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New style, new confidence

By Jen Wood Cunningham
Jen Wood Cunningham
Before finding her new look and regaining her confidence, Schrader wore clothes that lacked shape and structure, which made her appear larger than she is.
Jen Wood Cunningham Schrader finds that her suit jacket can work well with many things, including this sheath from White House | Black Market. It has great structure and shows off her narrow, natural waist. It also has pockets!
Jen Wood Cunningham Finding the right tops makes Schrader's casual look a bit dressier.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A woman wakes each morning and looks in the mirror. She only sees the flaws and the things that others don't see. She second-guesses her talents, value and the characteristics that make her unique.

This happens to women every day all over the world, and it used to happen to Cathy Schrader, of Scott Depot. Schrader, 45, has had her share of struggles -- a divorce, the deaths of her two children and the loss of her house, job and savings. And that was 20 years ago.

Schrader believes God gave her a second chance. She met her second husband, who had two children from a previous marriage. "God brought these two families together and made us one. He gave us an extra blessing, a daughter, when the doctors told me I couldn't have children," Schrader shared.

We are told that the difficult times come so that we can appreciate the good times, and Schrader understands that as much as anyone.

"My [second] husband was out of work for four years, and we had three young children at home. I worked two jobs and tried to hold everything together."

Just as he was well enough to go back to work, Schrader had health problems of her own. "I had my thyroid removed and gained weight. I looked and felt differently. I lost my confidence."

As many mothers do, especially in difficult times, she put her family before herself. Schrader shopped at thrift stores to find clothes to cover -- but not to fit -- her body. "I want to shop at thrift stores because I want to -- to find a good bargain -- but not because I have to," she said.

When she received a promotion at work that required public speaking, she was excited, but at the same time, she was worried. She had prevailed through her trials, but there was something she had lost and didn't know how to regain it.

"People didn't take me seriously. I wouldn't go out in public because of the way I looked and felt. I wanted to be able to step out there with confidence," Schrader said.

With confidence, she could help her community and communities all over the world. Her job with the Girl Scouts helps young girls build confidence too, and she wanted to be a role model for them. She also wanted to do support missionary efforts in Honduras.

So, after a "Dress for Success" presentation I gave for the Girl Scout leadership, Schrader solicited my help to regain her confidence. She wanted to find a look that fit her style and body.

After a meeting, we identified her look. Schrader had always been artistic and liked colorful and statement jewelry. She didn't wear dresses much, but mentioned that she might like to find dresses that would work for her body type. She thought all along that she was a specific size and shape, but she was something completely different. She found beautiful clothes that fit her style, her current job and that would be appropriate for her bright future ahead.

Schrader's first stop on her two-day makeover experience was to see Michelle Smith at MasterCuts at the Charleston Town Center Mall. Smith helped Schrader find a color and cut that fit her style and face shape. With new hair products to go with her new 'do, the evolving Schrader hit the stores for the next phase -- clothing.

The first step was to remind Schrader of the basics, accomplished by following the criteria of BASE, an anagram Stacy London and Clinton Kelly shared in an episode of TLC's "What Not To Wear":

B: Does it fit the Body?

A: Is it Age-appropriate?

S: Does it fit the Situation?

E: Is it worth the Expense?

Schrader invested in a classic three-piece suit. The jacket from White House | Black Market is a little more than your average jacket. The detailed neckline provides a focal point to draw the eye up. This is key for wearing when giving presentations. The neckline keeps the eyes on the face so that people can see and hear what is being shared.

Anything that draws the eyes up also helps to disguise other features of your shape that you might want to conceal. This is a great trick for all body shapes.

This jacket is a peplum shape, and is more narrow at the natural waist. The peplum shows off Schrader's shape -- she was surprised to see that she looks thinner when she wears clothes that fit.

The jacket, originally $148, was marked down to $49. Schrader purchased the coordinating pencil skirt ($78) and a pair of straight-leg suit pants ($78) from White House | Black Market. At a total of $205, this classic suit will make her ready for many meetings and presentations to come.

She purchased a white knit scoop neck top at New York & Co. that was on sale for $12.16. It is a great top that she also can wear with jeans or another skirt. She also found a pair of earrings and necklace to work with her suit at NY&CO on the clearance rack for $3.99 each.

A quick trip to Sephora to find brushes, Bare Minerals foundation -- something she always wanted to try but was afraid to -- and some other basics; her stylist showed her how to do the "five-minute face," including contouring and highlighting so that she could be even more fabulous in a flash. She's a busy mom, after all.

There were a few other items she thought about purchasing during the shopping trip, but they were full-price. Because the other items fit all of the other BASE criteria, the expense at this time couldn't be justified.

Not to worry. She has the tools and shopping savvy to hit the stores -- even the thrift stores -- to find things that fit her body, style and budget. Most important, she's also found her confidence.

Schrader attended a conference earlier this month and shared, "Now I look more professional, and people want to listen to me."

A few days after getting her new look, Schrader shared in a text message, "I have prayed for years to be free from this bondage of weight. I was thinking I had to lose all the weight first. I looked in the mirror this morning and felt absolute peace. I am finally confident just as I am."

To some it may seem shallow to think that external enhancements can make one feel differently inside. But they can, and they do. It's not shallow to do these enhancements for ourselves and to help others. We are being better versions of ourselves so that we can be better and do better.

It's not always to prove something or to be one of the crowd. I like to think that it's a way to stand out, be great and make our mark. We don't have to be others' versions of beautiful, but we have to feel beautiful to share it. But how wonderful it would be for all of us to find the peace and self-appreciation Cathy Schrader has found!

For more on Cathy Schrader's transformation, check out the special feature on the WVStyleTeam blog at www.wvstyleteam.com/cathy. Check out the blog for helpful tips to boost your confidence too!

Jen Wood Cunningham works in personal and professional development and loves classic style. Get tips and trends by following @WVstyleteam on Twitter. More tips and insights are available on the Style Team blog, www.wvstyleteam.com.


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