He and his costar, Jack Lemmon, went back to the wardrobe people and demanded better makeup, higher heels, and bigger falsies. His logic: If he was going to be a girl, he was going to be a pretty girl, by God.

That’s how people should be about everything: whatever you’re doing, give it your all.

That’s one of the things I love about Project Runway. It’s about each designer being the best at whatever it is he or she wants to do.

Whenever I do makeovers, I like to bring out whatever it is in that person of which they are most proud. I hate almost all makeover shows, because they tend to make everyone look the same: still frumpy, but slightly more upscale and slightly more put together than before.

I like to learn about the person and to find out how she really wants to look, what energy she wants to put out into the world. You can see it in the eyes of the people at the end of the show: they feel like they had a hand in the process, and the look they end up with is really them. It’s not just a costume. It’s about who you are and how you want to be perceived.

When I did a photo shoot for More magazine, we had two female lawyers, very different body types. I asked one of them, Karen, “Do you think you’re Hillary Clinton?” All she had were these very masculine pantsuits. She looked so dowdy and off-putting. When I told her this, she said, “I’m fifty-four years old. Aren’t I supposed to be dowdy?”

“No! No! No!” I told her. I don’t believe anyone ever has to look dowdy, and it’s perplexing when they do.

But when it came down to what direction to take her in, I was confused. I took her sister aside and said, “Talk to me. Karen is working a very strong masculine look. In fact, is this who she is?” I didn’t want to put her in flowery prints if she was more of a truck-driver gal.

“I don’t think so,” she said, “but I’m confused by it, too.” This was interesting, because I’d half expected the sister to say, “Yes, she’s a diesel dyke.” And then we’d have worked with that. But that wasn’t the case here.

So I took Karen aside and said, “What’s going on here? Are these really the clothes you like wearing? Is this pantsuit you?”

“No” she told me, “but I don’t know how to be professional as a woman and not dress this way.” She was in court all the time and felt she had to convey authority. “I’d love to look more feminine, but I just don’t know how.”

In my first book, Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style, I talked about style mentors. It’s great to look around and find people in movies or books or pop culture whose style you want to emulate. Is it Audrey Hepburn, Debbie Harry, or Law & Order‘s Mariska Hargitay? It’s helpful to think of your icon when you are constructing your own personal style. But this lawyer was just looking to male lawyers to construct her look.

I told her, “You’re wearing menswear-tailored clothing. Matching jackets and pants. There are other ways to look professional, you know. Right now you don’t look professional. I wouldn’t be drawn to you — unless I saw you at a leather bar.”

Luckily, she was open to showing off her figure and trying new things. She instantly had a whole new world available to her. Well, the transformation was thrilling. She felt unshackled. She realized that it’s looking good that makes you comfortable and confident, not just wearing casual or shapeless clothing.

Now she has the courtroom in her pocket, because she looks so much more accessible and she’s so much surer of herself. And still she gets to wear her favorite leather pants on the weekend.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Gunn is an American fashion consultant and television personality, best known as cohost of the Emmy-winning reality show Project Runway. He was the chair of the fashion design department at Parsons The New School for Design and is now the chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne. In his book Gunn’s Golden Rules (Copyright © 2010 by Tim Gunn Productions, Inc.), he shares personal secrets for “making it work” — in your career, relationships, and life — and dishy stories of fashion’s greatest divas, behind-the-scenes glimpses of Project Runway‘s biggest drama queens, and never-before-revealed insights into his private life.

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PHOTOGRAPH OF TIM GUNN BY HENRY LEUTWYLER

Tim Gunn

Celebrities Behaving Badly: Inside Scoop From Tim Gunn of Project Runway

If you got rid of everyone in the fashion world who was high maintenance, says Tim Gunn, author of Gunn’s Golden Rules, there wouldn’t be many people left. But even if you’re in a crazy world like that, it doesn’t mean you have an obligation to drop your standards of behavior just to fit in. Here, he shares stories of terrible behavior by Isaac Mizrahi, Alexis and Martha Stewart, and others.

