We’ll Have to Agree to Disagree

Tim GunnI love me some Tim Gunn. He's handsome, suave, intelligent and a man in the industry who still believes that style is more important than current trends. I have been a Project Runway fanatic for every season, but after reading several reviews wasn’t too eager to see his new show – Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. I heard he was boring, stiff, and his advice had been heard 50,000 times before. I missed the first episode, choosing instead to have a lovely dinner date with my husband.

My mom saw it, saved it on her TiVo and has watched it several times since. She found it brilliant – brilliant enough to inspire her to dig through her closet and collect six bags for donation, calling me each day with her progress. This is something I have been begging her to do for years so I decided to mark my calendar to see the second episode of this show this week. If Tim Gunn can get my mom to finally donate those black velvet elastic-waist pants that my mom kept “just in case” then he was my hero.

After last night's episode, I must agree with the newspaper and internet reviews – I am not impressed. Yes, JeAnne’s hair and makeup was amazing and they found a few pieces to add to her wardrobe that were far more flattering. But really, I learned nothing new and I actually disagreed with much that was stated.

070906 gunn hmed 4p.hmediumThe Ten Items Every Woman Needs in Her Closet:
Basic black dress, Trench coat, Classic dress pants, Skirt, Blazer, Classic white shirt, Day dress, Cashmere sweater, Jeans, A comfortable alternative to a sweatsuit

“Hey babe, don’t you have a list just like this?” my husband asked. Well, kinda. Lots of people who write about fashion and style have their list of must-haves. Many of the things on my list are on Tim’s and many stylists around the globe. But Tim had a few I disagree with. I think the reason I do NOT include these items is because I am not a tall, thin woman in the city and I do not know a ton of tall, thin city women. I know very tall women who have a devil of a time finding the right length of jeans to wear to the grocery store; petite women with large busts who search endlessly for a suit that will fit their small shoulders and still fit over their midsection; women who couldn’t afford a trainer to assist in getting back their pre-baby figure but still want to find chic attire for work; women who have curvy figures and want to find casual clothes that don’t make them look like marshmallows.

These women do not need a trench coat. Rarely does a woman under 5’4”, with a D-cup bra or wear over a size 12 look good in a trench. Stiff fabric, double-breasted buttons and a self-belt are not forgiving attributes. If you are surrounded by socialites and supermodels, you may not realize how utterly unflattering this garment could be.

These women do not all need white shirts either. Yes, a white shirt can be classic, crisp and elegant. It can also be an utter mess. It requires maintenance to keep it crisp and brilliant, it needs to fit well in the shoulders, the arms, the bust. Without a custom fit, white shirts often look cheap or dumpy on the majority of women’s shapes. To accommodate the bust, many women end up purchasing a size larger and end up with buckling at the lower back, dragging over the hands, gaping at the neck and hitting at an unflattering length on the hip. Tucked in, it balloons out adding girth to the torso. To fit elsewhere, many women end up with too-tight white shirts, buttons bulging and underpinnings ending up showing through. Wrap shirts are flattering, but often gape at the neckline on larger frames. Wrinkle-free styles are often tailored more to fit business men than chic ladies. And there are so many styles out there with weird adornments like epaulets, breast pockets, quirky embroidery, zippers and lace that it confuses one as to what is stylish and what is not, what is flattering and what is not. White shirts get stained, creased, wrinkled and can look old quickly. Add children or an active lifestyle to the mix and your white shirt will have just as long of a shelf life as that pair of ultra-sheer pantyhose.

These women do not all need cashmere sweaters. A well-made, non-itchy sweater in a lightweight knit – yes. Cashmere? Well I have lived a couple decades without owning a cashmere sweater and I do just fine. Asking many of my friends and family – from high-powered attorneys to stay at home moms… none of them own cashmere and all of them have great style. A great quality knit that is heavy enough to be warm but light enough to skim the body and flatter is a wonderful thing and I do agree a necessity in a wardrobe. However that can be cotton, silk, hemp, merino… or possibly cashmere. Cashmere requires maintenance and special care. We don’t all have the time, space or budget to accommodate this. That’s why I own a ton of merino – throw in the wash on the gentle cycle, hang it up in a doorway to dry and it’s as good as new.

