When Aviva Bamberger shares the name of her styling business with people, panic often ensues. “Revealing Modesty? What can you possibly reveal while dressing modestly?!”they challenge. Ms. Bamberger, self-assured as usual, smiles and reveals the secret of the paradox. “When you dress modestly,” she says, “what you reveal is your true self.”
With her chunky gold jewelry, avocado-green sweater and chicly-layered auburn sheitel, Ms. Bamberger’s modest styling savoir-faire is evident. The surprise, however, is from where her sense of fashion springs. With an effusive sense of Chassidic spirituality, Aviva views clothing as a means of personal – and G-dly – expression. In fact, Aviva named her styling service Revealing Modesty due in part to inspiration from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s injunction to reveal G-d’s goodness in the world. “Modesty means using your self-expression for a holy purpose,” says Aviva. “We are all unique, even while following the same halachot of modesty. Finding your own best elements and personal style will lead you to reveal your own uniquely beautiful self.”
Ms. Bamberger advises women from all backgrounds on how to dress and offers complete styling services, assisting them with everything from shaitels to shoes. Having worked in boutiques for years (“like boot camp for fashion,” she laughs), Aviva learned that image consulting is not just about choosing fashionable clothes; it is about making sure the whole picture fits her client’s individual personality and sends the right message. “If a woman is standing in a dressing room and I can see that she is not 100% comfortable, I don’t care how good it looks. The clothes have to reflect her own vision. Not mine.”
Aviva had dispensed informal fashion advice for years before deciding to take courses in image consulting at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She thrives on the creative atmosphere of the school and loves being a student. Her overarching persona, though, is that of a teacher. She has twenty years of experience as a special education teacher and brings a studied sensibility to a craft that can often seem arbitrary. When working with a client, Aviva divides her styling system into a three-part plan: Silhouette, Style and Substance. “Silhouette” involves figuring out her client’s body type and skin tone and choosing flattering cuts and colors that work best; “Style” is figuring out the message that the client wants to get across, and tailoring it to her particular circumstances (such as age, profession and personality); “Substance” involves evaluating the actual clothes in a client’s closet or in a retail setting and figuring out the best fabrics, styles and investment to make when building a wardrobe. She culls pieces from both traditional stores, as well as unique places like consignment shops, to find the best product mix for her client.
Aviva works at educating her clients rather than dictating exactly what they should wear. Like a teacher, her role is to mentor and guide the women she works with to a place of independence. “My hope is that they learn enough so that they ultimately become comfortable choosing pieces for themselves” This learning process begins with discovering a client’s body type and discussing how it can be balanced out with the right kind of clothing. For instance, if a woman has a heavy midsection, Aviva advises a monochromatic look throughout the torso to even out the disproportion and distract the eye, as well as a belt at the smallest part of her waist to bring focus away from the stomach. Another big factor in dressing right is knowing your colors. Color draping, or framing a person’s face with scarves of different colors, is Aviva’s favorite way to work with clients to figure out their best shades. “A flattering color will light up your face, and a wrong one will make it look as if there are circles under your eyes and shadows in your cheeks.” Once a woman understands how to dress her body type and what her best colors are, it’s a cinch to find clothes that will make her shine. In fact, Aviva says, “When you know how to dress your body, 95% of the stuff in any given store is not for you.” The remaining 5% is there to play with and discover what will make you feel your best.