Making Fashion History in Your Own Closet
By: Sharon Mosley
When Tim Gunn wants to make it work, he writes another book about fashion — this time he is sharing his expertise on “the fascinating history of everything in your closet.” With co-author Ada Calhoun, the newest “Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible” (Simon and Schuster, $28) reads like a walking tour of a fashion museum depicting everything from the history of Cleopatra’s crown to Helen of Troy’s sandals to Madonna’s cone bra, from Dynasty’s power suits to Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits. This is definitely a book to give your favorite fashionista this holiday season.
With the charm that has made him a household name from his “Make it work” directives on Project Runway , Gunn offers candid insights on how the 1960s ruined American underwear, how Beau Brummell created the look men have worn for more than a century and why cargo Capri pants are a plague on our nation.
“While many historians concern themselves with the dress of indigenous civilizations, the work of certain designers, or with very specific periods in fashion, I am most interested in the clothes we wear right here and now and how various looks came into vogue,” says Gunn. “My focus in this book is on Western fashion, with a particular emphasis on American. I will look, piece by piece, at the items most Americans have in their closets and ask, “Do you know where this garment comes from — before Old Navy?”
Although all the historical fashion tidbits in Gunn’s “Fashion Bible” are intriguing, the last chapter focusing on “Your Closet Worksheet” is probably one of the most helpful checklists I’ve ever seen put together providing very specific tips on a wardrobe makeover. Since fall has arrived, it’s the perfect time to heed Gunn’s advice and start making your own fashion history. Here are his suggestions for checking out your own closet:
—First, throw out all the ratty, stretched out, riding-up underwear. Ditto for old socks and hosiery. Do you have some really nice underwear for special occasions? Do you have shapewear? Do all your bras actually fit? What size are you really? If you’re not sure, go get measured — it’s free — in the lingerie department of a boutique or department store.
—Throw away all the T-shirts that are falling apart or stained. Get some simple cotton T-shirts of whatever style looks best on you and consider wearing them as undershirts (under jackets or button-down shirts) more often than on their own.
—Get rid of all the jeans that don’t fit you. Consider investing in some flattering dark wash jeans if you don’t already have some.
—Is your favorite dress a Helen or a Cleopatra? (Gunn writes about the draped dress silhouettes worn by Helen of Troy and the more structured gowns worn by Cleopatra in his book). Which of these two dress types do you have more of? Do you have shoes and purses to match every dress? Do you have anything on a hanger that is getting stretched out? Jersey dresses need to be folded.
—When it comes to Capri pants and shorts, Gunn wastes no words: Throw them away. Just kidding. No, really: if we’re talking about cargo capris, take a good hard look at them and see if they are doing anything for you. Look at all the shorts you have and determine if they’re the right length for you. If not, what length might be better? Also, check skirt lengths.
—Do you have any vests? Consider getting a vest this fall to liven up a pair of jeans and a shirt.
—Gunn is not a fan of fur, so he believes when it comes to coats and jackets, a trench with a removable lining is really all you need, unless you live in a colder climate and need a warmer coat.
—Are you a handbag cultist? Gunn reminds us that we don’t need to spend tons of money on a purse. Ask yourself if you have a large bag for day that meets all your needs and a small bag for night.
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