The rest of the pieces (blazer, skirt, dress pants, black dress, day dress, jeans, sweatsuit alternative) are simple enough that they could be interpreted to fit any woman’s lifestyle or body shape.

The biggest problem I have with many “style experts” is that they haven’t worked with enough women outside the industry. They don’t understand that the majority of females are not 5’7”, not a size 6, not penciling cocktail parties and gallery openings on their calendars.

JeAnne’s transformation was good. I loved the smoky eye, the glossy lips, the sassy haircut and color. Removing the severity of her look helped her lose five years and fifteen pounds. But really, a few things they put her in were NOT flattering. The white shirt with the seaming was tight and cheap. The halter dresses at Carmen Marc Valvo were gorgeous but made her arms and shoulders look even heavier than they were and did nothing to support her bust. Halter neck styles can be flattering and elongate a neckline, but they also add girth to arms, remove any shoulder definition, and make bra-wearing difficult causing the bustline to sag. The v-neck dance dress (the second black dress she tried at the salon) was sweet, elegant and most of all flattering yet she ultimately was left in the halter that had her back skin hang out, her arms be on display and then horrors of horrors, they did the WORST THING for dear JeAnne… they put a sheer wrap over her arms.

Ladies, I DESPISE this look.

What woman is comfortable constantly hiking up her piece of black chiffon to cover her triceps? A woman should feel comfortable in her attire, especially at a formal one where she already feels on display. To take a woman and make her put a piece of gauze over her arms to hide the girth is putting her in a mini-prison where she hunches over her seat at the table trying to hide her figure, or if she does dare to head to the dance floor, is restricted to slow dances and subtle swaying to keep the fabric in place. The useless wrap is the equivalent to shackles for any curvaceous woman. Hiding one’s arms in shame, holding her prisoner in her clothing. The bridesmaid who is already larger than her size-4 counterparts is punished into wearing an additional swath of hot pink satin across her shoulders. It doesn’t make her look smaller, just more obvious and more awkward. If JeAnne was put in the v-neck dance dress, people would be admiring her creamy decollate and her small waist, and not even notice her arms. At a mirror she herself would see her eye go to her reflection’s collarbone, her waist or her face in the dress and therefore walk taller and have more confidence and fun at an event.

I’ll watch again because I love Tim Gunn and I loved how he ensured she was outfitted with proper underpinnings (#1 in my book), didn’t trash her entire closet and dressed her for her actual lifestyle and personality. Maybe with experience, they too will learn to understand the myriad of women’s shapes and lifestyles and this show will be more useful to its viewers.

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16 Comments

  1. September 26, 2007 / 7:13 pm

    PS: Couldn’t agree with you more on the dresses part…my significant other (who has a good eye for fashion) and I were fuming about the halters they kept putting her in! Hello! She has big boobs and heavy arms! She looked SO SO SO much better in the other styles. Anyway, had to add that.

  2. September 26, 2007 / 6:55 pm

    Hi Allie,

    I prefer my Clinton and Stacy any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Watching Tim Gunn’s show made me long for the snark on TLC.

    Anyhoo, I agree with 99.9% of what you have to say.. except gotta tell you… I’m 5’5, a curvy size 8/10 and look pretty incredible in my $49.50 trench from H&M…then again, it’s single breasted and belted… I don’t go for that double-breasted crapola.

