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Book: Tim Gunn’s Guide to Quality, Taste and Style

March 20, 2008

Because not every book has to be a novel or great literature.

Also, because I really need to rethink how I shop for clothes. I am tired of compromising and ‘making do’, when I could do much better on the same budget.

Also, because I love Tim!! (who doesn’t love Tim? I wish he were our neighbor.)

This was a fun book and a quick read. It was certainly not meant to be a dull tome of fashion and etiquette — rather, it seemed like a friendly chat about clothing fit and shopping and how to craft a wardrobe that suits you. (and a small section on how to properly take a shower; I can only imagine why that was included…)

The important things I took away from this book are (I knew these things already but it was nice to have them set in front of me so gently and accessibly):

  1. How to clean and sort my closet. Four piles: Keep (Love It), Repair (Love It), Donate, and Trash. Be ruthless on the first round, and then go through the ‘keep’ pile again. Try everything on, and be honest with yourself. Okay, check.
  2. Choose a style mentor, create a ‘uniform’. I have an image in my mind of how I want to look most days, and most days I do not look like this. How I want to look is something like ‘quirky French librarian’ mixed with ‘creative art lady’ but without the baggy sweaters. Having this in mind will help me figure out what to buy.
  3. Spend on the basics, save on the frills. Seems logical, but how many cheap cotton sweaters do I have that I hate after wearing three times because they are all pulled out of shape? I think T-shirts could be an exception to that rule. However, this has inspired me to buy better basics pieces and build a long-lasting wardrobe, rather than constantly being disappointed with everything I have because it’s faded, pilled, or otherwise looking shabby.
  4. When shopping, look for specific items. “What am I shopping for today?” and “Why am I shopping?” This seems very important, in terms of being successful and also sticking to a budget. Browsing is fun, but unless I need something, Tim recommends choosing a ‘treat’ for under $20 (a new lipstick, etc.) to avoid bringing home impulse clothing buys that will just clutter up the closet.

I think I expected a little more guidance on ‘must-haves’ but I think the point is, the must-haves are different for everyone. I have started my own must-have list, and it looks something like this:

  • A trench. I have a winter trench-style, but I would like a lighter one for year-round. Black or charcoal, I think. I don’t look good in camel or taupe.
  • Crisp no-iron white shirts. To go with everything, under cardigans, etc. I have a nice white shirt but it needs to be ironed and I can’t iron shirts.
  • Trouser jeans. Check! Got a pair last weekend and I love them. Worth every penny.
  • Small selection of quality sweaters. Need to start collecting these. I am allergic to most wools, so I need to explore what I can wear that isn’t cheap cotton.
  • Two or three day dresses for work. Basics that I can change with jackets, sweaters, and accessories. I like dresses but I never wear them because I’m always cold at work, and because I have a hard time finding ones that fit me. But now I am on the hunt.
  • Perfect black pants. I have one nice pair of black trousers that I can wear with heels, and I would like one more that are washable and can wear with flats.

That’s a pretty good start on a nice basic wardrobe. It will take me awhile to assemble all this, but it’s nice to have a list.

Anyway, this was a really fun book, I love Tim’s nonsequiteurs and anecdotes, and it did give me something to think about although it certainly falls under the category of ‘fluff.’

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