How I Learned How To Dress Well Despite Cancer

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Here's a piece I wrote for my writing class through "Elizabeth's Canvas" called "Create Your Story" with instructor Julie Cobb.  It's called "The Storyboard" and it's a partially fictional account featuring an interview with a fashion designer I created named Vickie Elizabeth. She was previously diagnosed with breast cancer and had been cancer-free since 2007. To celebrate she used her disease as an inspiration for her Spring 2012 collection and was going to present it at the Cancer Support Community-Benjamin Center. When I wrote this I'd just finished reading young adult author Olivia Bennett's series "The Allegra Biscotti Collection" and "Who, What, Wear" about a very young designer who's talented enough to be the next Coco Chanel.  The clothes in my story are described as if a real designer conceived them. I hope this story helps those who're going through the same problems I faced while making my transformation after my mastectomy.

                                         "The Storyboard" by Victoria Moore (March 11, 2012)

I'll never forget the day the surgeon came into the examining room and told me I had Stage II A breast cancer. I would need to have a mastectomy, lymph nodes removed under my left arm and chemotherapy. My appearance was going to take a beating.  My cancer was in my left breast so it would have to be removed, and despite my oncologist's optimism, I knew I was going to lose all of my hair during chemo. Despite all of these seemingly important obstacles the only thing I could manage to worry about was, "How am I going to write about fashion if I'm going through breast cancer?"

If you'd have meet me at an L.A. Fashion Week event at the California Mart a few years ago, before my diagnosis, I'd be the tall, thin, quirky writer holding a reporter's pad and wearing my favorite black 1960s vintage dress, black Hue tights and my black 1950s vintage shoes. Almost to the second I heard I had the Big C the color black became my least favorite color. Oh, I still planned to wear it occasionally--just not head-to-toe, like I did before.

Around the time I got breast cancer I started going through my wardrobe and picking out things I could and couldn't wear to accommodate my current disability. Button-down shirts were definitely something I'd need along with cardigan sweaters and hoodies for doctor's appointments, the chemo suite and other hospital procedures. Heels were definitely out right now since I needed more secure soles.  I chose athletic shoes, loafers, ankle boots and men's oxfords. The sun also wasn't my friend so I chose clothes that were both comfortable and protective for my skin, such as leggings, jeans, longer skirts and dresses, hats, scarves and a green fringed parasol. Finally after I examined everything and organized what I had left, I realized I needed to buy some new things by a designer whose clothes would fit in with my own stuff and reflect who I was now.

"Wouldn't it be great to find a designer who'd already gone through breast cancer and understood the challenges of dressing every day from that vantage point?" I thought.

One Wednesday afternoon, while waiting for my Writing Group to begin at the Cancer Support Community, I was looking at the new flyers for upcoming events when I saw one for Vickie Elizabeth, an L.A.-based fashion designer who had just designed a new collection for Spring inspired by her journey with breast cancer. To celebrate her fifth cancer-free year she was presenting a special fashion show at CSC-BC along with an accompanying workshop and luncheon afterwards.

"She's exactly who I've been looking for," I thought. "I have to interview her and buy some of her clothes too, " I mumbled to myself as I wrote down her contact information into my pink "Hello Kitty" notebook.

A week later, after I called her, I went to her studio in Venice, California and sat down for an interview. Below is an excerpt.:

V.M.:  When were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
V.E.:    In 2006.
V.M.:   Why did you decide to use your journey, with breast cancer, as your inspiration for your Spring 2012 Collection?
V.E.:    Because it was such a significant time for me, and although I faced a lot of sartorial challenges, I knew I could help other women who were going through the same thing.
V.M.:   What colors did you use and why?
V.E.:    I chose ones that meant something to me. Ultimately I ended up with orange, which means "strong and passionate," pink, which is "feminine and healthy," browns, which are "earthy," and white which is "pure and refined."
V.M.:   Which fabrics did you use?
V.E.:    Cotton, silk, light-weight wool, chiffon and tulle.
V.M.:   Which silhouettes did you use?
V.E.:    Fitted and flowy. Masculine and feminine.
V.M.:   What inspired you?
V.E.:    The 1930s and the 1980s.
V.M.:   Which piece from your collection stands out and why?
V.E.:    The long floral maxi dress because it can be worn either during the day or at night depending on what you coordinate it with. If you pair it with a denim jacket and Converse it can be worn out to a casual date, and if worn with a jeweled cardigan sweater and strappy sandals, it can be worn to a fancy dinner.
V.M.:   What fashion advice would you give women struggling with breast cancer and body issues?
V.E.:    Don't forget to continue enjoying fashion and remember for every door that closes another one opens.

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