It is no secret that I heart Tim Gunn, he of Project Runway and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style. I'm reading his book, "A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style," well, because I currently possess none of the above. I have never been what anyone could consider fashionable unless I'm showing up to your wedding. Special events I can do. But my daily sense of style has always been somewhat lacking. My daily uniform in college consisted of (shriek!) jeans and a flannel shirt. And I wasn't even a fan of grunge. That's how sad that look was for me in retrospect. Although heavier than I am now, I was by no means fat; but looking at photos you would think I had a BMI of 44. Like it or not, says Tim, what you wear sends a message, the "semiology" of fashion, if you will. I think I was trying to blend in, however inauthentically, truth be told. Like it was a test: if you notice me, we can be friends. If you don't, cool; I can avoid you. My message was: "nothing to see here; move along now!"
Then I lost some weight (too much perhaps?) and started wearing Ally McBeal suits to work. Skirts that I cannot believe I ever left the house in, so much upper thigh was there to see. Yeah it was the style of the times, but good lord. I tried one on the other day and felt so embarrassed for myself that I ever walked around in that getup, however expensive the suit. I was trying to remember how I ever bent over or sat down in it. Did I just not sit for two years post-college? Perhaps my mind has mercifully blocked it out. I am still coming to terms with what my message might have been, semiotically speaking. "Do you like alabaster thighs?" God, I hope not. Maybe it was more like, "I am a woman clearly in search of an authentic sense of both style and self." Sadly, that sounds about right.
Then, immediately pre-Bambina I was all, "Fierce and funky." Short choppy hair, experimental outfits, much makeup, lots of happy hours in halter tops that did not say in any manner, "About to be a mother." They were good times to be sure, but perhaps to be filed under, "The most fun I never want to have again."
Then immediately post-Bambina I entered into what Tim calls "the slobbification of America." I didn't meet a velour hoodie suit I didn't love. Luckily I never fell far enough into the depths of ignominy to wear any that had lettering across the backside, but sweat pants outside the home, as George Costanza and Jerry said, indicate that you have "given up on life." Or, at least your OWN life.
Which brings us to today, which I call "Transplant Chic." It's working for me now since I go nowhere and see no one. But come May 2008 it's going to be replaced--at long last--by "Quality, Taste and Style." Much of the reason for my adoration of Timi Gunn is his commitment to making YOU look better. He doesn't want you to turn yourself into someone else, or some version of yourself you think people want to see. He wants you to find your authentic self, and in the process, a style that communicates that to the world. I like that his emphasis is on the former first: that you drill down to the core of what makes you, you. That you see the value in you, no matter your size or shape. He uses the examples of Leontyne Price and Audrey Hepburn as two women who look fabulous regardless of size because they dress in a manner that honors their own bodies, their own personalities and their comfort in their own skin. In essence, that true beauty and style come first from a confidence radiated outward from within, and second from attention to fit, silhouette and form of your clothing.
Perhaps I love Tim Gunn so much because, in one simple paragraph, he knocked me out of old ways of thinking and into a new appreciation for loving oneself and having the courage to dress like it (not to mention seemed to be confessing to having seen me in my closet lately):
"There is no reason to have something taking up space in your closet that does not make you feel good. These items must go. Perhaps you like to torture yourself by trying on jeans from a few years ago to see if you can button them. Clothes do not exist to humiliate their owners. Please do not force garments into performing psychological tasks for which they were not designed. Furthermore, please be kind to yourself. They don't fit. Toss 'em."
So when you actually get to see me again you are finally going to see me being authentically me, dressed to communicate what I feel already: gratitude, happiness, appreciation, life is too short to sweat the small stuff, and yet life is too short to forget that sometimes small stuff can make all the difference. It's far more important to be authentically yourself than to attempt to look like--and be--some version of something you think you should be based on other people's (or your own misguided) expectations. Or, as the divine Merce Cunningham once said: "Perfection is something you should aim for and dismiss at the same time. It robs you of a certain spirit."