Ethel Travis knows fashion.
The 96-year-old was a dress designer in Chicago for 15 years before retiring in Newport Beach. She and hundreds of others went to Fashion Island on Saturday to get up-close and personal with fashionisto Tim Gunn as he presented spring looks from Lucky Brand, Kate Spade and Juicy Couture.
While some in the question-and-answer session asked Gunn how to dress up jeans (with a blazer) and who can pull off a calf-length skirt (no one), Travis just told the "Project Runway" host how much she adores him. She applauded him for celebrating femininity in women's fashion and encouraging young people not to show too much skin.
"He knows how to teach the young people how to dress," she said. "A lot of them don't know how to dress themselves."
Travis was just one of the fans who filled the Neiman Marcus/Bloomingdale's Courtyard on Saturday afternoon for a chance to see Gunn, who is also Liz Claiborne's chief creative officer.
On an outdoor runway, Gunn presented spring looks including dresses, menswear and swimsuits, doling out fashion tips along the way in his trademark no-nonsense style.
"Don't chase a trend just because it's a trend," he said. "Listen to your own voice and think about your own style, and just stick with it."
Shoppers who bought more than $150 of merchandise from one of the three presenting brands were given the VIP treatment, including champagne, snacks and a professional photo with Gunn.
After the fashion show, Gunn answered questions and gossiped about working with Heidi Klum and Michael Kors on "Project Runway." He spilled on who he wanted to win season 8 of the hit Lifetime show and what went on behind the scenes, despite the fact that he has a confidentiality agreement with the network, he said.
"I may be in court on Monday," he joked.
In fashion-forward Newport, Gunn's visit was a well-received one. He said he hoped to inspire visitors to know a little bit more about style. He stressed the importance of classic, tailored clothes that flatter, repeating the shopping mantra of "try it on" in addition to his trademark "make it work."
"Some people say they dress for comfort only," Gunn said. "If your goal is to feel like you never got out of bed, don't."