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Tim Gunn's 10 Fashion Essentials

I take every word that comes of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn as Bible. The man is the sweetest and can effectively match a striped shirt, a striped tie and a checkered suit jacket on the show.  Who better to spruce up my jeans-and-t-shirt attire than Tim? A few years ago, Tim Gunn put his Parson’s School of Design touch on everyday people’s closets and suggested ten essential pieces necessary for every woman on his TV show Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style.  Let’s discuss how these pieces can be used in your own wardrobe—regardless of your style—and how these items can be adaptable for men to purchase, too.

Tim Gunn’s 10 Essential Items:

  1. Basic black dress.  Tim Gunn is nothing if not classic. The “little” black dress has been a staple for decades. The black dress truly is an essential because it is the easiest thing to wear and the easiest thing to dress up or down. The temptation to buy a black dress with frills or lace should be avoided—a simple dress can last for decades, too. For men and ladies (who should purchase both a dress and a suit), as Tim Gunn himself models, the basic black suit is a must-buy. You can change shirts, ties and shoes—and for ladies, scarves, earrings or necklaces—but a nice suit will never go out of style.
  2. Trench coat. This is tough, but obviously an essential for both men and women. Trench coats are usually shapeless, but style aficionados should look for varieties with good fits that follow the shape of the body. Checking for strong sewing and a solid lining is your best bet in finding a well-made trench coat.
  3. Dress pants. Ladies and gents, dress pants can be a dime-a-dozen, but finding a nice pair now will mean that you don’t have to search again when your cheap-o pair rips at the crotch. Dress pants can easily transform from casual to dressed-up with choices of tops and accessories. Individuals who live in cold climates might invest in both a wool variety and a lighter material, like cotton, for the change in seasons.
  4. White shirt.  A simple white button-down looks classic, but is so, so difficult to find. Too many darts, too many ruffles and too many possibilities to look frumpy make the classic white shirt both a difficult find and a necessity.  The shirt can be worn with jeans and a sweater for a casual look or underneath a suit for an outfit for work.
  5. Skirt. Ladies, this is a tricky one.  You probably don’t want to buy a skirt with an obvious pattern—because it will go out of style quickly and your co-workers will notice if you’ve worn it 3 or 4 times a week. You also don’t want one with a lot of pleats or ruffles because it will quickly become dated or date you. A simple A-line skirt in a neutral color and a fine, rich fabric is your best choice in the skirt department.
  6. Blazer.  Blazers look so good, but sometimes I think it’s hard to find a blazer that you can both dress and dress down, although I’m sure it would be possible with Tim Gunn’s help.  The difficulty is also the tailoring and, as a repeat blazer owner and discarder, I would recommend taking a high-quality blazer into a tailor so that it fits perfectly around your waist and isn’t too long on your arms.
  7. Day dress.  Certainly a simple cotton dress can go a long way.  Like all of Tim’s recommendations a simple dress is key, but a dress may be more versatile in a simple color, rather than a neutral, than Tim’s other suggestions. I’ve been coveting a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress for ages and I think it would fit Tim’s bill.
  8. Cashmere sweater. This is an obvious one for most people—men and women—but it obviously comes from a man who has suffered through a New York winter or two. I can’t imagine wearing a cashmere sweater too often in moist or hot weather.
  9. Jeans.  Of course.  Too many people think of jeans as a throw-away number and don’t choose some that could do a number on their ass-ets.
  10. A comfortable alternative to a sweatsuit.  I’m stumped on this one.  Apparently, you’re supposed to be able to wear it around the house or to the grocery store.  But what is it? Any clues—let me know.