A celebrity who shall remain nameless announces to an underling, “I’d like a Diet Coke. I want a twelve-ounce glass and five ice cubes, each no bigger than three-quarters of an inch in length.” Once the Diet Coke arrives, the celebrity says, “These ice cubes are at least an inch, and I count six. This is unacceptable.” And fling! He throws the drink across the room.

In academia, too, you see this kind of outrageous behavior. I knew a dean who had soup delivered to his office. I once saw him bring a spoonful up to his mouth, scream, “This soup isn’t hot enough!” and hurl the container across his office onto a wall, which I noticed already had stains on it.

Is this really happening? I thought. But I was glad I saw it, because if someone had told me the story, I would say it couldn’t possibly be true.

What enables this kind of behavior? What allows people to think that they are permitted to behave that way? Don’t even get me started on Isaac Mizrahi. In my view, he’s one of the world’s biggest divas.

One time, Isaac threw a fit about a security guard from the second-floor showroom at Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Times Square offices. Why, you may ask? Was he stealing? Harassing guests? Showing up late? No, he was wearing brown.

Can you imagine having your senses so offended by something that it provokes such an extreme reaction?

You just never know what’s going to set people off. One time when I was on Martha Stewart’s show, she visited me in the greenroom. I threw out my arms to embrace her, but in lieu of a greeting she asked with a tone of horror, “Who let you in here with that?” She pointed to the Diet Coke I was drinking.

“No one,” I said. “Someone brought it to me.”

“W-what?” she stammered. “I don’t allow Diet Coke in this studio. It’s not to be anywhere around me. I’m going to find out who’s done this.”

And she stormed off. Then later she made an off-camera announcement to her audience about how they shouldn’t drink Diet Coke, either. She gave me a lecture in front of the audience about how bad Diet Coke is. Something about the chemicals? I couldn’t even focus on what she was saying because of how vehemently she was saying it.

About a year later, I was at a table with colleagues from Liz Claiborne Inc. for an event at which Martha was the honoree, so I offered up my Diet Coke story. They didn’t seem to believe me, and no one laughed. Everyone acted as if I’d made it up.

Later in the evening, Martha, while at the podium, pointed to me, and said, “Tim, I see you’re here! I hope you’re not drinking Diet Coke!”

My table exploded in laughter because they had the bizarre backstory. I think the rest of the crowd was a little confused.

Now, while we’re on the subject of Martha, who incidentally appeared in my first book as a fashion icon: Martha’s daughter, Alexis Stewart, strikes me as one of the angriest people I have ever met. Alexis and I did a commercial together for Martha’s Macy’s line. Whoever was directing the commercial was wise enough to have Alexis and me do our lines together before bringing Martha in.

Alexis kept cursing under her breath in anticipation of her mother coming, saying things like, “goddamned bitch,” almost as if she had Tourette’s syndrome. I was shocked that she could be so disrespectful toward her mother in front of total strangers. I also found it deeply ironic that the domestic goddess seems to have such an odd relationship with her daughter.

Speaking of irony: The domestic goddess and her daughter were at the Four Seasons for Thanksgiving dinner in 2009. I read Martha Stewart Living, and I always love looking at her calendar and seeing all the things she’s doing for Thanksgiving preparation: “Get the turkey” . . . “Make cranberry sauce.” The truth in this case was “Make reservation” . . . “Put on fancy clothes.” Not that I begrudge her a meal out. Sometimes even if you’re as domestic as Martha you’d just as soon let someone else whip up the Riesling gravy.

But back to the commercial shoot. We were out on a sound set in Queens and they’d totally re‑created Macy’s Herald Square at Christmastime, right down to the last detail. It was
magnificent. But when Martha first arrived at the studio, she took a producer aside and said, “I thought this was going to be a closed set. What are all these people doing here?”

“We’re supposed to be at Macy’s during the holidays,” he said. “They’re extras acting as customers. They’re shopping.”

