Dolled Up: Tim Gunn on Barbie, the Fashion Icon

By: Joe Thompson
9.30.2011

No one knows how to "Make it work!" better than Barbie. She can wear any outfit, any style, and from any decade with a sublime beauty that few models can ever hope to possess. So with that in mind we wanted to speak with Tim Gunn, beloved adviser on Project Runway and a fashion force in his own right. He's also designing a new Barbie of his own.

Out magazine's Editor in Chief, Aaron Hicklin, caught up with Gunn and asked him about working with one of the most famous women in fashion.

AARON HICKLIN: So, I understand you are now designing for the ultimate gay icon, Barbie.
TIM GUNN:
I hadn't thought about that—she really is the ultimate gay icon isn't she?

AH: I wonder what makes her that way. Well, she's a stunning blonde.
TG:
She doesn't have to be. Today Barbie can be whatever you want her to be—any ethnicity, of any international origin. She's everywoman. And I don't think Barbie has ever shed the glam look; she's always full-tilt glam. If you try to dress her down, she's not very believable.

AH: Right, Barbie as a mechanic doesn't quite cut it; Barbie on the red carpet, on the other hand...
TG:
Is a natural.

I have to say I'm a hugely fortunate and lucky guy. I knock wood and pinch myself every day. I just can't believe I have all these fantastic opportunities. It was actually Mattel that came to me and said, "We're thinking of a Tim Gunn limited-edition Barbie, and would you be interested?"Barbie_1959

Interested!? Who wouldn't be? I asked them, "Does anyone ever turn you down?" And they said, "Oh, yeah, you wouldn't believe it."

What?! How could that happen?

I'm planning on basing my limited-edition Barbie on the ten essential items that I maintain should be in every woman's wardrobe. She'll be wearing a trench coat, and she'll be wearing separates underneath, maybe the classic white shirt and a great pair of dress pants, all of course full-tilt glam. Then we'll have other additional items of apparel, and then of course accessories: high heels, sunglasses, great jewelry and a handbag.

AH: As a boy growing up, was Barbie a part of your world at all?
TG:
Barbie was my behind-the-closed-bedroom-door secret crush, because I'm three years older than my sister. Barbie came out when I was eight, and my sister was five, and she received the first Barbie—I even remember the case—it was round and had a clasp and basically opened wide so you had two half circles, with a place for Barbie on one half, and a little miniature closet and little close hangers on the other half. I remember it vividly.

AH: You and Barbie really are connected!
TG:
I was fascinated. I was rapt. My sister wasn't disinterested but she wasn't obsessed, and I certainly was. And part of it was just the miniature nature of everything, the incredible detailing in the clothing and accessories. I think it was my first fashion experience to be perfectly honest. And I loved architecture and interiors. I had a plastic castle that I loved, and it came with little knights, and it was Barbie that inspired me to dress the knights up...

Suits of armor can be pretty boring.

AH: You should do another Barbie challenge on Project Runway, this time with Barbie Collector.
TG:
We really should.

READER COMMENTS ()