  3. September 22, 2007 / 2:09 am

    i love tim gunn and i watched this, and although i agree with some of your points, i have to agree with him on a lot as well.

    to give tim a chance, he’s on a tv show which i feel a lot of things are scripted and i don’t know how much leeway he has to really do whatever he wants.

    but like the wrap dress that jeanne wore, that was mentioned, wrap dresses are always flattering but the print was not.

    and i’m below 5’4 but i have to say i LOVE how i look in a trench. i keep my clothes rather crumpled cos i hate getting hot and bothered ironing, but i do have like 5 white shirts which i wear often and i do think we all need at least one. i guess it’s just the basics for a working woman that tim was aiming for.

  4. September 22, 2007 / 12:57 am

    I actually rather adore Veronica’s hair. Very refreshing to see a chic woman on tv with no-nonsense hair, as opposed to the I-just-got-done-spending-two-hours-in-a-makeup-chair hair. Her clothes, on the other hand, are a bit… odd.
    As far as Tim Gunn putting that woman in a halter top, I think that was her choice. The impression that I got was that the women got to choose all the items, with the exception of the designer bag and jewelry. So while he’s not directly responsible, he is guilty of allowing her to choose it.

  5. Anonymous
    September 19, 2007 / 4:38 pm

    I was bummed out because I didn’t think I got this channel. But lo and behold when I was channel surfing this morning there it was. And Tim Gunn’s show was on!

    Whoo hoo! Another “transformation” show to add to my list.

  6. Anonymous
    September 18, 2007 / 1:31 am

    Totally agree with you re: non-staple status of white shirt, trench coat, and cashmere. About the wrap: I’m rather surprised with the comments. I love full-sized wraps/shawls myself and wear them all the time, dancing or grocery shopping, no difference, but am always attacked/ridiculed by everyone. Friends say I don’t look BAD, just PRETENTIOUS. In any case, just want to confess that with any kind of outfit I would be the first one to want to wear a wrap, I think it brings attention to me in a good way!

  7. September 17, 2007 / 9:21 pm

    Hah! I thought of you when I watched the first episode and thought how you would disagree with his list.

    And ditto on Veronica Webb. Someone needs to give her a makeover.

  8. September 17, 2007 / 3:17 pm

    I was so pleased to see you tackle THE LIST of items every item is supposed to have in her wardrobe. I’ve seen it so many times that I just accepted it as gospel. You’re right though. It really only applies to thin, child-less, city dwellers.

  9. September 17, 2007 / 2:09 pm

    100% agree with you on the wrap thing. My best friend got married 2 years ago. We’ve been best friends since we were 3 and we were 30 when she finally got married. She thought it would be a great idea to go with strapless bridesmaids dresses since her wedding dress was strapless. Which was great for her since she’s thin, not so great on me. I knew they would look great on her other two bridesmaids but completely attrocious on my size 24 DDD-chested self. I very politely told her that if that is the dress we are wearing then I will not be able to stand up for her in her wedding but would be willing to help out with anything else. She said, “oh, it will be fine, we can get you a wrap.” All I could do was picture every other wedding I’ve been to where there’s the one “plus-size” bridesmaid wearing the wrap around her shoulders. What makes it look even worse is when no other bridesmaid is wearing one so it’s totally obvious that she’s self-conscious about being in the crappy dress the bride chose. I always feel bad for that girl. I also think it makes the bride look self-centered, like they went into the bridal shop with a, “I don’t care what you look like as long as I look good and your dresses match the crappy colours I chose.” These are the brides that have never had a weight problem or are the type to wear whatever they want even if it isn’t for their body type or it’s too tight. My theory: Just because it comes in your size, doesn’t mean you should wear it.
    **hops off soapbox**

  10. Anonymous
    September 16, 2007 / 4:24 pm

    I love Tim Gunn too and would gladly chase after him like a brazen hussy if he were, er, straig

    I think he has spent too much time in the model world and is still trying to grasp real women and real lives. He gets it right some of the time (investing in proper underwear, being appalled by leggings, refusing to let the first episode woman buy a long strapless dress as her one and only dress) but I do think with JeAnne he missed the mark a little.

    There were definitely far better dresses for her at Carmen Marc Valvo which would have let her wear a bra. I agree with you Allie that a white shirt and trench in particular are pretty difficult items. And because I’m a fair skinned redhead I have problems with black period, but most women can wear black.

