Find Your Personal Style with Barbara Aleks

First impressions matter! The reality is that the relationship between our appearance and the way we act is noticeably strong. A few years ago, a study carried out by two psychologists, Hajo Adams and Adam Galinsky have shown that attire and the symbolic meaning of it influence wearer’s cognitive processes and coined the term “enclothed cognition”. In one of the experiments, they divided people into two groups; group one wore regular street clothes and the group two wore their normal clothes and a white lab coat. Both groups were asked to perform tests measuring their mental agility. The result was that group two performed much better than group one. The same results were observed in a similar experiment when both groups were given white coats; however, group one was described as painters and group two as doctors.

There is so much more to our self-expression through our fashion style that we can imagine among many things to consider that shape our image, is the opinions of others. Therefore, finding our style, one that is authentic and represents the real in us needs guidance and planning. Carving an image that stimulates our abilities, defines our prowess and is a consistent mirror-image of our character demand a consultant. In fact, I had the opportunity to interview a fabulous Canadian Image and Style consultant, Barbara Aleks to learn about her career and tips on how to develop a personal and professional style.

Barbara Aleks 1

Jupilings: Tell us about yourself and how you started as a stylist & image consultant-

BA: My mother was an extremely talented seamstress who worked in the garment district in Toronto, so I grew up around fabric, clothing and dressing people. I actually designed my first dress when I was 4. It was just a part of my life.

When it came to a career though, I chose to get into Interior Design as a profession and worked in the field until I had my first child. After my second was born, I started helping some of the other new moms with their wardrobes, and my passion was reignited.

Once I made the decision to transition into Personal Styling, I obtained my certification in Image Consulting and officially started my business. I have worked for myself, styling women ever since.

Jupilings: What are the qualities and skill sets that make a successful stylist-

BA: There are many qualities and skill sets that make a successful Personal Stylist. Aside from the obvious – being knowledgeable about fabrics, cuts, body shapes, skin tones, combining clothing pieces, different colours and patterns, knowing how to style those pieces, keeping abreast of what’s current – a Stylist also needs to be both intuitive and adaptable.

Every client is unique. They have different likes, dislikes, preferences, styles, comfort levels, limits. They also have their own pasts and experiences that shape their thought processes. Stylists have to truly understand the people they’re working with and be able to adapt their strategies to help their clients achieve the best results.

Jupilings: What approach you suggest to develop a personal style-

BA: When trying to develop a style all your own, I suggest becoming clear on what you’re drawn to and then modifying it to suit your preferences and lifestyle.

One exercise I suggest when trying to determine your style is to hop on a platform like Pinterest, create a board, and start pinning anything you’re drawn to – clothing pieces, outfits, accessories, etc. Pulling images from the internet or magazines works too. Once you have a good collection of photos, scroll through them and note the similarities. Whatever you’re drawn to, you’re drawn to for a reason. That’s your style. From there, take all the information you’ve gathered and adapt it to suit your life.

Barbara Aleks 2

Jupilings: What’s one branding lesson you’ve learned in your career and ventures-

BA: Have a clear and strong brand and be consistent across the board – both visually and in the message. For example – choose your brand colours, fonts, visual style and written style, and stick to them. It provides people with a certain comfort level and improves the trust factor.

Jupilings: Three tips for female executives in the boardroom or top managerial
positions on how to choose the colour and the proper attire overall how to
dress for success-

BA: If you’re a woman in an executive or leadership role, you need to dress the part – especially if you’re new to the team or building your reputation. Here are three tips to help you achieve that:

1. Wear structured clothing with strong lines, avoiding soft, flowing fabrics. When you want to be seen as a leader, you must present yourself as someone who holds power. Structured clothes with strong lines will elicit more power than clothing with softer lines and flowing fabric.

2. Wear fitted clothing. Clothing that skims your body and fits well makes you appear more qualified and authoritative than loose, ill-fitting clothing (which just makes you appear sloppy, messy and doesn’t instil confidence).

