Gunn says he's frequently asked by men and women what of-the-moment item to buy. He says his response is Socratic. "I come back with them with a series of questions," he says. Before you shop, ask yourself:
What do you wear with frequency?
What kind of items do you resonate with?
What do you believe you really need?
The last—and most important question—usually leaves people mute, Gunn says. "They don't have a response to that question because they honestly don't know."
Those who have watched Tim Gunn's Guide to Style can answer that question. He's said it before, and he's saying it again. There are 10 essential items every woman should own:
1. Basic black dress
2. Trench coat
3. Classic dress pants
4. White shirt
6. Cashmere sweater
8. Day dress
10. A comfortable alternative to the sweatsuit
Gunn's favorite item is number nine. "The one item on that list of 10 that I believe every woman and every man has to have is a blazer, a sport coat or a dressy jacket," he says. "For a woman, that can be a shrunken jacket, it could be a menswear-tailored jacket, whatever it is that's appropriate for her needs."
A great blazer is a simple way to dress up a casual outfit, Gunn says. "You can go almost anywhere if you just don a blazer or a jacket. It's so easy. I tell people, even in a very casual work life, keep a blazer on the back of your chair or on a hook behind your door," he says. If your boss calls you in for a meeting, throw it on. "It's saying: 'I respect you. I care about how I'm presenting myself to you.'"