Meanwhile, Alexis seems to be tensing up. I’ve always thought that having famous parents must be hard on a person, but there are ways around it: go into a completely different field, make your own way, change your name . . . anything to carve out a little space for yourself. But Alexis’s world seems to revolve around Martha. And yet she has appeared genuinely furious at her mother every time I’ve seen her. There’s something Grey Gardens–y about the two of them.

During one of our little breaks on the Macy’s commercial set, Martha gestured to the piles of linens and towels from her new collection and said, “Alexis, any of this you want for your apartment, please take it. I want to give you a housewarming present.” It seemed like a touching and generous gesture.

“I wouldn’t touch a single solitary item of this crap!” Alexis said, glowering.

Well, it rolled right off Martha. I thought, Yikes! She must get this all the time.

Abuse of power really can go both ways. If you’re a boss, a parent, or a child, it’s best to wield whatever power you have over your employees, children, or parents wisely. If you can’t be gracious, don’t spend time together. There’s no gun being held to your head that says you have to associate with people who make you crazy. My family may be a little eccentric, but I would never talk cruelly to them—and certainly not in front of other people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Gunn is an American fashion consultant and television personality, best known as cohost of the Emmy-winning reality show Project Runway. He was the chair of the fashion design department at Parsons The New School for Design and is now the chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne. In his book Gunn’s Golden Rules (Copyright © 2010 by Tim Gunn Productions, Inc.), he shares personal secrets for “making it work” — in your career, relationships, and life — and dishy stories of fashion’s greatest divas, behind-the-scenes glimpses of Project Runway‘s biggest drama queens, and never-before-revealed insights into his private life.

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PHOTOGRAPH OF TIM GUNN BY HENRY LEUTWYLER

Tim Gunn

Behind the Scenes of America’s Next Top Model

The inside scoop from J. Alexander, a judge on the show and author of Follow the Model: Miss J’s Guide to Unleashing Presence, Poise, and Power.

I first met Tyra Banks backstage at a show. We said our casual hellos and then started seeing each other at different runway presentations. She was living in Paris and we soon became close friends, but she never really liked living in Paris (maybe she’ll tell you about that in her memoirs one day). After she moved back to America we stayed in touch over the phone and we’d have hour-long conversations, catching up on all the Parisian fashion gossip. But I never in a million years dreamed that we would end up working together the way we do now.

I was the first person that Tyra approached about being on America’s Next Top Model. Well, actually she wasn’t the first person to talk to me about appearing on America’s Next Top Model. It was her mother. I was still working for Lars at Bill Blass at the time, and we had just finished a show. I remotely checked my answering machine in Paris, and there was a call from Tyra’s mother that said, “Hi, J., this is Momma Carolyn calling. How are things, how are you? Listen, Tyra’s developing a show, I think you’ll be perfect for it, so call us back and let us know who we talk to in order to get you on it.” They had no idea I was working in New York at the time, so I called her back. The conversation went as follows:

“Hey, Momma. What’s going on, girl?”

“J. Alexander, I’m so glad you called me back.”

I could hear Tyra in the background going, “Hi, J.!”

I said, “What’s going on?”

Her mother handed the phone to Tyra, who was so excited as she explained the show’s concept to me. She was going to approach the networks with the idea of a reality show where every week a girl is kicked off after trying to complete modeling tasks like the ones Tyra had gone through during her career, things like having to wear bathing suits in freezing cold weather and modeling winter coats in the Sahara desert. But she wanted to teach them real technical skills, too, and that was where I came in, as the show’s runway coach.

“When are you going to be in New York?” she asked.

She was thrilled to learn that I was already in New York, so I just walked up to her hotel at Sixty-third Street and Madison. We sat down and we talked out all the different show concepts, and that was it. I wanted in; it sounded fun. About a week later I ended up on a conference call with the producers. I can’t stand being on conference calls. I’m always afraid that I’ll be on speakerphone and not know who’s in the room, and accidentally say something that might hurt that person’s feelings. Whenever I have to be on a conference call I warn people up front about that and tell them that they are responsible for any wounded egos, not me.