    In the first episode the women chose a white sundress with a sweater and flat shoes as her dog walking outfit. I don’t know about her dog, but I know mine and you might as just roll in the mud with them as dress like that to walk them. And at the dog run…

    I have to disagree about cashmere. I love it but so much is such cheap quality even with the high prices and taking care of it is a pain. I do put mine in the laundry, in the delicate cycle, and lay flat to dry but oh, I’m dreading wash day.

    I do think the purse and the necklace they gave really helped her get motivated.

    As an almost plus size I was also hoping they’d get creative in where they shop…

    Your list is much better Allie, but I wish you’d give me a black alternative!

    Thanks for all the work you do on this blog

    Christine

  11. September 16, 2007 / 5:49 am

    I liked the first Tim Gunn show better than the second. As to the 10 items: I agree with all you said. I don’t like cashmere because it itches; my crisp white shirt is only crisp for an hour and then it has traces of makeup around the collar; a trench is fine if you’re walking around in NYC on a rainy day, but very uncomfortable and too warm if you’re jumping in and out of the car running daily errands. I love suggestions for the real lives of real women.

  12. Anonymous
    September 15, 2007 / 4:28 pm

    totally agree with you as i am now a size 12 ( sometimes a 10) not every woman looks good in what tim gunn says but then his life is very narrow in regards to everyday people excellent blog sharon

  13. September 14, 2007 / 6:30 pm

    I completely agree with you, and was thinking the same things as I watched the show last night. The white shirt is not a staple (I have a few dress shirts that are different colors and look much more unique than white). Although I will agree with Tim on the pattern of JeAnne’s favorite wrap dress. That chain link pattern was not doing her any favors and the length of the hem and sleeves was way off.

    P.S. I love your blog and your advice!

  14. Anonymous
    September 14, 2007 / 6:03 pm

    Oh I HATE those stupid sheer wraps! It’s like saying HELLO I hate my arms, I think I’m fat and I have low self-esteem. Might as well wear a mumu

  15. September 14, 2007 / 5:55 pm

    Hi Allie

    I have not watched all of this episode yet but I wanted to agree with what you have said. I wrote a review of the first episode and I liked some of the variation from “What Not to Wear” but I agree that a lot of the basic info is “out there” on your blog, in Trinny and Susannah’s books etc…

    In the few minutes I did watch I was disappointed to see them poo-poo the wrap dress. I liked it on her. I think wrap dresses are the perfect work dress for all women but especially women who need to create a waist. I can’t believe they put her in a halter dress. I love halter dresses but I barely fit in an A-cup and I like my shoulders. At a certain age we all must give up the halter and the sleeveless and this is especially true if you have lost a lot of weight – one’s skin is not tight after this. I was also disppointed that they didn’t focus on the one really bad outfit at the beginning, the boxy suit.

    I also have a difficult time finding white blouses that fit. I love the look but I think most blouses I try on were made for super-skinny women with huge implants since I have a small waist and most blouses that fit me at the waist have enough fabric for a D cup.

    I think YOU would have done a much better job shopping with this woman. I love your cute wrap dresses and your sister’s dress is really flattering too.

    Cashmere – I totally agree!!! All of the cashmere sweaters I own get shapless and look bad and they are not cheap cashmere either. I love Merino wool sweaters because they maintain their shape and smooth appearance and fit my shape better. Cashmere feels good but it just doesn’t look as refined as merino or even cotton.

  16. September 14, 2007 / 4:31 pm

    I was also very much looking forward to seeing Tim Gunn’s new show, but was slightly disappointed. I distinctly remember your list and I appreciated your comments above with regard to it and how different things work for different women. All in all, I prefer watching ‘What Not To Wear’ and reading your columns!

    Also, was it just me or did Veronica Webb’s hair style leave a little to be desired? She’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t seem to work for her.

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