Katie Vassallo was only 31 when she got the call: the lump was a fast-growing breast cancer. She pulled over the car and cried. “I had to act quickly, so I decided to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction,” she says. Then, the chemo. “I thought, not only will I feel horrible, I’ll look it as well…a part of me felt guilty and vain that I was so scared to lose my hair. But I thought if I had to lose my breasts and a year of my life to this disease, I didn’t want to lose one more thing.”
So Katie also underwent “cold cap” treatment during chemo, which involved wearing subzero wraps on her head, which, in theory, would freeze hair follicles so they wouldn’t fall out. It worked. “I certainly didn’t feel great, but I could go to the store without people staring,” she recounts. “But then again, sometimes people need a visual reminder to remember what you are going through.”
Now, three months out of chemo, Katie is starting to pick up where she left off: her regular, beloved workouts; sharing a bottle of wine with friends; and learning how to feel confident and pretty again. We, along with Jen Cortez of The Hive Salon, were happy to pitch in. Ladies, please remember your exams.
FROM THE EXPERTS
The challenge: Katie underwent a total body transformation. She was unable to keep up her active lifestyle during treatment, plus a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery made her body foreign to herself.
Faith’s take: “Katie wears a lot of workout gear and dresses in scrubs for work,” Faith says. “My shopping focused on weekend wear and allowing her to get back in a social groove. I immediately noticed Katie liked to feel feminine, but maintain an edge.”
Hair apparent: We enlisted Jen Cortez of The Hive to give Katie a cut and color, owing to her safe and natural haircare lines and soft touch. “I wove in hues of toffee around her face, and dispersed cinnamon and maple shades to add depth and shine.” Jen adds that being gentle is crucial post-chemo: “Be patient with yourself as your hair gets back to normal. Don’t damage the hair you have.” Her care tips? Avoid plastic- and silicone-based ingredients so as not to stunt growth, and use a lightweight oil on hair to soften texture and prevent breakage.
1. “Take advantage of fall in Minnesota: layer on fabrics like fur and leather,” Faith advises.
2. A sparkly sequin sweater top is perfect for a night out with friends. The detailing, paired with the fur, flatter Katie’s hourglass frame.
3. Trouser-style denim toes the line between dressy and casual.
4. Two-tone heels are edgy but polished, as is the perforated leather bag.
Where to get it
Outfit, above: Dannijo necklace, $260; Vite Fede ring, $187; both @ Ladyslipper, 4940 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-224-1900, ladyslipperboutique.com. A + Ro sweater, $129; Alice & Olivia dress, $396 @ Bumbershute, 5014 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-475-2684. Outfit, right: Vince fur capelet, $1,675 @ Bluebird Boutique, 3909 W. 50th St., Edina, 952-746-8675, bluebirdboutique.com. Parker shirt, $297 @ Bumbershute. MiH denim, $198 @ Houndstooth, 5749 Egan Dr., Savage, 952-440-2807. Elizabeth and James pumps, $308 @ Ladyslipper. Cleobella bag, $389 @ Bumbershute. inset shot: House of Harlow Marley clutch, $189 @ Ladyslipper. B-low The Belt mustard handbag, $539 @ Houndstooth. Ring, $187; bracelet, $48 @ Ladyslipper. Tucker Flag blouse, $299; Diane Von Furstenberg blue-and-orange blouse, $264 @ Houndstooth. outfit, below: Mason blazer, $506 @ Bumbershute. Joie bloise, $218 @ Bumbershute. Necklace, $62 @ Ladyslipper. J Brand denim, $225 @ Bluebird Boutique. Sam Edelman booties, $160 @ Ladyslipper. Philip Lim wristlet, $550 @ Bumbershute. hair: Jen Cortez, The Hive Salon, 400 Lowry Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-781-4483, thehivesalon.com
Dress to impress, day or night
1. Leopard is a go-anywhere, do-anything wardrobe staple.
2. Boyfriend blazers are a perfect layering piece. Long necklaces are rocker chic.
3. Colored denim is still hot, as are booties. Combine for maximum impact.
4. This sophisticated wristlet adds polish. The design is divine.