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YourThoughts August 2013

Send us your thoughts!

For September's "women mean business"-themed issue we're asking: What life lessons have you learned from the business world? Tell us in 150 words or less. Send YourThoughts to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: Aug. 10, 2013

October's theme is women and trees. Send us your haiku about women and trees to editor@womenspress.com by Sept. 10, 2013.

Each month we ask our readers to respond to a question. For August 2013 we asked: What's your power clothing story?

These boots
I had a pair of black power boots - the first "career shoes" I bought out of graduate school. The boots made me feel tall and fearless. Like donning a superhero costume, I was transformed from the girl in the Birkenstocks to the woman with a front office.

The first time I formally interviewed for a career job, I wore those power boots. After a long day of company interviews with the CEO, CFO and heads of sales, I thought the toughest interviews were behind me. But it wasn't until my final interview with one of the editorial directors when I was asked the question that everyone else had wanted to ask me all day long. The interviewer looked at me, looked at my résumé and then said matter-of-factly: "You're very young and your résumé is very short. Why should we hire you?"

I moved to the edge of my chair, sunk the heels of my boots into the floor, leaned forward and said, "I'll tell you why you should hire me ..."
I got the job.
Aimee Jackson, St. Louis Park

Viggo was my chemo power stud
Six years ago, I was diagnosed with gastric cancer. After surgery and hospitalization, I faced months of treatment - alone. My pretend boyfriend was actor Viggo Mortensen. He pursued his art and led the fully engaged life that I aspired to live. With a T-shirt and an iron-on, his image became my shield and my support.

I wore Viggo the first day of chemo. I wore him through radiation, and for every scan and endoscopy and blood draw. I wore Viggo again when I got the news that my scans and tests were clean.

I still have Viggo and I still wear him, though mostly now to the gym. (And yes, I am cancer-free.) The neck is frayed and the transfer has faded and cracked. But whenever I face a new challenge, I pull Viggo out of the closet. And I remember I am strong.
Karin Knudsen, Minneapolis

Nightlife solo
If I really didn't have to worry about where I could go, I would go out more at night - by myself. No more scrambling to find a friend in order to go see a band or wanting to go to an author's reading or late museum night by myself. Because I know with how our society is structured now, the minute I get mugged or assaulted is the minute the blame will be laid on me for being out so late in the first place; as if I were asking for trouble. For once, I'd like to go out without worry or fear and enjoy being out by myself at night as much as I do during the day.
Nikki Everling, Eagan

Cinderella - for a day
I never felt so powerful as I did the day of my wedding in my Cinderella fairy-tale wedding dress. The bodice was intricately beaded and the full skirt bloomed with multiple layers of tulle. When I put it on, I swore I would never take it off. I wondered why I didn't dress like this every day. I cursed being born in the past century. All my wedding guests oohed and aahed at my garb, and it made me feel powerful in a way my everyday slacks and T-shirts had never done. But just like Cinderella, come midnight, the spell wore off and the dress lost its power. I felt no sentimentality toward it post-wedding and donated it to charity for someone else to enjoy.
Leah DeZiel, Minneapolis


The Bra Lady
A great-fitting suit, beautiful jewelry or a favorite color can all make a huge difference in how a woman feels about herself. Not only do these items make a statement about how we present ourselves but also how we are perceived by others.

What about underneath? As women do we actually take time to consider if our undergarments are supporting our figures? Bras, panties and shapewear are all referred to as "foundations" because as a first layer of a woman's wardrobe, these garments are designed to make women look better in clothes. A proper-fitting bra fosters good breast health, back health and self-esteem. It can also make a woman look 10 to 15 pounds slimmer. Why then are 85 percent of women still wearing the wrong size?

I see almost every day how much a proper-fitting bra boosts a woman's self-esteem. Instantly, it makes a difference in her appearance and how she carries herself. ... As women we come in all shapes and sizes, but there is no reason to hide ourselves.
Amy Holland, St. Paul

Editor's Note: Known as The Bra Lady, Holland is a certified Bra Fitter with more than 20 years of experience helping women with one of life's greatest challenges - finding the right size bra.

I define my power
My mother died when I was in my late 20s, and I was alone. One of the ways I comforted myself was by trying out a new look.

I had grown up in thrift-store clothes and was curious how it would feel to wear expensive dresses. I bought myself several, and remember how thinned out I looked and how beautiful I felt. To my amazement, people treated me with more respect. I relished and embraced the different kind of attention.

Then I got to thinking after the owner of the home health-care agency where I worked took me aside and demanded that I wear a lab coat to client homes so that I looked the part. I refused and told the owner that I knew what I was doing and that a lab coat would not change my competence. Also, I was not going to a laboratory.

At about the same time, a therapist I knew told me my life would go more smoothly if I improved my skills at "playing the game."

I decided in my early 30s that I no longer wanted to wear costumes or power clothes, according to standards and specifications of others. I felt like a phony and changed to paisley pedal pushers, leopard-skin stretch pants, socks and Birkenstocks.

My husband and I lost our second child to medical negligence, and my statement became a protest against people deciding whose lives are worth saving. That stance inspired my all-black wardrobe, for almost 20 years.

Recently, I have been making a more passionate and steadfast commitment to human-rights causes and to helping my own - the poor. Consequently, I am attracted most to another look, involving jeans and T-shirts featuring Woody Guthrie, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Joan Baez, Peter Yarrow, Big Bill Haywood and Lucille Parsons.

When I was young, power clothes meant impressing others. Now that I have left peer pressure behind me, fashion moguls, Hollywood subculture and social convention bore me. Power clothes mean making my own statement in my own unique way.
Toianna Wika, St. Paul

My polyester power clothes
My position as a graduate instructor to non-native English learners birthed my flexible identity; I wore novel daily costumes composed of the cheapest used items. Previously, I'd worn costumes, wigs, makeup, et. al., only when going out at night. But out of a desperate need for creative expression and fortitude when I began teaching on a university campus, I started developing my unique identities daily.

My graduate career was laden with major life events. I only progressed academically with unconventional expression. Realizing the value of creativity in my cognition, I desired to learn if applicable to others. I began with self-effacing costumes, and my teaching and drawing methods incorporating global issues included but were not limited to the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Not having a lot of support, I forged ahead nonetheless and am still looking for a place where my voice can be heard.
Katrina Vaara, Delano

My power mustache
Far from the big city, faculty at our regional university entertained themselves with parties and dress-up. One Halloween I wore loose pants, soutached overshirt, turban and a large black mustache. No one recognized me. My upper lip burned from eyelash glue, but the thrill of disguise trumped pain. All evening I sported that seductively powerful mustache.

Men, I had always thought, wore facial hair to avoid shaving. Now I got it - facial hair meant power, a bristling announcement. That night I dreamed the mustache was still there. Like a lion's mane, it warned everyone I was someone to reckon with. All day its shadow presence tingled; night after night, the mustache and I were one. I thought of it in my office. Finally, I began to fear it might actually wear me to the office. With a wrench, I handed it to a kid without facial hair.
Beverly Hill, Edina

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