A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style, by Tim Gunn

Tim Gunn, the well-dressed and good-mannered mentor of TV’s Project Runway, penned his own style book in 2007 called A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style.  Gunn is the former head of the fashion department at the renowned Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, and the Chief Creative Officer at Liz Claiborne, Inc.  It has ten short, but succinct, chapters: 1) Who You Are, 2) The Fit Conundrum, 3) Diagnosing the Common Closet, 4) The Fashion Mentor: Beyond Audrey, 5) Shoulders Back: Style from the Inside Out, 6) Preparing to Shop, 7) Let’s Go: Shopping At Last!, 8 ) Accessories: Say No to the “It” Bag, 9) Not Your Everyday Occasion, 10) Appendices.  The difference between this guide to looking good and many other pieces of fashion lit is that this book focuses on determining and refining personal style, as opposed to magazines that keep reinforcing and promoting their readers to continuously buy trends, or books that instruct you to purchase the same exact pieces as every other woman.  You can tell Gunn has spent a great deal of time studying, learning and deciphering the important parts of the fashion world – as well as the bogus ones.  He seems genuinely concerned for his readers’ well-being and style (and wallets!  He encourages wise-spending, and hates when people waste their hard-earned dollars on trendy items.)  The book itself is a bit like Tim – tall, slender and sophisticated.  It’s printed in black, white and pink, making for an adorable-looking read.  Gunn’s book starts out describing the importance of dressing well, and dressing as an individual.  He then moves on to the biggest mistakes in fashion (#1 being FIT!), clearing out your closet, determining fashion inspirations, and then shopping appropriately.  This editor’s favorite part of the book has to be “The Comfort Trap” (pgs. 25-28), in Chapter 1.  Gunn writes, “Is it just my perception or have we really become a nation of slobs?”  He describes airports being filled with people dressed in workout clothes, and the slow death of dressing appropriately in the US since the 1980s.  Tim also addresses “the flip-flop phenomenon.”  When did it become okay to wear these pieces of junk all over town on dates, in church, at formal events – hell, even a goofy girls soccer team went to the WHITE HOUSE wearing these hideous sandals!  It is not only sloppy-looking, it is downright rude, and Gunn agrees: “How is it that these slabs of rubber can proliferate so, even in winter?  Where is this taking our society and culture other than into a long and winding fashion decline?”  Very true, Tim.  The only criticism of this book is that it doesn’t contain photographs.  Describing clothing styles can only take you so far, if you’re a novice.  The last chapter contains a fantastic glossary of fashion definitions and buzzwords, making it much easier to decipher what Gunn is describing, but if you’re completely clueless on clothing, then it does make it a bit difficult to understand.  (Although, if you just sat next to your computer and Googled the specific items and terms Tim is discussing, it’s not hard at all.  In fact, it’s probably beneficial to do so, because you’ll see a range of visual examples.)  Googling all the fabulous women Gunn describes in Chapter 4 about fashion mentors called “Beyond Audrey” (although our editors clearly aren’t as creative as Tim…) is just as fun too!  It may seem ridiculous, but Gunn nails down why style is so important – “You’re sending a message about who you are” (pg. 26).  Tim is dead-on.  And it’s clear the message he sends is “I am a considerate, down-to-earth, teacher and inspiration to many without even realizing it.”  Gunn is a gentleman, plain and simple, and this books only confirms it.


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