There are a lot of women who are beautiful on the outside, but to be beautiful on the inside too, is a rare and wonderful thing.
Fabulous After 40 reader Bernadette Catrabone holds this special honor.
I first became aware of Bernadette when she sent in a few photos for our weekly What I Wore post. I was taken with her wonderful sense of style, so I invited her to tell me more about herself. Little did I know she had an amazing and inspirational story to tell.
In 2008, when Bernadette was 38 she was working out at the gym and collapsed. She was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a severe case of life threatening bone marrow disease Aplastic Anemia. The only chance for her survival was a bone marrow transplant and to stay in seclusion in order not to be exposed to any bacteria or viruses.
Bernadette made the life changing decision to undergo the transplant and ended up being confined to a hospital bed, totally alone, away from her dear husband and three small children for 3 months!
After what seemed like an eternity she finally made it back home and worked hard to regain her motor skills and mobility to an acceptable level, a couple of housewives and Bernadette piggy-backed off an existing half marathon and rallied an extra 130 participants, resulting in $10,000 for the AAMDS FNDTN.
Not only had she survived a bone marrow transplant but she had endured high dosages of chemotherapy and steroids, resulting in a 35 pound weight gain, followed by an immense weight loss and dramatic hair loss. Talk about depressing!
Although her illness had taken a toll on her body, Bernadette vowed it would not destroy her spirit. A true fashionista, Bernadette was determined not to let her illness compromise her style. In an effort to feel like her old self she leaned heavily on her arsenal of accessories….hats, scarves, fake eyelashes, earrings…etc. anything to make her feel like a woman, a woman with style.
This September Bernadette will have been in remission 5 years and continues to support other women with this disease by raising money for treatment via events such as marathons and ambassadorships.
She credits her passion for fashion with helping to keep her feeling positive and hopeful throughout her illness. Not only has Bernadette grown as a person from having cancer, but she’s also developed her own unique style that she shares with me in this Fabulous After 40 style profile.
Deb: Bernadette, your story of survival is an inspiring one. Many women in similar situations often give up hope and succumb to self-pity. You did the exact reverse. You challenged yourself to maintain your sense of style. How would you describe your style of dressing today?
Deborah, These days my overall style varies, however, I find myself gravitating to a classic look, but always with an edge and a hint of trend. I try to combine those three things when going just about anywhere. However, I don’t want to force it…it needs to be effortless.
Too many times I think women will force a trend that doesn’t work with their body type. I am tall, and have a long torso, so there are things that just don’t work on me, but I work with what does, and then apply my 3 “musts” to complete my look. Additionally, I am all about accessories, the right ones, can jazz anything up 100% of the time. Coco Chanel once said “Put on your accessories, and then take one piece off” I say, “KEEP IT ON!”
Deb: Can you tell us a bit about the looks you sent in?
I was headed to a friends’ son’s graduation party. It was to be held outdoors on a beautiful day. I wanted to be comfortable, yet stylish. I chose this sunburst orange MSGM jumpsuit. However, I had to get it extra long to accommodate the length of my torso.
It is a cute trend, but it doesn’t work for everyone. I paired it with a gold cuff bracelet, turquoise chandelier earrings, and 9West leopard wedges. It was totally comfortable and was the staple color of the school! And of course, my old faithful, Ton Ford sunglasses. Accessories, accessories, accessories!
I was attending a wine tasting event at The Erie Club, in Erie, Pa. at historic General Charles Manning Reed Mansion. This event required semi formal attire. While I wanted to stay within the dress code, I wanted to make a statement.
Given the affair I chose a Proenza Schouler colorblock dress, refined but trendy and paired it with an ankle strap zebra tipped sandal….again, a classic shoe but the zebra print made it a bit edgy. I felt comfortable, confident and had my favorite Cakebread Cabarnet. It all made for a good night.
This is my easy breezy, go-to outfit, my uniform if you will. On the particular day that I wore this I was running errands with children in tow. A basic tank, True Religion Jeans (they are not just for young people!!!) and my Donald Pilner riding boots. Totally kid friendly, mom-friendly and still youthful.
I feel totally comfortable and am able to go most anywhere without feeling under-dressed.
This was my AH-HAH moment! MERCEDES BENZ FASHION WEEK IN NYC: “STRUT”, THE FASHIONABLE MOM SHOW.
After being asked to walk in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week In NYC last September (marking my 4th year post-transplant), we celebrated fashion and life after the show at the rooftop Empire Hotel.
I wore this Plein Sud dress, Nicole Romano earrings, and my “BRAVERY” Aplastic Anemia bracelet, to celebrate the occasion!
Deb: What’s the best piece of style advice you can give to women over 40 who are looking to find their style?
I have three never-fail fashion tips for women over 40:
1. Always overdress rather than underdress. 2. Monochromatic never goes out of style. 3. Lastly, always watch your hemline with your pants.
Bernadette, thanks for sharing your great style and the inspiring story behind it! I always say, “When you look good, you feel good!” I think your cancer survival story has really proven the role a joyful, positive mindset has on the healing process!