Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Style I Learned from Project Runway. Everyday Tip #65

This post originally appeared at Blogher back in 2010 -- it's one of my favorites, so I thought I'd share it here as well!

I love Project Runway. I realize that this doesn’t make me terribly unique, but I’m human and I cannot resist its charms: I love the drama, I love the clothes and, like all of America, I love Tim Gunn. But what I love the most about the show is that beneath the cattiness and the glitz there are lessons to be learned if you're willing to listen to Tim, Heidi, Nina and Michael.


Like the designers on Project Runway, you are limited in what materials and budget you have access to. Get over it. Can’t afford Saks Fifth Avenue? Get thee to Old Navy and Make It Work. More money doesn't necessarily translate to better style; if last week’s episode (you know, the episode with the $500 budget, the Largest in The Show’s History, as Heidi so helpfully reminded us) taught us anything it was that a bigger budget doesn’t always buy you class, or as the judges would say, “taste level.”


The cardinal rule of Project Runway is this: Know who you are, and make sure whatever you design reflects it. That’s great advice for any creative endeavor, and don’t fool yourself -- how you present yourself (AKA your style) is a creative endeavor. Have a vision and let it guide you, but always remember to be yourself.


Boring gets you nowhere. Being boring is as much work as being unique, it just takes less courage. Be bold, and at the very least people will admire your courage. That’s the only explanation for Ping lasting as long as she did.


You’ve thought long and hard about what your vision is -- now is not the time to hold back. If you have to explain that the look you’re going for is "Goth Sorority Girl at the Beach," you’re doing it wrong. You know a designer’s in trouble when they have to stand in front of the judges and explain that they were going for X, but because of (insert excuse here) they ended up with this. Your style should speak for itself.


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when Tim Gunn gives a designer advice and they ignore it they’re probably on the way out. It’s important to take advice from people who know what they’re talking about and who have your best interests at heart. But you also have to know when to ignore criticism -- remember when Nina Garcia warned against doing an all-black collection and Irina went ahead and did one anyway and won? She took a bet that being true to her vision (of darkness and gloom!) would work, and it did. In the world of style, it always does.


Inspiration comes from the unlikeliest of places -- a museum, other designers, a burlap sack. Embrace it and have fun with it.