Best of Lei Chic 2010: Project Gunn's Way

Lei ChicAs we begin to ring in 2011, Lei Chic is taking a look back into our archives and bringing you some of the best stories we published during 2010. Enjoy and see you next week!
Originally published August 6, 2010

"This is looking a little The Matrix meets Chiquita Banana meets angry T-rex – this concerns me."

You nod in agreement at the TV while stuffing your face with pretzels. That Tim Gunn is always so spot on, you think. If only the Project Runway host could help make sense of your wardrobe.

Lucky for you, Lei Chic snagged an interview with the sartorial star. You sent in your questions, and Gunn generously took a break from his duties as Chief Creative Officer of Liz Claiborne Inc. to share a few tips on everything from how to make your trickiest outfits work to which trends you should say auf wiedersehen to.

A lot of women in Hawai‘i are “vertically challenged.” Do you have any tricks to make oneself appear taller?
In dressing a petite woman, I am not a fan of a cropped pant. It cuts them off visually and prevents them from having that long and lean look. They’d be much better off wearing a pair of shorts or a pant that goes to the top of the shoe. Large prints, which I imagine are in abundance in Hawai‘i, completely envelope a petite woman. Generally speaking, the smaller the scale, the better. I will also say that most petite women benefit from a V-neckline, instead of a crew or boat-neck. It’s another lengthening design element.

What is the number one accessory a businesswoman can invest in?
A bold, graphic cuff is a great accessory. It makes a powerful statement, and it serves to underscore "I’m a woman and I’m in this business world!"

Are there any fashions a woman should never wear to the office?
Oh, I have a whole list! Anything that would bare a midriff, unless you’re a lifeguard, would be completely inappropriate. I’m against showing too much skin in any place except the beach or poolside. Even in New York, you see it in abundance and it never ceases to mystify me!

For women on a budget, is it better to splurge on clothing and go cheap on the accessories, or vice versa?
There are so many fabulous pieces out there, that when I look at the price I think, this would be cheap at twice the price! So unless someone is a diamond and real-gold nutcase, I would say there’s no reason at all to ever spend a lot of money on accessories, and that gives you more money for apparel. But I have to tell you, I believe in being budget-minded and thrifty when it comes to buying anything.

I have an hourglass shape, but a bit of a tummy – should I wear a belt to accentuate my waist? Or should I avoid belts altogether?
I’m not in favor of her forgoing a belt. There are so many women who have a torso like a barrel, so if you have an hourglass shape, show it off! The wonderful thing about a belt is that there are so many options with it. You can wear it cinched; you can also drape it from the hips. It does wonderful things for a figure proportionally, and it takes looser, drapier items of apparel and gives them some shape. So, yes, do the belt!

I love to wear flats but I don’t feel they work well with the pencil skirts I wear to work. What’s the best hem length to wear with flats?
Yes, a pencil skirt and a flat is not a great look. If you’re a mature woman, wear the skirt at the very top of the kneecap, and if you’re younger, I would say to go two inches above the knee. But yes, you need a little more leg showing if you’re wearing a flat, or you need a pant altogether.

Are there any current fashion trends you’d like to see disappear?
Crocs is definitely one. But the more I talk about it, the more Crocs shops seem to open! And the jegging – the denim legging. It’s preposterous! Yes, that should go away.

Have you ever had a personal fashion disaster, like a bad acid wash moment?
I definitely had the acid wash moment. In fact, I can remember when you couldn’t buy a pair of jeans unless they were acid wash. You know, I say that it’s analogous to the monkey house at the zoo. When you first walk into the monkey house, you think, this place stinks. After about 15 to 20 minutes you think it doesn’t smell so bad, and then it doesn’t smell at all. It’s like acid wash. You get so used to seeing it, you think, what’s wrong with this? But then you step back and look, and it’s oh my gosh, a big, huge, horrible fashion mistake.

You’re coming to Hawai‘i for the first time in October, so we want to know – have you ever worn an aloha shirt?
No, I’ve never owned an aloha shirt. But I may need to acquire one!