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New Pathways into Quilt History written by Kimberly Wulfert, www.antiquequiltdating.com

Book Review by Kimberly Wulfert, PhD

What’s Your Fashion Style???
A review of
Tim Gunn, A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style

Tim Gunn, from Project Runway, wrote this book with Kate Maloney, and together they offer fashion suggestions on how to dress your body, from shoes to accessories. Tim is his usual practical self. Have you noticed that he always wears a black suit on PR? Always! He changes his tie color and sometimes wears a pale-colored shirt rather than his favorite white. Why? Because he looks good in it and it says what he wants his fashion statement to say to the people he meets.

Tim and Kate are practical without being dull. Quite the opposite, the book is full of humor, the very dry type he is so good at you don’t know its happening until it’s over. “In other words, if adjusting to and discovering your personal style results in a few funny outfits, so be it. What is important is that a space is created for a person to embrace who she truly is. Even if, and it pains us to write this, it includes saddle shoes.”

They offer tips for a refined dressing style, not trendy, except for an accessory or top here and there. Gaudy is out, no matter what. Extravagantly expensive is also out unless money is no issue at all. He advises women (yes, this book is for and about women) to invest in certain items that can stand the test of time and to get to know H&M for all the rest. (In case you don’t know about this chain of fashion at a discount stores or have one near check out their website http://www.hm.com/us/#season_startpage). He is very budget aware, but this man knows how to shop by designers with good design principles and styles that a woman can come to rely on to fit her and look good on her body type most of the time. This saves time and aggravation. So when he helps women shop at H&M, he arrives when the very best and newest items are still on the rack, you know, for the first three minutes after they are put on the rack! H&M shoppers know when a designer whatever is coming to the store like quilters know when a reproduction fabric line is coming to their quilt shop. H&M shoppers are clothes horses, in-the-know, Tim groupies- I would bet on it. (Did you know that clothes racks that look similar to a double-sided quilt or towel rack was the original meaning of a cloth(es) horse?)

Tim, I dare say, is a name dropper -- yep, you really know that you don’t know the fashion designers when you read this book, or that you do. It is over my head in that regard, but of no consequence because the information isn’t. He talks about dressing in proportion to your size and height. He talks about balance and comfort. He is a practical man. He says, more or less, that his tiny closest is partly to blame for his nearly all black set of clothes. He believes in buying items that go together with others resulting in several outfits, and in wearing colors that flatter you.

He tells the readers to aim for versatility in their closet, i.e. casual to formal clothing, but not versatility in their style. Instead, figure out what color, texture, proportion, and style works for you and replicate it over and over. He actually writes that we should embrace our personal style and let the fashion go -- I love this guy!

Tim and Kate do not take themselves too seriously as they give us an easy read that feels personal and upbeat from beginning to end. I heard them talk about their book writing experience at the UCLA Book Fair in April 2007. He said he couldn’t wait for the writing to be over with!! It was the hardest thing he ever did. It took so much more effort and time then he had imagined. He was thrilled to have Kate, a 30-something woman, to bounce ideas off and share in the writing, but the book is in Tim’s manner and style. When he signed my book, he wrote his Project Runway motto “Make it work!” which is nearly as well known as “You’re fired” (by the man with questionable taste, the Donald).

Every page has Tim’s point of view spelled out, whether he is discussing purses and the size for you, shoes and comfort, dresses for office, evening coats or jeans. He writes to the women living in four season climates, who also enjoy a regular nightlife, after working outside the home all day. This means he has little to say about the West Coast wardrobe and lifestyle when he discusses particular clothes and fibers for day and evening activities. He comments on this and dedicates just a few pages casual warm climate women. He recognizes that in warm climates, we have many choices, more than some Eastern states could tolerate, with their seasonal rules of color and textures. Reading his book makes you want to buy a tweed something! But you also get the idea that he doesn’t think too highly of some of those choices. I find myself agreeing with this man more times than not. This is a book of substance, even if it is pink and humorous.

I live in Southern California, but even with this caveat, I found the book a delightful retreat from other reading I do and with more sustenance then fashion magazines. Do keep in mind it offers no photographs at all. A few line drawings are placed here and there. His suggestions to live within your means and make smart choices, rather then blindly shopping, applies anywhere and to anyone. He is not an ‘anything goes’ shopper; rather, he tells us to analyze and be smart when choosing our wardrobe. Splurge for a dynamite leather coat or black dress if you must -- you won’t be sorry. But spending money, even a small amount, on an ill fitting, cheap looking item is a tragedy. He gives sound advice about shopping at outlet stores; clothes made to be sold at outlets can be sized differently, and the manufacturer may use different textiles, which may not hang or fit as well as those sold at the retail store.

“And what an achievement that is, to remain unswayed by the hurricanes of trend and the maelstroms of media hype.” This, written by a man who will have his own TV show starting this Fall on Bravo, “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style.” He and a female chart work with individual women, examining their closet, discarding the unacceptable and discovering their personal style. It starts September 6, Thursday at 10 PM PST.

The book offers many delightful comments that I have named Timisms. Here are a few:

“Please do not force garments into performing psychological tasks for which they were not designed.”

“If your goal when dressing is to feel as though you never got out of bed, then don’t.”

“Remember our mantra: silhouette, proportion and fit.”

“A bohemian standby to avoid is the fringed silk shawl that only pianos should wear.” It is no coincidence that he lists Beatrice Woods when describing the style category called Bohemian. She is the late and famous potter who lived in my town of Ojai, to the age 104, and never changed her style over the years. She appeared to be living in India. She’s in good company, however, as he puts Donna Karan in the same category.

“The old adage is, ‘You should never buy something on sale that you wouldn’t buy at full price.’”


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© 2007 - 2015 Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. Absolutely no copies, reprints, use of photos or text are permitted for commercial or online use. One personal copy for study purposes is permitted.

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