Friday, May 04, 2007

Book Review- Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style (Tim Gunn's Guide to Style) by Tim Gunn and Kate Moloney

Tim Gunn is all grace and vocabulary, two traits not too common in the world of fashion advice (consider the difference between his "Make it work!" and Stacy London's "Shut up!"). I adore him on Project Runway and was very excited when I got to meet him in a charity event a couple of months ago. He's just as charming in person, the "taste, quality and style" radiating from his perfect skin.

I couldn't take him home with me and make him my best friend and shopping buddy, and neither can any other woman. But someone in Abrams Image realized that they could bank on this female obsession and gave him a book deal. Thus, giving us all a chance to own a little style guide with Tim Gunn's photo on the cover and quotes by Kierkegaard and Jonathan Swift.

My first problem here is with the very question of the real author behind the book. The front cover gives credit to Kate Moloney, who was Tim Gunn's Assistant Chair at Parsons, and whom he calls his "spiritual partner". The blurbs inside the dust jacket, as well as the dedication and preface led me to suspect that it's not exactly a Tim Gunn original. Also, the way the book reads, despite the high-brow literary and cultural references and the several Gunnisms that are woven into it, feel somewhat hollow at places. The crisp suit is there, but the real man is missing.

I might have been more forgiving for the bait & switch trick, if the first three chapters were less boring and predictable. The first one is all about being yourself and dressing for your lifestyle. The second chapter reveals that you should wear items that (gasp!) fit your shape. Here you will learn that clothes that are too big and shapeless will make you appear even bigger. If you hear echos of Clinton and Stacy, you aren't far from the truth. The only saving grace of this chapter is that it uncovers the secret of clothes size in America (and as far as I know also in the UK): it has changed over time, and unless you've only been buying couture (which stayed the same), you need to adjust the size of your clothes accordingly, even if your waistline hasn't changed.

Chapter three is the worst: Editing one's closet. Here you'll be subjected to advice such as "don't keep items that don't fit" and get rid of clothes you never wear". If you are having a mental image of Trinny and Susannah rummaging through someone's closet and tossing out lilac colored capris circa 1989, you'd be totally right. You've heard it all before, but maybe Tim Gunn will succeed where the English ladies have apparently failed to make you finally get rid of that flannel shirt from your grunge days.

It gets better afterwards, despite having some of the usual suspects in the fashion icon chapter. I appreciated the statement regarding fashion risk takers like Sarah Jessica Parker and Chloe Sevigny: "We can admire, but we cannot endorse". The extensive discussion of good posture was great, as well as the chapter about must-haves and the importance of quality in perennial items. I could live without the obsession for ballet flats. There's a lot of other sound advice regarding accessories, such as to forget about the "It" bag and to invest in good quality scarves.

A nice surprise was the sub-chapter dealing with perfume. I'm glad to report that it is far from mainstream and doesn't include advice to wear something light and citrusy to the office. There's a real discussion of scent families, it explains what a chypre is and even endorses less conventional notes. The book doesn't go as far as to explain and recommend niche fragrances, but it's a step in the right direction.

To sum it up, the book is cute and would help you pass a nice rainy afternoon at the bookstore. But it's not the ultimate must-have that you'll find yourself cracking open year after year. Too bad, really. I expected much more than that.


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  2. I've been following everyone's recommendations on the Tim Gunn book for awhile, and I haven't taken the big step to buy it yet, simply because the reports have been quite underwhelming! I'm so disappointed, too, because I get the feeling he really would have some unique and original ideas that I wouldn't get out of "The Lucky Shopping Manual." Oh, well. I guess I'll just have to wait patiently for the next season of ProjRun!


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