I explained to everyone on the call how I usually work with girls, that it’s no more than four girls at a time for a two-hour class. I knew nothing about television, but I’d been doing coaching for such a long time at that point that I figured I’d just do my thing. You got what you got with me, and then we were done. Sort of like the best one-night stand of your life. Turns out that was so not the case.

The very first episode I shot was in Brooklyn and I brought all my props, like different types of clothes and accessories to model. They started filming and I immediately hated it. I was still operating under the assumption that shooting a television reality show was like shooting a documentary, so I just did what I normally do — which is teach. But the producer kept saying, “Stop, wait, let’s try it this way.” Or, “Cut, let’s do a different take.” There were moments when I would be talking to the girls, trying to get them to rest because they were exhausted or trying to get to know them a little better so I could see where I could push them and what their different strengths and weaknesses were. But the producer didn’t want me to do any of that and he was constantly telling me to stop what I was doing and saying, “Just do it this way; this is what I need.”

I finally got fed up and stormed off the set, telling them that was not how I worked. In retrospect, it’s hilarious. I was so inexperienced in the ways of television. I was in the midst of getting my reality TV cherry popped. I was demanding to work as if it was a normal two-hour class — coaching the models, taking breaks, making sure they were resting their feet, joking with them, as if the producers possibly had time for all of that. Boy, was I off target.

My other big issue initially was that I had a real problem with writers from the show trying to write lines for me. On that first cycle I was asked to say things like “This girl is here because of such-and-such and it’s fiiiieeeerce!” (Damn. Does it count if I use the F?word if I’m quoting someone else?) It was so obvious to me that there was some heterosexual man stuck in a writing room trying to write the way he thought gay men in the fashion world talked. I had the same problem when I worked for E!’s Fashion Police. They’d want me to say things like “Oooh, child, girl! Nuh-uh, honey child! Oooh, that’s faaaaabulous.” Let me make this perfectly clear. I. AM. NOT. THAT. GIRL. Caroline Pedrix, one of my former modeling bookers and a dear friend, used to tell clients, “Trust me, you’ll get your money’s worth. With J. Alexander, what you see is what you get and a whole lot more. Fo’ sho.” I understand how it’s easy to fit me into a box or a category of person, but watch me on television a little bit closer next time. I’m actually rather reserved, and my delivery is usually quite deadpan.

The producers finally got what they needed from me after shooting the first cycle, but I vowed that I would never do that again. Then seven months later I got a phone call that they wanted me to come back. I’d already told my television agent, Alex Schwab, that I’d stick needles in my eyes before that happened because I felt that what they were doing wasn’t high fashion. And when I told that to the producers as they were trying to get me back, they said, “You’re exactly right, big man, it’s television.” It was like a little lightbulb went off in my head. I just got it. Well, that and a substantial raise. None of us involved ever thought the show would have the staying power that it does. We figured maybe four cycles at the absolute most. At the time I’m writing this, I’m about to start shooting cycle thirteen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. Alexander, the author of Follow the Model: Miss J’s Guide to Unleashing Presence, Poise, and Power (Copyright © 2009 by Alexander Jenkins), has traveled around the world casting and coaching models for countless top designers. Now he is a television personality well-known for his work as a runway coach and judge on America’s Next Top Model.

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6 Ways to Be More Organized Today

Organizing and time management don’t come naturally to many people, but they can be learned. Julie Morgenstern, author of SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life, offers tips on getting yourself organized and managing your time for your own benefit.

When you’re physically organized and good at managing your schedule, you make the most of your time, space, energy, and money. And of course, being organized makes almost anything possible, because all of your resources can be invested in the pursuit of your dreams.

