meet allison bornstein
The Stylist who believes when you’re wearing an outfit that you love, you stand straighter, you interact with people more enthusiastically, and you feel so much better about yourself. That is fashion as wellness.
How does your dog, Deewee, impact your mental health?
That little man makes me so happy. I love him so much. It’s funny because Nate, my husband, has him right now in California and I’m in New York. So even when he’s not here, every time I walk into the house, I look for him, and call his name. He’s part of my ritual. Even in the morning lately, since he’s in LA, I go to pick him up and put him on the bed, but he’s not there.
What does your bedtime ritual look like?
I’m usually a really good sleeper. I don’t normally take any sleep aids, but I got those Goop ones in a gift bag. It doesn’t help me stay asleep, but it helps me fall asleep. I don’t think they’re habit-forming; they’re a nice little treat to have before bed. Also, if I have something important the next day, I’m always anxious about sleep and don’t sleep as deeply, but since taking these, I sleep so much better.
“Also, I take this Intestinal Movement Formula.”
If anybody has problems with regularity, take two or three of those before bedtime.
How do you stay grounded?
Before I did CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, I went to a different therapist and one of the main things that she taught me was if you’re feeling anxious and your mind is spiraling, it’s really important to put both feet on the ground and feel yourself in your space. Then you can count your fingers or touch the pads of your fingers. It’s reminding yourself to be in your body. It’s a good distraction and grounding technique. So I’ll put my feet on the ground and I’ll take my thumb and touch it to my pinky. I find that to be extremely helpful.
Your tagline and ethos is “Fashion is wellness.” What does that mean to you?
Fashion is wellness means that when you look good, you feel good. It’s not so much about the physical way you look. It’s the intention behind getting dressed and the care that you put into what goes on your body and how you’re presenting yourself to the world. We all have to get dressed, so it’s a practice that we all have access to. And we’re obviously also privileged to be able to express ourselves through what we wear. I understand that clothes can be so tied up in body image and socioeconomic things, but I really do believe that if you take time to think about who you want to be, what you want to project to the world, and create that with what you wear, it makes you feel so good.
“I always say when you’re wearing an outfit that you love, you stand straighter, you interact with people more enthusiastically, and you feel so much better about yourself.”
I always say when you’re wearing an outfit that you love, you stand straighter, you interact with people more enthusiastically, and you feel so much better about yourself. That is, fashion is wellness. And then, on the other hand, when you’re wearing something that feels uncomfortable, you’re tugging at it. Maybe you don’t like the shoes that you’re wearing. It really affects your mood. So again, this is something that we can own and have control over, so why not do it?
You have a very loyal following. How do you use constructive criticism to help a client, but still make them feel good?
Accessibility is important. There are so many amazing people on Instagram that will say, buy this. I don’t necessarily want to tell you what to buy. I want you to look in your closet. You tell me what you have, and I will tell you how to wear it. It’s easy to look at something and think, I like this. And then you buy it. And you wonder, what do I do with it? It’s not about telling everybody they need a blue striped shirt. I don’t think that’s true. And I don’t think that there’s one blue striped shirt that’s great for everybody. It’s about using what you have and tailoring my approach to my clients.
“Clients trust me because I give honest feedback, but I want it to be fun and enjoyable.”
If something doesn’t look good, I’m going to explain to you why it doesn’t and how we can find something that does. It’s about being honest, but also being gentle because fashion and clothing can be a very vulnerable place for people. People’s closets are extremely personal, so it’s important to be a bit of a cheerleader to validate people, but then also to give honest feedback. I don’t want to say something looks good if it doesn’t.
How do you work with someone who has a difficult relationship with their body?
I’ll tell you something, 98.9% of women have a difficult relationship with their body. No matter what they look like, everybody has something. That is something that I notice no matter how much money we have, no matter what we look like, no matter what shape our body is. There’s always something that we’re trying to hide or something that we don’t like or something that somebody said 10 years ago that has stuck in our mind.
“I love clothes so much, but the fashion industry hasn’t been so kind to different body types. So I understand why it’s a hard place to be.”
