Published by Gallery Books
Publication date: September 11th 2012
Genres: Essays, fashion, Non-fiction
For those who know me, my objectivity in reviewing Tim Gunn’s new book Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible, is likely to be called into question as I have made numerous not-so-subtle remarks about my deep admiration for the author (visit to Portland, summer reading). Think what you will, but I am not exaggerating to say that Fashion Bible will be a staple in any fashion lover’s book wardrobe. Prior to his success as Project Runway guru, Gunn was an educator at The Parson School of Design for 29 years, as evidenced by his deft use of facts, extensive research, and story-telling abilities.
Fashion Bible contains an introduction, 20 chapters based on various items of apparel from underwear and hosiery to athletic wear and dresses, a bibliography, and notes. There is also a Your Closet Worksheet that looks at each item from the 20 chapters and how it works, or doesn’t, in your wardrobe. The focus is largely on American fashion, although historically, every era and continent is covered. In each chapter Gunn goes through the genesis of the item, gives particularly outstanding and egregious examples of it through history and then closes with tips and pointers (does your T-shirt fit, how to wear a belt). Coverage is comprehensive, exploring items from the mundane to the esoteric. In addition to the text, there are marvelous images of everything from couture dresses and historical drawings to museum pieces and celebrities wearing clothing they helped turn into wardrobe staples, e.g. Marlon Brando and James Dean wearing white T-shirts. And for the gents, there are even chapters on men’s clothing, such as suits and dress shirts.
Even though could be viewed as a reference guide, it is eminently readable thanks to Gunn’s wry sense of humor and outspoken opinions. About cargo capris he says:
At malls, I am tempted to set up the fashion equivalent of a guns-for-cash or needle-exchange booth and call through a bullhorn: “Throw your cargo capris into the flaming trash can, step behind the screen, and claim your wrap dress.” I would find it very cathartic.”
His persona permeates the page, part taskmaster, part mentor. He’ll tell you what is absolutely wrong but will also show you how to make it right. It helps that Gunn himself is a sartorial exemplar but, while he believes in the importance of being well-dressed, he also believes personal style matters (as long as it doesn’t include sweat pants worn as anything other than athletic wear). And even if you are one of the fallen, exposing your thong and wearing hospital scrubs in public, you’ll still find Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible to be fascinating reading. At the very least, you’ll learn where your mistakes began.