Some people believe organization is about neatness or rigidity or a “one-size-fits-all” solution, but if your system is designed properly, the opposite is true. Organizing isn’t about neatness; it’s about function. And organizational systems can be as unique to an individual as his own fingerprint. The key is to custom-design your system around your natural habits and the way you think so that it brings out your best self, rather than restricting you. A good system will help you optimize your resources, interests, and passions and be easy to maintain. Being organized (in your physical space) is as simple as being able to find what you need, when you need it, and to feel comfortable in your space.

Good time management involves the ability to plan systematically and anticipate your needs. It requires you to know yourself exceedingly well: your energy cycles, natural energy sources, the length of time you can focus on any particular task, and what you are good at. It also involves the ability to adjust your schedule, break down overwhelming projects into manageable parts, and delegate effectively.

How Can I Improve My Organization?

Organizing and time management don’t come naturally to many people, but they can be learned. When you are ready to apply these tips to your own space and schedule, the key is to think function — not neatness:

  1. Custom-design your system. Don’t copy anyone else’s system — not your boss’s, your spouse’s, or your best friend’s. You don’t think like they do, so why would you want a replica of their system? Think about your own goals, habits, and style, and design your system accordingly.
  2. Think kindergarten. A kindergarten classroom is the perfect model for organizing any space or schedule. There are clearly defined zones for each activity — a spot for reading, a place for napping, and an arts and crafts corner. For more information on adapting my activity zone model to your space and your schedule, read my first book, Organizing from the Inside Out.
  3. Organize the basics first. Your handbag, briefcase, and/or wallet are the most frequently accessed reflections of your ability to organize, so get those together first. At home, jump-start your sense of control by tackling your entryway, the bathroom, and your underwear and sock drawers. These are the most frequented areas in most homes, and organizing them will take the least amount of time. Starting with those key areas will give you a new daily sense of freedom and control. The rewards you reap will likely inspire you to tackle a bigger organizing project later.
  4. Study yourself. Highly organized people know themselves exceedingly well. Become a nonjudgmental student of yourself and determine your optimal conditions for peak performance. Track your energy cycles, noting the times of day when you have the most/least energy, when your energy starts to fade and what activity (a phone call, chat with a friend, catnap, reading the newspaper, exercising, drinking a glass of water) acts as a natural energy extender. Use a stop watch to time yourself doing routine tasks (at home and work) so you know how long they take. To study more about your personal relationship to time, read Time Management from the Inside Out.
  5. Learn your concentration threshold. What is the ideal amount of time you can focus on reading, writing, paperwork, leisure, cleaning, exercising, or a meeting? Is it four hours or forty-five minutes? Once you know how long you are able to focus on a particular activity, you can set yourself up for success. Plan tasks that won’t be either too much or too little for the time you have available. For more tips on how to boost your productivity and mental energy, read Never Check E-Mail in the Morning.
  6. Hire a pro or find a friend. Organizing can be difficult, because you get caught up in questioning your own needs (or changing them all together), so you never even get to setting up your system. You’ll have an easier time getting organized if you get an outside perspective. A friend or professional will take your needs at face value and help build a system around them. For referrals to a professional organizer near you, contact www.napo.net.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Morgenstern is the New York Times bestselling author of SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life (Copyright © 2008 by Julie Morgenstern), Organizing from the Inside Out, Time Management from the Inside Out, and Never Check E-Mail in the Morning. She lives in New York City. Visit her at www.juliemorgenstern.com and join the free SHED community.

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Home Beauty Remedies That Really Work

Thirteen favorite do-it-yourself beauty treatments that are both easy and inexpensive, from actress and Dancing with the Stars alumna Lisa Rinna, author of Rinnavation: Getting Your Best Life Ever

