Tim Gunn gives UVA his guide to post-grad style
"Silhouette, proportion, and fit." Three simple words for Tim Gunn's unofficial guide to style. Of course, his official Guide to Style could be seen on the Bravo network until recently, in addition to his ongoing role on the hit show Project Runway where he acts as a liasion between judges and contestants. His famous inspirational catch-phrase, "make it work" is on the tip of every reality TV junkie's tongue.
Gunn spoke at UVA's Old Cabell Hall last night to an eager crowd of fourth year students, among them his niece, who introduced him. The audience even appeared to larger than the one Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) drew when she took UVA students questions in the same venue last Monday.
The main purpose of the lecture was to give advice to impending graduates on making the transition from cozy college campus attire (flip flops, sweats, and, horror of horrors, Ugg boots) to appropriate workplace attire. While maintaining that each work environment has its own set of rules, for Wall Street it's pretty much the chalk stripe versus the pin stripe, while other businesses, like the fashion industry, are more accepting of diverse attire.
Gunn gave out practical advice for all, emphasizing that the all important interview outfit should always be more formal than casual. Even if it means dressing up more than your potential co-workers, it sets the right tone for your intentions and shows a respect for the desired job. Gunn emphasized dressing for the occasion; "I chose to wear a suit tonight because I wanted to show to that I have great respect for you as an audience and this place as an institution."
Gunn also stressed the individuality of clothing: what may look good on a mannequin at a store will not necessarily look good on ten department store-goers that day. He also mentioned that even the bare necessities matter: when working with contestants on The Biggest Loser he was shocked to find that eight out of the 10 women he styled did not even know their correct bra size! This had major implications for their outerwear.
Above all, Gunn's message was that personal style must play a role in over all style. There is no magical trend that's going to suit everyone. While the baby doll dress may have looked adorable on Rachel Bilson during her reign on The O.C., it may not look so hot on mom. Which isn't to say that age appropriate dress means frump. Dressing your age is important but doesn't mean you should have to sacrifice style. Gunn emphasized that sophistication holds true at any age whether its 22 or 52, adding "Telling someone they look sophisticated is always a compliment."
Besides practical wardrobe advice Gunn also gave some dish on his own insider view of the fashion industry. For starters, he noted that not all Project Runway contestants are created equal.
He mentioned one edited-out segment in which a woman insisted on counting the bills in a prize envelope intended for the winner. Then there was a fashion prodigy Christian- whose ego just may be writing checks his stitches can't sew up, as demonstrated by his weekly meltdowns.
And much to audience members dismay, Gunn responded affirmatively to one highly anticipated audience question about supermodel Heidi Klum. Yes, he said, she's as perfect as she seems, and in fact is even prettier in real life, right down to her gorgeous knuckles. Oh, and she's smart, hysterically funny, and kind to every crew member. There was a collective audience sigh.
While most of his advice was more practical than inspirational, Gunn still encouraged students to draw hope from the pure architectural aesthetics that surround them at UVA. Mentioning his passion for architecture, Gunn proposed with such a beautiful campus surrounding you- why wouldn't you be inspired to look the best you possibly can? With that nod to lasting style, fourth year students can hold their heads a little higher when they walk down Jefferson's manicured lawn in May, regardless of what's underneath those gowns.
-photo of Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum courtesy of Michael Caulfied/Wireimage.com