My goal in working with clients is to, first of all, demystify fashion and also make it a fun and safe space. When I’m working with a client who doesn’t want to show their arms, for example, I’m not going to say you have to show your arms. I’m going to help you figure out ways that we can create amazing looks where you don’t have to show them. I want to push you out of your comfort zone slightly, but we should be respected and be able to highlight the things that we want to highlight.
It’s challenging to be the subject. I was working as a stylist on editorial and ad shoots and you’re working with a model who looks amazing in everything and doesn’t necessarily have as much of a say in what they’re wearing because it’s about the magazine or the brand. But now, when it’s on myself, there’s so much more insecurity. There are so many more things I have to consider. I struggle to say this, but I used to be a lot thinner. So my body changed as I got older, as everyone’s does. I had to learn how to tweak what I was wearing to make it feel a bit more flattering.
I’ve been doing this a long time, so I feel like I’ve gotten to know my body and what works and what doesn’t. I have a really big chest, which I used to pray for when I was younger and now I’m like, it’s not that great. So that’s something that I’m not necessarily insecure about, but I feel like there are things that I can’t wear that I would like to wear. It’s been about keeping my style. We can adapt and we can change, and still be true to ourselves.
Is there anything that you hold in shame or feel stigma around?
In the beauty industry, they’ve made an incredible pivot to incorporate wellness. For example, somebody would proudly say I got a facial or I have a 10-step care routine or I just bought this really fancy serum. For fashion, it’s the opposite. My clients always want to feel like they’re not trying. They always want to feel effortless. They want to be put together and styled, but not like they tried, which I understand, but also it’s okay to try. Fashion is such an important part of our day.
It feels good to try a little bit. I would love to reframe fashion as more of a wellness tool the way that skincare is as opposed to something frivolous and silly. Everyone loves that French girl look because it looks unstyled and it looks really easy, but that takes work too. It’s okay to say that you care about clothes and say that you care about the way that you look.
How does intimacy and relationships impact your mental health?
I am somebody that relies heavily on my friends and my friendships. Going to dinner with friends, seeing friends, talking to friends, and even texting with friends is so important for me and my mental health. And of course, with my husband Nathan too. When I haven’t talked to one of my girlfriends or my parents or Nate for a day, I feel a little bit lost.
“My relationships are very, very important to me.”
I’ll say something shady about LA. I feel like people here flake a lot more. I pride myself on being somebody who, if I have a plan, I stick to it because it’s really important to me. I will cancel other things in order to see my friends because I want them to know that our relationship is important.
What’s your take on medication, like antidepressants, and supplements?
Love them. I’m pro antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. That is something that I feel has helped me so much, especially with anxiety. Jayme was there when I had my very first panic attack. I went to the hospital because I thought I was dying. That was in 2010. I was starting a new job and it manifested as physical symptoms. I couldn’t breathe. My heart was beating really fast and I couldn’t feel my hands or my feet. Ever since that day in 2010, I have a bit of a low-grade panic that I’m going to have an anxiety attack again. So a lot of my anxiety comes from the fear of having anxiety.
“It got better. I got prescribed Xanax, which I will take every once in a while.”
Now I have Xanax with me in my purse. I hardly ever take it. And if I do, that’s also fine. But just knowing that I have it is really calming. Also, I did CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, for about a year because my anxiety went to an actual panic disorder. Everything was making me feel nervous because I was so scared of having those same symptoms from 2010. But I would recommend CBT to anybody who is struggling with anxiety. It was so helpful. I saw my therapist for about a year. I love all therapy, but it was nice because it was very goal-oriented. She actually said to me during a session; I think you graduated. I think you’re done. And that felt good. And she was right. I have the tools now. I still obviously have anxiety and have the Xanax in my purse, but now at least, I know I have the tools for figuring out how to get myself out of it.
When do you feel most at peace?
When I’m watching horrible TV.
When do you feel your body tense up?
When I’m in a car because even if I am in control, I feel a bit out of control. Part of my anxiety is being in a transit phase. I don’t like being on planes or in cars on the freeway because I like to know where my exits are. So being in a car will make me feel like when can I get out of here?
What gives you serotonin?
A really good outfit.
What does your body language say about you?
I want it to say I’m confident, but I actually know that I have horrible posture. So I would like to sit up more straight.
When do you speak your mind?
When I feel comfortable is when I can speak my mind. And then, of course, with clients, I always speak my mind.
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