The Amazing Powers of Tim Gunn

I recorded the most recent episode of Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, in the hopes I might learn something. This episode in particular, featured a 40-something woman (Karen) who still wanted to look hot, but who had ended up looking like a hooker instead. I could relate: I, too, still want to look sexy, but it seems the fashion world assumes women become asexual amorphous blobs around the age of 30. I make do, I suppose, somewhere between the expensive advice of my fashion enabler and slouching around in thrift-store jeans and sweatshirts. Karen had made the mistake of still shopping in the juniors section of the store, but I can’t really blame her for that. Who wants boxy jacket when cute Goth top can be had instead? But it would be nice to see what the guru of good taste would have to say.

Peter watched the show with me. Tim Gunn and his associate, former model Veronica Webb, had Karen clean out her entire closet, and put her clothes into four piles, three of which were euphemisms for “burn it.” Tim advised: don’t keep anything you don’t wear regularly, that doesn’t fit you, or that doesn’t make you feel fabulous. Peter paused the program, in the sudden realization that he, too, had clothes in his closet which just shouldn’t be there any more. Now, unlike Karen, we don’t have a packed closet of outgrown 20-year-old clothes. We do regularly make a massive clearing out of our wardrobes (the last being 4 years ago), and we rarely go on clothing shopping sprees. But the clothes do add up, and just like Karen, some of the clothes have emotional associations that makes getting rid of them hard, no matter how ridiculous we would look in them. I am far worse on the latter problem than Peter is.

Peter instantly dumped half the dress shirts he had into a hamper to be sent to Goodwill. He found pants that look bad, shoes that were gathering dust, and a hidden sweater he decided to keep, but to hang up so that it could be found. Well, I was inspired to review my clothes as well. An Irish sweater: it’s the most reliably warm sweater I have, but outside of western Ireland, it’s, well, very 80s, and now as we approach the 2010s, maybe it’s time to move on. I had a ballgown I’d looked fabulous in, in, well, 1996. I’d been meaning to recut and restyle it, but really, as Tim Gunn would say, if I want a terrific new dress, I can just buy one or make do with any of those I do have that fit me better today. I had other things I considered adding to our pile, but without the one-on-one figure consultation and the shopping spree at Macy’s Karen got, I wasn’t ready to let go.

So within 10 minutes of screen time, Tim Gunn had lightened our lives. Now how did he and Veronica Webb do with Karen? Essentially, the style team took her from hooker to actress, which was a smart way to go. Karen got a great hairstyle, which she can probably keep up, since she’s a salon owner. Her make-up was revised to a lighter, fresher look, which made her look completely different, a lot less hard. And the clothes she picked out at Macy’s all worked for her, giving her the hot-but-not-desperate effect she had been trying to achieve. The goodies also included a couture dress. Unfortunately, the designer Karen got stuck with was Bill Blass, a designer whose clothes seem to be designed on boys and are worn by skeletal 80-year-old socialites. From his collection, she picked out a “dress” that looks like little more than short, closed trenchcoat. Were it not for her updated hair and make-up, Karen would seriously look like a stripper about to rip off that “dress” to reveal something scandalous underneath. As it is, she looked awkward and confused wearing it, and even worse, a small copy of it was given to her daughter.

So the fashion makeover mostly worked, and whether or not it suits Karen in the end, the show at least improved our closet.

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