"We have a glorious design tradition to be proud of here in this country, and it's a shame, in my view, that American designers of today know so little about American designers of the past."
"Every item we wear has a glorious (or sometimes not so glorious) history, and that history extends back years-centuries, even- before Oscar de la Renta's 2002 collection." ---Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible, 2012Season after season on Project Runway we get to see young designers who have little or no knowledge of fundamental fashion history. Nothing is more infuriating in this context than seeing a twentysomething guy gets the 1970s and 1980s all mixed up and claim he shouldn't be expected to know any of it because it happened before he was born. Then there's the vacant stare at the mention of Christian Dior's New Look (obviously, 1947 and the Mesozoic Era are one and the same if you were born in 1991). Tim Gunn who must have heard it all by now shares these frustrations and set out to do something about it. After all, he's first and foremost an educator (his short bio on both Facebook and Twitter says: "Educator, Author, Fashion Therapist, Project Runway Mentor"). That's where his newest book, Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible, enters the picture.
Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible was written in collaboration with Ada Calhoun who also worked with him on Gunn's Golden Rules. It's worth noting that the Tim Gunn-Ada Calhoun partnership somehow flows better and reads more Gunnish than his first book, Tim Gunn's Guide To Style that was written with Kate Moloney. The book takes us on a tour from the beginning (well, not the fig leaf, but the toga, and even touches on cavemen apparel), explaining the origins and reasoning behind past and present fashion:
"In other words, the American wardrobe staple's likeliest origin is this: a German inventor used an English fabric with a French name to make an Italian pant". --Tim Gunn on DenimThe book covers almost every clothing item in our closets, making sense of their evolution and gives advice on how to choose well. Tim Gunn includes both men and women's apparel and answers some of the most common questions, from what color of belt goes with brown shoes to what exactly to wear for a formal morning event. In between, Gunn gives us his personal opinions on everything from pleats ("I maintain: never.") to Europeans ("I think of Europeans as being very fashion conscious, but their proclivity for wool socks with sandals is one egregious exception."). It's an entertaining read just as much as it's educating, and Tim Gunn's beautiful personality shines through.
Now, about the name. I'd bet good money that Tim Gunn wasn't the one who came up with this name. It sounds like something from the publisher's marketing department and I can just about picture Tim Gunn's facial expression when he first heard it. This is a great book, but not quite a "fashion bible", and I don't think the author meant it to be one. Tim Gunn is just doing his part in broadening our sartorial horizon and making us give an extra thought to the clothes we wear, how we wear them, and why it matters:
"We should feel proud if we care about our appearance. I know vanity is supposedly one of the seven deadly sins, but I don't agree. I consider it a virtue. ... I think we owe it to ourselves and to each other to be a little bit vain. Pride may goeth before a fall, but it also goeth before a good social life and career advancement." --Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible, Concluion: How to Shop With The Past, Present, And Future In Mind.
Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible ($12.74 for the Kindle edition) is available from Amazon.
Photo by Perry Hagopian