Thursday, July 10, 2014


By Victoria Moore
Victoria writes about all things fashion-related and is a Stage IIA Breast Cancer survivor

 Looking for a job is never easy, especially when you've just spent four years of your life battling Stage II A Breast Cancer and other health issues, but the thing that's made it particularly hard for me is navigating around the challenges of resumes, interviews and employment inquiries in clothes that make me look professional and stylish yet remain comfortable and polished throughout the day.
   To get the crisp, fresh allure I was seeking when I had to go to an interview with a staffing agency last month I selected a trend that's always appealed to me-black and white. Reminiscent of art deco, film noir and the Mod gear from the 1960's, it took me back to the 1980's when I worked as a salesperson at The Limited in the Century City Plaza. While working there we were required to buy and wear their clothes on the sales floor during our shift. I didn't make a lot of money then, but I still needed the job, so I had to find a way to conform and keep my managers happy. I decided to create a formula of black and white separates that I could mix and match easily.

The Formula:
   Small, but versatile, I remember buying a white mini skirt, a black mini skirt, a white shirt, a black shirt and a pair of black slim fitting pants. All of the pieces were made out of cotton so I didn't have to take anything to the dry cleaners or worry about being uncomfortable when I wore them. I wouldn't say this was my finest fashion moment but at least it taught me how to create a uniform from one store's offerings that worked on and off the clock. At the time the only clothing problems I had to worry about was how to find something in my size and something I could afford. When I approached the black and white color scheme this time I had to figure out how to coordinate an outfit that wouldn't show all of my surgical and procedural scars and make me look as in control as possible.

   "People of all ages and circumstances of life are aware of appearance in perception of self and their relations with other people," wrote Abilene M. Hoffman, Ph.D. in Clothing For The Handicapped, the Aged, and Other People With Special Needs. Before, when I chose black and white I wanted to get the approval from my supervisors at The Limited, but this time I wanted to appear competent and prepared for a general office position by an organization that I hadn't worked with in over five years. The ability to project my most positive and best self after my stint with Breast Cancer has been a fraught with frustrating obstacles and disappointing outcomes, as my job search stretches out longer than I anticipated.

Doing My Homework:
   With this in mind I studied my fashion magazines for the season's trends and become inspired by a layout feature called mono pattern in the May 2014 issue of the Japanese version of NYLON. The placement coordinator told me, over the phone, to "dress as if I were going on a job interview" when I asked what I should wear to meet with her. I didn't want to limit myself just in case I changed my mind, so I pulled my black Calvin Klein dress out of my closet, along with my off-white and black striped sweater set by Ann Taylor, my black Ann Taylor Loft pants and my black and white pinstriped blazer by Norma Kamali.

   For a time, right after I started my chemo treatments, my skin turned sallow and I had dark bags under my eyes that were more prominent when I wore black near my face so I stopped wearing it and chose brighter colors and prints instead. I've since made my peace with black because it doesn't make me look sick any longer, and I've finished chemo, so I've learned how to coordinate around it without losing my individuality. Besides I've also had to compromise and accept the corporate policy some retail stores adhere to when I've interviewed with them and contemplated being employed by them in the future.

    Ideally the black dress any well-dressed woman counts as her "LBD" ("little black dress"), for various occasions should be as simply designed as possible so that it can be dressed up or dressed down accordingly. Before I bought my Calvin Klein dress at Ross I used to wear a black silk crepe 1960's dress I found at the Daniel Freeman Thrift Auxilary for $5.00 to all of my professional engagements. I finally had to retire it for awhile and look for an updated modern version with the same lines. That's when I found the Calvin Klein waiting for me on the Sale rack for about $20.00.

Shopping For Inspiration:
   On the day I had a doctor's appointment with my Oncologist, the creation of this outfit was on my mind, because I hadn't pulled everything together yet, so I decided to walk down to the Ross and Fallas on LaCienega Blvd. to see if I could find something inspiring. After an hour of filling up my shopping cart, from the suit, dress and cardigan rack, with about seven black, black and white and navy-blue and white polka-dotted dresses, a navy-blue pantsuit and a black and white long-sleeved Calvin Klein cardigan, I went to the fitting room to try them on.

   "Garments considered for purchase should always be tried on for fit, comfort and general appearance," wrote Hoffman. Women who've had a mastectomy and are wearing a prosthetic bra or have had reconstruction specifically need to follow this advice because they might have to make adjustments. Since I bought my black dress prior to my mastectomy, it fit differently following surgery, so I have to wear a black stretch camisole underneath it to fill it out.Initially I was frustrated about the way my dress fit, but once I tried on the camisole with it and saw that the alteration wasn't noticeable, I was happy with the addition.

   The dresses I'd selected were the same style as my Calvin Klein so I passed on them, and the suit was too big and casual so I passed on that too. I was left with the cardigan, and at $19.99, with a silhouette that flowed easily around my body, I felt it would be a perfect accompaniment to my dress. Earlier, while in the shoe section, I'd tried on a pair of white pointy toed Nine West flats accented with beige bow detailing. They cost about $17.99 and were the only shoes I saw that day that were in my budget. I tried them on again, and after visualizing them with my dress, I left the shopping area with them in my cart.

   When I got to the check-out counter I told the cashier, "I'm going to wear this black and white cardigan over a black Calvin Klein dress I bought at Ross about five years ago then I'm going to put on a pair of black tights to make these shoes pop. To tie it all together I'm going to go over to Fallas to buy some gold or pearl jewelry to wear with for extra pizazz."

   "You sound like you have it all planned out," she said.

     At Fallas I immediately went to their jewelry section and bought two gigantic pearl bracelets for $1.99 each, a black and silver pearl bracelet for $1.99, a black and brown pearl bracelet for $1.99 and a black rhinestone hair clip for $.99.

 Trying Everything On:
   That afternoon, after I got home with my haul, I still wasn't sure if my idea would work until I tried everything on in front of my full-length mirror. To complete the outfit I added a short strand of pearls my grandmother had given me for my birthday one year, the two gigantic pearl bracelets I bought at Fallas, black tights, the white and beige flats, a black leather purse and a beige suede briefcase to the black dress and the black and white cardigan. Although it looked wonderfully elegant I realized that since I had to take two buses to get to my appointment with the agency, and the intake process would take from two to three hours, I needed to wear something equally attractive but more practical for the day ahead.

   I knew I didn't want to make the same mistakes I'd made while working at The Limited, by turning black and white into a formulaic uniform, so I decided to give it a slight retro masculine/feminine feel by wearing my black and white pinstriped blazer over my off-white and black striped sweater set and a pair of black pants. I then added the strand of pearls and bracelets for glamour. Mindful of my body flaws again, I chose the sweater set because it wasn't too snug and was made out of 100% silk. The shell is a tank and the cardigan is long-sleeved so I knew I'd be comfortable en route to my appointment when worn underneath my blazer.

   At the end of my day I couldn't say that my appearance guaranteed a dream offer, through the agency, but the compliment by the placement coordinator that "I looked beautiful and exactly how I should look on the first day of any assignment" definitely gave me confidence and filled me with gratitude that someone appreciated that I'd chosen the right colors.