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An Interview on Fashion & Sight Loss

Spotlight On Over 40-Bold Blind Beauty

Orange & Lace Maxi dress with lacy orange shrug and blue floral clutch.Yesterday I was honored in being the subject of an interview published on my friend Jess’ blog Elegantly Dressed and Stylish. Thank you Jess for giving me the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on how sight loss and fashion can co-exist. I hope you enjoy the following post:

Hello Ladies,

Welcome to my monthly series of Spotlight On, Over 40. Those of you who are new to the blog, will be introduced monthly to a new Over 40 blogger in an interview style. I love to support my fellow bloggers! Today I am bringing you my interview with Stephanie of Bold Blind Beauty, with whom I met when I first began blogging. We are both from the ‘Burg, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and I became drawn in to Stephanie’s positive outlook and love for fashion, while educating others.

Bold Blind Beauty is the name of your blog. Tell me how you arrived at the name and what people may assume when you say you have a fashion blog.

Due to the negativity associated with the words “blind, blindness, sight loss, vision loss, low vision, etc.” I wanted words that represented strength and the opposite of what some may think blindness means. It’s very rare to hear the word beauty used in correlation to blindness and I wanted to change this thinking.

After losing my sight I quickly learned that blind is not black or white, light or total darkness; there are varying degrees to sight loss. I initially named the blog Bold Blind Beautiful but opted for the shorter “Bold Blind Beauty” just for ease in keystrokes. Additionally for those of us living with sight loss who consciously make the decision to live life on our terms, regardless of our circumstances, we have to have a degree of moxie to face the day and do those things that most people take for granted.

I understand that Macular Degeneration is a slow process of losing central vision, and does not happen quickly, as well as other eye diseases. Can you explain to the readers about your vision loss and how it affects your blogging?

My vision is the equivalent of someone who has advanced Macular Degeneration as I have no central vision. Central vision helps us do those things like reading, driving, recognizing faces and objects.The cause of my sight loss was due primarily to Macular Holes which typically occur in people in their 60s or 70s. When the first hole appeared in my left eye it was instantaneous and I only recognized it when I took out my right contact lens because when I looked in the mirror half of my face was missing. Since I had high myopia (extreme nearsightedness) when I took out the one contact it was as if my right eye was shut thus I was able to see or rather not see my face.

After visiting the retina specialist I was scheduled to undergo the first of many operations/procedures to fix the first hole. Based on the numbers and because I was only 44 when I had the first Macular Hole the retina specialist felt that the vision could be completely restored in that eye and I should have been good to go.

Six years after my first vitrectomy (Macular Hole repair surgery), I was declared legally blind (this is a term used to designate individuals who quality for disability benefits). The doctors at Cleveland Clinic told me that there was nothing more that could be done for me. At this point in addition to the Macular Holes I also had glaucoma, cataracts and scarring from where a blood vessel broke at the back of my eye after my last vitrectomy. It takes me a little longer to do the things I used to do but with adaptations like magnification and screen reading software I’m able to navigate around my computer with relative ease.

My Android has a feature on it that allows me to use verbal commands when taking pictures or videos for the blog. Editing photos and videos is time-consuming however I do the best I can to present a professional appearance for the blog.

Winter white dress pants light gold lamé long-sleeve tunic top (comes to about mid-thigh) with a light-colored tank underneath. A nice detail is the slit at the wrist of the sleeves. Cream colored long loopy sweater vest - the vest is longer than the tunic. The actual loops are more like individual tassels covering the entire front of the vest. Navy heeled ankle boots

Do you see colors and if so, how do you go about choosing what you will wear on a given day?

I can see colors although I have trouble distinguishing between shades that are closely related. Since I take a systematic approach to everything I do (this is code for OCD) I really don’t have any issues in choosing what to wear because I keep an inventory of all my belongings and I have them sorted by color then type in my closets and drawers. The hardest issue is deciding what to wear based on how I feel on a particular day.

What is one obstacle you have had to overcome with your vision loss in relation to fashion and did you lose your vision at an early age?

Makeup application was the hardest obstacle I had to overcome and to some degree I still am because I had to learn to just let some things go. At first the easiest way to adapt was to go bare-faced for a time and then slowly I was able to find products that made the process a little easier for me. For example I can no longer select foundation on my own because I can’t tell if it’s appropriate for my skin tone but asking for assistance has been a huge help to me in this respect.

The one thing that I had to let completely go was liquid eyeliner on my upper lids but two years ago I learned how to use a pencil for the same effect. I was so ecstatic you’d have thought I won the lottery. I’ve been dying to learn how to apply false eyelashes and I may never become a guru of eyelashes but I’ll continue to try.

The other major obstacle that I face everyday is having to trust my instincts because I can no longer see my reflection in the mirror. What I see is a blur of colors and oddly enough when I take a picture and view it on my computer or phone I can get a better idea of how I look.

Tell us about one of your favorite outfits.

Haha every time I’m asked this question I get that “deer in the headlights” sensation because each day I dress according to how I feel. Most days I strive to look good but on those days when I’m feeling exceptionally fabulous, the bar is raised considerably higher.

My favorite item of clothing is a pencil skirt as it highlights my best feature (the caboose). However if I had to choose a favorite outfit it would have to be a black pantsuit which ironically enough I haven’t owned one in a few years (it’s on the to-do list). I can’t explain the confidence and positive energy I feel when I’m wearing a black pantsuit, crisp white dress shirt, heels, chunky jewelry and handbag—while I have several ensembles I’m fond of, there is nothing like the feeling this type of outfit gives me.

