Fashion & Beauty

Closet Therapy

October 3, 2023

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Author and closet therapist Allison Bornstein (above, in a few of her signature pieces) advises how to get dressed in her new book Wear It Well.

By Janet Kelly

COME FALL weather, my response is Pavlovian. New season? Buy new clothes—whether you need them or not. Author, wardrobe consultant and stylist Allison Bornstein disagrees with me. In the just-published Wear It Well: Reclaim Your Closet and Rediscover the Joy of Getting Dressed, she proposes that your closet is connected to your sense of self and cleaning it out and paring it down is actually a way to achieve wellness. Wellness maybe, but shopping your organized closet, as she recommends, can reacquaint you with forgotten pieces and inspire you on how to update them. Also, it’s undoubtedly a way to avoid accumulating 37 pairs of black pants, as a certain colleague of ours did not so long ago.

But before you face that task, Bornstein has an editing system she explains in her book, which involves sorting clothing into the things you always wear and never wear, getting rid of things and then reorganizing. The first thing she asks clients (and readers) to do is pull out what you wear all the time—your go-to clothing, shoes and accessories. She says when you take out the things you really wear, you begin to recognize what your style is and to what you’re gravitating.

Bornstein goes a step beyond reorganizing with her “Three-Word Method,” which she describes as choosing three adjectives to describe your current style and/or the style you aspire to have. (Bornstein’s own three words are “1970s,” “classic,”and “elegant.”) Her method went viral on Tik-Tok, becoming so popular she amassed more than 350,000 followers on TikTok and Instagram, according to Vogue. While she previously styled only celebrities, Bornstein has made her name by speaking to “regular” folks. She calls the first adjective of the three words the practical one. You look at those closet regulars you pulled out and ask yourself, “How would I describe the things that I’m wearing all the time?” The second word is aspirational: You can find it by looking at your screenshots or your mood or Pinterest boards—if you have any. The third word is emotional.  “How do I want to feel in my clothing? What do I want to tell people with my look?”

If this sounds painful, consider this: In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal  she says, “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.”

Bornstein charges $275 for an hour; she charges an extra $100 if you want her to send you links to items she thinks will complete your closet. Her paperback book sells for $23.26 on Amazon.




P.S. As a fashion writer who posts clothing and accessory recommendations, I have to reconcile what I do with the message that people don’t need to buy more. My justification is I only post items I like/would wear myself/would advise a friend to purchase. 




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