The editors of SheHasDrive think a lot about communication, and so we know that, whether we like it or not, a person’s outward appearance communicates something to the world. That’s not to say that we can completely control how another person perceives us or that we should care much about what other people think.
We know – easier said than done. Which is part of the inspiration behind the topic of this issue, and the range of perspectives, experiences and struggles under that umbrella. So much around body image and identity is beyond our control, but as usual, it’s how we handle our own reactions and behavior that counts the most.
That’s also why we decided to do something different for this “Why This Matters.”
What do our bodies look like, how do we feel about them, and how do we dress them? We each have our own choices and feelings at play here, and so I decided to ask co-editor Cassandra Schwartz about her personal style.
Clothing and fashion can be ethnic, cultural, fun, formal, functional…It can be an afterthought, dictated to us, or pure self-expression. Both Cassandra and I are aware of the complications of fashion, and we are privileged to be free to express ourselves through our clothing choices – as far as that goes as young working professionals.
Having long admired her killer sense of fashion (seriously, you should’ve seen how her red pants and bomber jacket set off her fresh red highlights that she rocked on a recent night out), I also know that her sense of style is something she’s put some thought into. A woman in tech in the famously casual Seattle environment, Cassandra has a firm grasp of her own sense of style, which she describes as “classic, retro and feminine.”
So I decided to get her to share in this interview…
JR: Your look is often very feminine and you love bright colors, which I personally appreciate. Do you have a fashion philosophy?
CS: Only wear something that makes you feel good. I once bought a dress that I loved, but didn't quite fit into. After losing a few pounds I was excited to wear it out one night. But when I put it on, even though it fit great, it didn't make me feel good. So I got rid of it. Clothing is a way to reflect yourself to the world, and I refuse to wear anything that doesn't align with my inner boss lady.
JR: You're a busy woman with a lot of roles - mom, marketer, graduate student, all around go-getter - how do you make your wardrobe work for you?
CS: I've got to be realistic. While I would love to wear stilettos every day, there's no way I can do that. I've adopted styles that allow me to run around a park or walk into a boardroom confidently. I've also gotten comfortable carrying heels in a purse for easy changes in elevators.
JR: Do you run into societal preconceptions about the way you look in the job you have?
CS: Definitely. I once had a moment in a job interview where the hiring manager asked if I was ok with the casual office attire. I basically informed them that it didn't make me uncomfortable. I like to dress this way, but have no expectations of others to dress up. Living and working in Seattle where casual is the norm and expectation I often stick out.
JR: How has the way you've thought about your outward appearance changed over the years?
CS: My style and choices have definitely evolved, and some might say matured, over the years. One of the biggest turning points for me was when I turned 30. I got my nose pierced. I'd always wanted a nose piercing, but was afraid of perceptions and possible negative impacts. At 30 I realized that this fear was no longer going to stop me - if any potential employer or client had an issue with a nose piercing - I didn't want to work with them anyway.
JR: Is there a body image or identity issue you struggle with, and how do you address it?
CS: I've struggled over the years with my weight and how I was perceived. Until college, I was extremely skinny. In high school this caused me to be bullied by fellow students. People made accusations of eating disorders and made mean comments about my appearance. In college, I became more comfortable in my own skin and less self-conscious of my weight. But after having my son that changed - my body changed in major ways I wasn't expecting. Over the last 8 years, that's required me to embrace an imperfect body. It's an evolution, and a relationship I'm actively trying to improve. Loving my body with its stretch marks, and sagging boobs and extra skin isn't always easy, but I find myself less inclined to care about others’ opinions and appreciate my body for all the magical things it's able to do - like creating an amazing child that brings joy not only into my life but to everyone he meets.