3. Wear dark or bold colours or geometric patterns. These colours and patterns are stronger and more commanding than soft, light colours and floral patterns. While this might seem like a subtle change to make, when you’re a woman in a leadership position, every little bit helps.

Jupilings: Top 5 accessories to have in your wardrobe that reflect status to self-
expression specifically for professionals-

 BA:

1. Good watch
2. Pearl or diamond (real or faux) stud earrings for women and cufflinks for men
3. Structured top handle handbag for women and briefcase for men
4. Leather belt always kept in like-new condition
5. The best quality shoes you can afford, kept in great condition

Barbara Aleks 4

Jupilings: Your favourite accessories designers-

BA: Love Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Dior for accessories. From timeless classics to trendier pieces, all four provide incredible options season after season.

Jupilings: What colours are best suited and universally accepted in a business meeting for Female/Male regardless of cultural differences-

BA: You can’t go wrong with Navy and Charcoal Gray when it comes to business – male or female. The one thing to remember is to keep your look classic and conservative. Always err on the side of caution. If you’re doing business with someone of a different culture, do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re not going to offend in any way.

Jupilings: What is the proper professional attire for a politician to come across as
approachable (of course depending on the settings) however my questions
is more geared towards appealing to millennials-

BA: Even though a politician might be appealing to millennials and wants to come across as approachable, they’re still in a leadership role and should dress in a professional manner. That said, they can relax their appearance in a variety of ways. The more relaxed (and less severe) someone looks, the more approachable they appear.

For Men:
A jacket with jeans is more relaxed than a suit. (Dark wash jeans are a better choice than light wash jeans.) If a suit is required, removing the tie also helps. If no jacket is required, a button down shirt is more professional than a collared golf shirt or t-shirt, worn with either slacks or jeans. Folding the sleeves of a button down shirt a couple of times also relaxes the look.

For Women:
Similar to what I mentioned for men, a jacket or blazer with a skirt, dress or pants (whether jeans or slacks) is more relaxed than a suit. If no suit, jacket or blazer is required, a button down shirt or blouse is more professional than a shirt or t-shirt, paired with either a skirt or pants. Structured or fitted skirts or dresses are more professional than loose or flowing ones; however, judgment is required when choosing which is best for the occasion. When wearing a button down shirt or blazer, folding the sleeves a couple of times or pushing them up to the forearm, provides an easy, relaxed feel.

As a politician, you don’t need to dress like a millennial to appeal to a millennial. The last thing you want to do is look like you’re trying to be one of them – especially if you’re clearly not. Beyond attire, your words and your mannerisms have a great deal to do with how approachable you may or may not seem.

Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-

BA: When a setback occurs, the first thing I do is allow myself to feel the frustration, disappointment, or whatever feeling shows up, and get it out of my system. Then I take a moment, regroup, put a new plan together and get to work. When you’re self-employed or own your own business, there’s no stopping. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.

Jupilings: Who inspires you and why-

BA: My children are my greatest inspiration. Everything I do is for them. They’re amazing people, and I want them to have an incredible life. One of the reasons I started working for myself was so that I could be there for them, and set my work hours around their schedules. I also wanted them to see that you can find something you love and are passionate about, make a career or business out of it, and find success in nontraditional ways.

Jupilings: Favourite place to chill with friends in Toronto-

BA: The Deq patio at the Ritz on a hot summer night is often where you’ll find me. Although any place that has good food, great wine, decent cocktails and a pleasant atmosphere, where we can hear each speak and have a decent conversation, will do.

Jupilings: What is your life motto-

BA: I have three. Never give up, go with your gut, and if it’s meant to be, it’ll be.

If something is important and really matters to me, I don’t give up. I may have to course correct and make adjustments, but I keep going. Also, these days, I always trust my instincts and follow them. I wasted so much time in the past listening to other people’s opinions and advice over my own guidance and then wondered why things didn’t work out. Not any more. Now I go inside, check in with myself and make my decisions. Then I let “I” go. Because if I’ve put in the work and trusted myself, then if it’s truly meant to be, it’ll be. If it’s not, I’ll move on.

Barbara Aleks 3


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