Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fashion sense

Seek it out, and follow it

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TWO weeks ago I wrote about Sarah Palin and the importance of dressing for suc­cess.

 I had been frustrated with the virulent attacks on her need to pur­chase new clothing in order to fit intomainstream society and I sharedmy empathy with her.
I also shared some of my personal history and experience in having to learn to "dress for success."

The article seemed to have struck a chord with many readers.

I was surprised and pleased with the huge volume of e-mails, phone calls and personal comments I received. It really seemed to confirm that fashion, clothing and dress for success continues to be an important and big part of our social and business life. Thank you, for taking the time to respond.

You may not be aware, but historically, Winnipeg has a well-recognized reputation in the fashion industry and was once famous for the large number of firms in the business. Many garment manufacturers achieved their success here. And along with this industry comes an army of professions ranging from clothing designers, sewers, buyers, sales personnel and, of course, teams of management.

While the clothing manufacturing industry today may not be as vibrant as it once was, there still is a group of talented fashion designers, dressmakers, tailors and artisans scattered throughout the city.

These talented individuals really know about dressing for success. They are so talented they can simply look at people and immediately make an accurate assessment of what style of clothing best suits their lifestyle and their body shape. They know how to select fabrics and colours that best compliment each other. And in terms of design, they can take a well-worn garment, make a pattern from it and then duplicate that exact design into brand new outfits.

One such individual is Olga Borberly, owner of Olga's Fashions on Corydon Avenue. Not only is she one of this city's talented fashion designers and dressmakers, but her personal story is quite compelling. You see, Olga was a high school art teacher in her native Hungary, but was forced to flee to Canada during the 1956 Hungarian uprising.

She arrived in Winnipeg with no job and no knowledge of English, but promptly took a job in an embroidery factory and enrolled in English night school classes.

As her English improved, Borberly decided to broaden her skills and took a night school clothing design course supplemented by correspondence courses from a design academy in New York.

She then found a job in a clothing factory where after 10 years she progressed to the role of head designer.

However, Borberly began to feel an inner drive for something more. She had the urge to start her own business, be her own boss and create more innovative designs. So, with good old-fashioned courage, she quit her job and opened her own fashion design shop.

Today, Olga's Fashions is a quaint little shop providing personalized wardrobe consultation and private label fashion design.

With so many companies applying a "business casual" approach these days, it is getting harder for employees to determine what to wear to work or to job interviews. This applies especially to women and to make matters more complicated, it seems that each industry has its own dress code as well.

As we experienced the fooforah about Sarah Palin during the American presidential election, fashion and how we dress is much more important and much more controversial than we realize.

It sends a message to the world about who we are, our social background, our economic status and our image of ourselves. Not only that, how we dress is tied into our social life -- where we live and what we do. And like it or not, people are like books -- we continue to be judged by our covers . So, if you don't have time to read the many books on dress for success, then Borberly's wise words of wisdom will do just as well:

"ô Fashion is all about being comfortable with yourself and selecting a style that helps to boost your self-esteem and create confidence.

"ô Dressing fashionably through custom design clothing is all about highlighting your assets and minimizing your flaws.

"ô People need to view their wardrobe as an investment, something that will last for years and make you look good.

"ô Begin with a basic wardrobe of tailored pant, skirt, jacket and dress in black, navy, dark brown or a colour called eggplant; select heavier weights for fall and lighter weights for spring/summer.

"ô Re-invent your wardrobe by adding different pieces or colours for each season and by supplementing with additional garments over time and adding attractive accessories.

"ô Build on your wardrobe by purchasing mix-and-match outfits and colourful blouses that you can wear with multiple outfits.

"ô Avoid the trends but instead select a fashion style that is best suited to your own body style and stick with it.

"ô Use dress to give you an advantage; dress for the job you want rather than the one you currently have.

"ô Dress for the image you want to be remembered for.

As you've learned, dress is also a lot more complex than people think and not all of us are gifted in being able to dress for success on our own.

We need help. Sarah Palin turned to advisers to help her dress appropriately to fit into mainstream society and attract voters. For those of us in Manitoba, luckily, we can turn to our cadre of local fashion designers and dressmakers for special advice.


Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, is president of Legacy Bowes Group and vice-president of Legacy Executive Search Partners, Manitoba. She can be reached at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2008 G1

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