When your body changes—like mine did after a preventative double mastectomy—a lot of other things change. Six months ago, I had surgery to remove both of my breasts after learning I tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene mutation that increases the likelihood of breast cancer (it’s just like the procedure Angelina Jolie had). You can watch my story here:
Post-surgery, I have 34B breasts implants (I used to be a 32G) and several really cute new bras that I am in love with. You know what I don’t have? The first clue how to shop for my new shape. But on the plus side, I happen to know a few people who know a thing or two about dressing your body since I started working with Glamour on my docu-series, Screw You, Cancer.
When I found out I was headed to the ASME Awards, where Screw You, Cancer was nominated in the Best Video category (and, spoiler alert, WON! EEK!!), I enlisted a little professional help to figure out how to dress my new, unfamiliar shape for a formal event. Whether you’ve been through what I’ve been through, or your body has transformed through weight loss, weight gain, or something else, I hope sharing what I learned on my shopping trip will help make your next dressing room experience a little less scary.
First things first: I was so nervous, I had to sit down and call my cousin, Julia, to calm me down before I headed out on my shopping expedition.
“Cait, relax it will be fine. What Would Stacy London Do?”
I had an appointment with a personal shopper and Glamour.com’s own Nikki Ogunnaike to shop outfits from Lord and Taylor’s new 424 Fifth clothing line.
I always dreaded the polite “Can I help you?” from the hopeful shop assistant. Umm you can try. Do you have 16 hours to spare, and a couch I can cry on?
I knew I would be a difficult client. I had no idea what I was doing. I suspected no one I knew wanted to spend the entire afternoon helping me re-learn how to dress myself. I could have done what I always do: touch all the pretty fabric, imagine what I could look like, leave, and then shop online at work. But I had made an appointment, and I couldn’t turn back now.
After Julia’s pep talk and a few deep breaths I was ready. WWSLD?
My typical outfits are either work clothing (almost always all black) or yoga pants (also in black), and at least 6 t-shirts I feel bad about throwing out because at one point they meant something to me. I know, I know, Stacy London would tell me to take a picture and move on.
As much as shopping for my pre-mastectomy body shape challenged me (hi, 32G boobs on a 5’1 frame), I was familiar with it; at least I was shopping for the devil I knew.
I had been an hourglass shape my whole life but was never entirely comfortable in my body. Post, bilateral mastectomy, I am now more a pear shape. I had no idea what to do with this. A pear shape? Why did it have to be food-related? I liked hourglass it was simple, it was basic, it was an object that timed people during board games.
And now I was a pear shape. Why did it have to be named after food? I was so unprepared (couldn’t resist). And my confidence was at an all-time low. I felt like I needed a lot more help then I wanted to admit.
What if I take up everyone’s time and they can’t help any other shoppers?
What if can’t afford any of the clothes selected for me?
What if I can’t fit into the size they have in the store, and I rip the last one, and have to pay for it, and then have to try to sell it on eBay? How do you sell something on eBay?
I was nervous.
What actually happened was beyond my wildest dreams. It was wonderful.
The 424 Fifth team was so kind. They knew about my surgery and very supportive.
Thank you to the amazing team at 424. You have a girlfriend for life!
I also got to work Nikki, one of my idols. She is coolest, guys, but you all know this already. My first conversation with Nikki was over the phone to go over what direction we might go when at the store.
Nikki: “Where was the last place you shopped?”
Caitlin: “Ummm, I got some leggings on amazon.com.”
I could have lied, why didn’t I lie?
The last time I shopped with a total outfit in mind was in kindergarten and my taste has ever so slightly changed but I need to think that in outfits again. I had no idea what my style was, and was worried it would take a very long time to figure that out, too.
First, I tried on some pants that didn’t fit over my butt and as I tried to pull them on and squeeze my cheeks into the waist, it felt like everything I had been dreading was actually happening. But actually I thought to myself “this isn’t the worst thing ever, it will be ok. These pants won’t live on to tell the tale about my big butt. Only in Pixar movies do pants talk about you behind your back.” And of course like a pro, Nikki discretely asked for a larger size. I hope one day I can be someone’s Nikki; we all need a little Nikki now and then-a kind, open-mind person who is honest but also understanding. Whether it’s your cousin, sister, or BFF grab that Nikki, and go shopping inside an actual store.
And please take bit of advice; girls, make a personal shopper appointment. Most department stores offer them for free. Try it just one time. It’s like getting a professional bra fitting-once you have some direction, it will be easier to shop on your own the next time.
As soon as I got over my vanity, ego, and body size, I had a blast. And that was only possible by being honest with my actual clothing size and moving very quickly between outfits—some for work, and some for our big night as the ASME Awards. No time to pout.
This was the first time in my life that I looked like an adult. My dad loved it.
My husband’s favorite
“Let’s run off together.”
I’m not convinced I can pull off leather jogging pants.
Pink rosettes? I’m in love.
I left feeling proud, and in love with my body. Something clothing never made me feel before. I felt stylish and confident. It was exciting to look like I planned my outfit, and not like I was forced to evacuate my building in the middle of the night.
And here’s the look I chose for the ASME Awards—an awesome black skirt, printed camisole, and bright red heels and I felt amazing.
I loved how easy the skirt was and how high it came up. I could eat 2 desserts at the award dinner!
This wasn’t like every other event (very last minute, trying to find something that fit and also was clean). I gave myself time in a store to find out what fit me best and more importantly, what I felt the most comfortable in. That little bit of effort, which seemed so daunting at first, gave me all the extra confidence I needed.