Charcoal gray pencil skirt, gray fleece sweatshirt belted with a black obi belt, black patterned tights, black booties.

I know you have a “thing” for shoes, what are your favorite styles and does having a “disability” affect your ability to wear certain styles, such as myself with high heels?

Yes, sadly shoes are one of my weaknesses and I’d have to say my favorite shoe is a low-cut stiletto pump but really anything type of heel like a wedge or even chunky are okay with me. I also have an affinity for pointy toe flats with bling.

When I first began having issues navigating (this was without a white cane because at the time I couldn’t fathom using one) I started accumulating a number pairs of flats for safety reasons, at least that’s what I told myself. Secretly I felt that since I could no longer see well that people wouldn’t understand why I would still wear heels. This was an internal battle for several years as I hadn’t fully accepted that I couldn’t see and I felt like I didn’t belong.

I think it was last year or maybe a little longer that I decided I was going to wear heels again and if people didn’t like it or couldn’t understand that I used a white cane while wearing them, that was their problem. Truth is, since seeing the ruby slippers on the Wizard of Oz many moons ago, that was the moment I fell in love with heels. So, I’m a heel wearing blind woman with a white cane and proud of it lol.

White capris with rhinestone accents and white sneakers.

Are you able to see shapes? If so, what shape do you find most flattering on your body? Do you like clothes fitted, flowy, etc.

Shapes are difficult to see unless I’m practically on top of them. I prefer fitted apparel for the reason I outlined in one of the previous questions regarding my bum. Although as I’ve gotten older the metabolism isn’t what it used to be as I have to fight weight gain and loss so I just have to dress accordingly. I’m not really into flowy or looser type garments with the exception of a few maxi dresses, it just depends on how they fit me.

What do you want the readers to know about you and fashion blogging?

It’s not so much about me as people with disabilities in general and specifically those who are blind or have sight loss. It’s important that people look beyond the disability to see the person. Many times we can look at a person and sometimes subconsciously place a label on them without knowing the individual. In the fashion world, while there is a movement towards inclusion, we can do better.

Just because someone doesn’t fit within our specifications of what’s fashionable because they may use a mobility device or just appear different is meaningless. Many people have hidden disabilities and choose not to disclose because of discrimination and this has to change. People shouldn’t be excluded because of differences as this is what makes us unique individuals.

So to summarize, what I want people to know about someone with a disability and fashion blogging is that it’s possible and not just possible but a reality that we need to accept.

Black midi dress under a gray fleece sweatshirt belted with a black obi belt, black patterned tights and gray booties.

How would you describe your style?

My style is all about “business.” Before I was old enough to join the corporate environment I knew I wanted to be a professional and so that was the way I dressed. Even when I retired my style of dress didn’t change because it is who I am. When I dress down I still strive to look professional. The only time you’ll find me looking completely crazy (in sweats, tennis shoes and a bandanna on my head) is when I walk my dog and I feel so comfortable it’s ridiculous.

Do you have any fashion tips for others who have vision problems but want to enjoy fashion?

Yes I do. My first tip is to ask for help from someone you trust who will give you honest feedback. I don’t know why it is that when we have a disability some of us tend to think we have to be ultra independent—we don’t. When people who have no disability ask for assistance as far as what works best for them, be it color, cut, style, etc. then why should it be any different for people with disabilities especially when we have sight loss?

My next tip is to keep it simple and classic by determining what types of clothing you prefer and seek these when replenishing your wardrobe. For example, earlier on I said that pencil skirts are one of my favorite items, it doesn’t mean all pencil skirts work for me however I know what doesn’t work and these are the ones I simply stay away from.

The same thing can be applied where cosmetics are concerned. If working with a particular type of makeup works for you then stick with it. This doesn’t mean you can never try something different but like the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” if you have something that works then by all means stick with it and exercise care when going with trends.

My last tip is to have fun and check out the growing list of online fashion resources that speak to the issue of blindness and fashion. There are fashionable women bloggers, YouTubers, Twitterers and Instagramers who are blind or have sight loss and they are an informative source of encouragement for others experiencing sight loss.

You mention on your blog, “When you Feel Good, You look Good”, which can apply to all of us. What helps you to “feel good”

First and foremost a great cup of coffee. Once I have my caffeine intake what really makes me feel good is helping others.

When I get up in the morning with a goal of helping someone else it rejuvenates me. I’ve always been an advocate, even before I really knew what it meant, but now I refer to myself as an abilities crusader which is more appropriate because it’s all about making positive change. This positive feeling on the insides exudes fabulousness on the outside.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes, I would like to add that I think it’s important that we remember that beauty is subjective. However when we place the focus on being confident this makes us beautiful. Thank you so much for this opportunity Jess to help your readers understand a little more on what it’s like to have sight loss and how fashion can still play a role in our lives.

What is one misconception people have about yourself in regard to your sight and fashion?

The biggest misconception (the elephant in the room) is that sight loss equals frumpy when nothing could be further from the truth. There are people with sight who either have no interest in or lack fashion sense. Likewise, there are people who are blind or have sight loss and they have a great sense of fashion.

If you want to read more of this series, follow me on BLOGLOVIN and Facebook.Follow Stephanie and her blog, BOLD, BLIND, BEAUTY on Facebook and/or her blog here.

I want to thank Stephanie for her inspiration!
Have a Great Weekend
Jess XO


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