  • To lighten age spots, mix the juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime, 2 tablespoons of honey, and 2 ounces of plain yogurt together in a bowl. Yogurt contains a natural bleaching property. Rub the mixture into each spot, including sun-damaged cleavage. Do this several times before you need to attend a big event, and your skin will look even and gorgeous.
  • To make my absolute favorite face tightener and pore minimizer, beat 1 egg white to a froth. Apply the foamy liquid to your entire face, focusing on problem areas around the jaw, eyes, and forehead. Let it dry completely (about ten minutes), then gently rinse and pat dry.
  • To combat under-eye bags — there are many tried-and-true remedies for this problem — try placing cucumber slices, raw potato slices, moistened tea bags, or chilled spoons over each eye. Leave them on for ten minutes or so, then check your results. Repeat until bags disappear.
  • To reduce puffiness around the eyes: Preparation H is an old tried-and-true prescription for shrinking eye puffiness. It works, but some people find the ointment greasy and/or are put off by its smell (or just the idea of it). I am one of those people. Someone told me to try Tucks pads, and guess what? They work just as well as Preparation H and are odor and grease-free. You can use them on your neck, jaw line, or forehead — any place that needs quick tightening.
  • To make a fantastic moisturizing mask, mash up an avocado and apply it to your face. You’ll look scary while it’s on, but after removing it with warm water you’ll see that it works.
  • To make my excellent exfoliator, mix a few tablespoons of sugar with a few tablespoons of olive oil or water, if you have acne-prone skin. Gently massage the mixture all over your face. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
  • To make a gentle exfoliator, make a paste of baking soda and water and rub the mixture all over your skin. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and pat dry.
  • To make a clay mask – which is great for pulling toxins out of your skin — some facialists use (I kid you not) 100 percent clay kitty litter. (I told you I’d try anything!) It contains the same ingredients that are in the expensive clay masks. Make a paste of the clay by mixing it with water, and apply to your skin. Let it sit until it hardens, and then rinse with warm water and pat dry.
  • To make your own collagen booster, mash 1 cooked carrot with 1 avocado, then add 1/2 cup heavy cream and blend. Apply the cream to your face and neck and leave it on for fifteen minutes. Then rinse with cool water. The beta-carotene in the carrot, the vitamin E in the avocado, and the calcium in the heavy cream combine to boost collagen levels, lighten age spots, and improve overall skin tone. Do this once a week for a month and your face will glow.
  • To use oils to your advantage: coconut oil is a miracle moisturizer on dry hair, nails, feet, you name it. Olive oil is a legendary Mediterranean beauty secret for supple, soft skin — rub it on your skin, your feet, and your nails. To condition and repair damaged hair, combine 1/2 cup of olive oil and 2 to 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary and let it sit overnight. The next day, remove the rosemary, and massage the oil into your hair; let it soak in for ten to fifteen minutes, and rinse with warm water. Then shampoo to get rid of the oil residue. Sesame oil is another great all-over body moisturizer. Neutrogena makes a body oil that is super light and smells heavenly; apply it to damp skin after you shower for a smooth, subtle sheen that also accentuates muscle tone and enhances a tan. Right before I step onto the red carpet, I like to rub a little lavender oil on my arms and legs. It smells great, and it makes my skin soft and silky.
  • To make a lip exfoliator — you should try to exfoliate your lips once a week to get rid of dead skin and plump them up — mix a paste of honey and sugar and rub the mixture on your lips. Then use a toothbrush to slough off the dead skin.
  • To make an instant lip plumper, simply rub cinnamon on your lips. It’s that easy.
  • To make my ultra hand moisturizer, blend 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon of honey, 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 2 drops of lemon essential oil. Use it every time you wash your hands and your hands will be silky smooth in no time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Rinna, author of Rinnavation: Getting Your Best Life Ever (Copyright © 2009 by Lisa Rinna), is an award-winning actress and television host, best known for her roles on Days of Our Lives and Melrose Place, as well as her co-hosting duties on Soap Talk, her appearances on Dancing with the Stars, and her red-carpet interviews on the TV Guide Network. She is the creator of a line of dance-themed exercise DVDs called Lisa Rinna Dance Body Beautiful, and she runs her own successful boutique, Belle Gray, with her husband, actor Harry Hamlin, with whom she has two daughters, Delilah and Amelia.

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