Monday 18 December 2017

The style warriors

Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Women regularly lose their fashion mojo. Lack of interest in shopping or buying new clothes is nothing new, especially if they have put on some weight. However, when the drama in your life is breast cancer and you are standing in front of a mirror three stone heavier, with no hair, eye lashes or eyebrows, you could be forgiven for wanting to take to your pjs and not go out, preferring comfort over style trends.

Not 37-year-old Orlagh Winters, a Galway woman living in Co Kerry who was diagnosed with a grade-three tumour last March. The following month, she began chemo and her hair immediately fell out. Orlagh's size 8-10 wardrobe of favourite pieces including Seven For All Mankind jeans, Moschino Cheap and Chic and the Italian designer range, Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti are out of commission just for the moment.

"I can't get the jeans over my knees, " says Orlagh with a smile, but despite the weight gain and hair loss, her enthusiasm for fashion hasn't dimmed. In fact, it has taken on a whole new twist and Orlagh is a bemused by her sudden passion for pink, the colour of breast cancer awareness.

"I never had pink in my wardrobe before and now it's the first thing I see when I go into shops -- I find it a very calming colour," explained Orlagh. Upbeat when shopping for new clothes, Orlagh immediately zoned in on the nude-feather collar from the new Biba collection available at House of Fraser. "I'm thrilled to hear Biba is back because I have a number of original Biba pieces that I bought in vintage markets over the years including a blue, purple and green military-style crushed velvet coat."

Now living in Tralee with her publican husband George Savage, Orlagh says the shock of the diagnosis just eight months after her wedding was tough, "but I made a promise to myself after speaking to another patient in hospital about depression, that no matter how bad I felt I would get up everyday, get dressed and put on a face, if only to walk to the gate.

"I'm organising a pink ball in Tralee on December 31for the National Breast Cancer Research Institute (NBCRI ) and George is developing an eye for pink, too. He was joking me about my five pairs of pink shoes and said 'what's that about' but he has bought a few Paul Smith pink shirts and his new suit has a faint pink stripe. Once you start wearing it, pink takes on a whole new meaning for you," said Orlagh

Bernadette Bohan from Malahide is a mother-of-three who has beaten cancer twice. She looks much younger than her 55 years and puts it down to her healthy lifestyle and the raw-food eating regime, which she embraced when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago.

Like Orlagh, Bernadette embraced colour as a reaction to the discovery that she had a malignant lump in her breast when her youngest daughter, Julie, was five. "I didn't want the cancer to take over my life so every day I got up and got out there," said Bernadette. She also devised a healthy eating plan, and wrote a book about it. The Choice has sold more than 70,000 copies. It was made into a DVD and Bernadette runs threeday wellness seminars at Grove House, Mallow . More information from

Petite in frame, Bernadette had difficulty finding clothes to fit her so she did a course in the Grafton Academy and made her own clothes for years. However, with the high street expanding its offer, she now finds size 6-8 clothes in many stores. She loved the pieces stylist Andrew Kelly chose for her, especially the silver satin dress from Warehouse. "I would never have chosen a dress like this purple one ... so it is nice to move out of your comfort zone and try something new," she says.

Irish Independent

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