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The guru 'makes it work' this spring

If you're a fan of "Project Runway," the enormously popular Bravo show that has made public the inner workings of fashion design, you know all about Tim Gunn: white-haired style guru, oh-so-slightly irreverent diplomat, cultured cheerleader.

Gunn -- who, on-camera, mentors and shepherds contestants through weekly competitions -- is known for his academic approach and indisputable aesthetic expertise. Both are the result of 23 years at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, where, for the past six years, he served as chairman of the fashion design department. But last month, Gunn left his scholarly post to become chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne Inc. Now, when he's not on call for "Runway," he's mentoring the designers who work for the apparel company's 45 brands.

Obviously, Gunn is a very busy man. But not too busy to write a book, "Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style," with Kate Moloney, also of Parsons. This pithy guide -- which (we kid you not) name- checks everything from the Luis Buñuel film "Belle de Jour" to Soren Kierkegaard -- has been so successful, Bravo plans to base a show on it called, aptly, "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style."

With the warm weather finally here, we asked Gunn and Moloney to share their top five "must-haves" for spring. Get them while they're hot.

1. The soft short

Last summer, the city short -- problem sibling of the Bermuda and Capri -- was everywhere. If one loves highlighting one's knees, by all means continue to wear them. We prefer the softer, fuller shorts that are making an appearance this season. The effect should be closer to a skirt than a bloomer. Do embrace linen and fabrics that slouch and swish. Think diaphanous, not diaper-clad.

2. The classic, always-perfect flat sandal

Praises be, the flat sandal is back! We would argue that it never went away, but more designers, at more price points, are offering them now. A flat sole with a simple thong between the toes and a delicate strap around the ankle is a wonderfully cool and uncluttered look for warm weather. And unlike flip-flops, they immediately impart some pulled- togetherness -- just-in-from-Capri panache.

3. Speaking of Capri . . .

Since we've mentioned Capri twice now, we must recommend Slim Aarons's book of photographs, "A Place in the Sun." Gaze upon the horrendously wealthy as they bask in the sun of various jet-set destinations, including that aforementioned island. If you begin to feel envious, think of the sun damage and the landscaping costs for all those villas. If you prefer your beautiful people and places a bit less done, we suggest Shawn Mortensen's "Out of Mind." His photos of Chiapas and Mongolia are gorgeous and powerful, as are his photos of Gwen Stefani!

4. A T-shirt-ish dress

Soft jersey dresses are a perfect choice for warm days. They are also an excellent way to work some bright color into your wardrobe. Be it boat-neck, tank, or crew, look for dresses that have enough body to not cling. The effect should be body- skimming and cool.

5. An in-shower moisturizer

As the weather gets warmer, heavy body creams can go from feeling luxurious to oppressive. Although it seems counter intuitive, the recent spate of products that one applies and then rinses before exiting the shower are perfect choices for days when shea butter might leave you feeling sautéed.