In a TikTok video last year, stylist and wardrobe consultant Allison Bornstein shared a simple, foolproof approach to discovering your personal style: Choose three adjectives that describe how you dress, or how you want to dress.
Bornstein, 35, had been talking about her three-word method for years on Instagram, but on TikTok she went viral. She posted follow-ups choosing words for different celebrities, including Kim Kardashian (“exaggerated, fitted, sculptural”) and Princess Diana (“sporty, demure, opulent”). She says her own three words are “classic, ’70s and elegant.”
While she used to style celebrities including Katie Holmes, Bornstein has made a name for herself by speaking to the masses. Since 2020, she has conducted over 1,500 wardrobe consultations via FaceTime. This month she’s releasing her first book, “Wear It Well,” which teaches readers her closet-editing system and how to style everyday outfits. Here, she discusses what she learned from working with celebrities, why belts are underrated and the reason we all sometimes struggle with getting dressed.
Why do you think people struggle so much with getting dressed?
There’s a lot of conflict and trauma around clothes in general. We weren’t necessarily taught how to use fashion and getting dressed as a fun tool for self-expression and creativity. I also think that we’re always being told that we need new things on social media. We buy so much, but we don’t really have a good sense of what we have in our wardrobe.
In the book, you walk readers through your AB closet-editing system, which involves sorting clothing into the things you always wear and never wear, getting rid of things, reorganizing your closet. How long does this process take for most people?
Depending on how big your wardrobe is, I would say it’s like an hour or two. As somebody who loves order and organization, I find it hard when organizational tips will be like, “OK, you have to take everything out.” For this process, there’s more of a method to it: bringing out your regulars, the things you wear all the time and laying them out.
You write that you’ve seen a lot of interesting closet setups during your client closet tours. Can you tell me about any of them?
I had a client who had a very small wardrobe, but she had beautiful clothes and she would hang some of her beautiful dresses on the curtain rod above her window.
Do you think more “normal” people should be hiring a stylist or wardrobe consultant?
Especially in the beginning [of wardrobe consulting], I found that people thought styling was for rich people or celebrities. But everybody has to get dressed in the morning. We can find ways to make it more joyful and to understand the process more.
I know you mostly work with regular people now, but do you have a celebrity dream client?
I wouldn’t want to take her away from Jamie Mizrahi, because I love what she’s doing, but I’ve always loved Jennifer Lawrence. Or Lana Del Rey because she has such a cool aesthetic, but sometimes it doesn’t translate to her wardrobe.
What’s most memorable from the celebrity-styling chapter of your career?
What I found most intriguing was that celebrities struggle with the same things we struggle with. You would think that somebody that has a lot of fame or who we think of as having a perfect body or perfect whatever [would be different, but] as women and as people we all struggle with the same things.
How do you advise clients who want to change their style completely?
If you feel so disillusioned or disappointed with your wardrobe and you feel like you need a real overhaul, I would say take it slow. Buy things slowly, live with them for a little bit. I often tell clients like if you feel like you need a new wardrobe, you probably just need new [styling] ideas.
One of your main messages is that people don’t need to buy more, but we live in a time when you and other influencers and celebrities frequently post new outfits and accessories that brands send them. That can make people feel like they need something new. How do you reconcile these two messages?
It’s really hard. Because I agree: I’m saying, “You don’t need this,” but then I’m posting stuff. I try to post things that I actually like and show multiple ways to wear it. I really don’t post swipe-ups. I’ll tell people the brand, and then I kind of leave it at that. If you really like something and I give you the brand, go find it. I would make money if I sent them an affiliate link, but I think that [not doing so] forces people to at least take a 30-second pause.
What emerging designers do you like? Who’s making the most wearable but luxe stuff today?
I was just looking at Kallmeyer. I find that it’s expensive because it’s nice quality. Everything in that collection, I was like, I would wear all of that. I love when a designer is showing very classic, timeless pieces, but they feel different enough or modern enough that you’re like, “Oh, I really need this.”
Do you have a hero item you turn to most often?
I wear a pair of jeans probably every single day, but I feel like the most bang for your buck is a belt. Adding a belt kind of breaks up the look, adds a different texture, adds some hardware, potentially a different color. It’s such a slept-on accessory.
What’s the oldest thing in your closet you can’t give up?
I have one of those Joseph very, very thin cashmere sweaters. I think they’re called “Cashair,” cashmere and air mixed together. I have this one from probably 10 years ago, it has holes in it, but it is just the best sweater ever.
What’s one of the main messages you want readers to take away from your book?
You can make time for this. People think if you have effortless style, it just comes naturally to you. But the people with the most effortless style are the people who are really putting in the most work.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Write to Lane Florsheim at [email protected]2023-09-23T12:07:55Z dg43tfdfdgfd