Hello Ladies! I’m Jennifer Mendicino, owner and founder of Sottile Fashions and Design. I want to start by expressing my gratitude for being accepted into such a powerful group of motivating women such as The Global Sisterhood. I recently moved to Pittsburgh approximately 4 years ago and I’m still trying to acquire relationships as well as my boundaries around the city. I am a mother of 2 beautiful children, and although I have met some wonderful women, I feel like it may be time to allow people to meet me as well.
As a child I was always independent. I could be put in a room with absolutely nothing in it and I would never get bored. Creativity and popularity was something I always had. I made friends everywhere I went and would sit and chat with a total stranger, no problem. Growing up in the south set standards on socialism. That all came to an end quickly when I started experiencing kidney problems. Repetitive kidney surgeries robbed me of my high school days. I went from being a peppy cheerleader on homecoming court, to being laid up in bed, at home, with a private tutor. I lost almost all of my friends, and I became a victim of my own pain. Seven kidney surgeries later, Chrone’s Disease came into my life as if I had nothing better to do. New medications, new diet, a new lifestyle was all introduced. I realized quickly that I was no longer the pretty, peppy cheerleader, but that I was rather sick. This was now my life and it literally changed in a split second.
Around 20 years old is when I started to get a break from my kidneys. I guess they had decided enough was enough and started to behave. That position was quickly filled with ovarian surgeries. Let me introduce you to Endometriosis! At this point I had no other reaction but to laugh through my tears. I mean, come on! Endometrioma’s the size of sandwich bread found permanent homes in my ovaries until a partial hysterectomy at 27 years old was my only option for relief. This surgery was where it all began for me. This surgery was suppose to be the “game changer!” This surgery was suppose to give me my life back! This surgery was much needed, but most regretted. I was in menopause at 27 years old and I was not suppose to be. I knew it was a “possibility,” but I thought I was the golden child and could defeat the odds. With a smile on my face and a heavy heart, I battled this alone. My husband, at the time, had no idea what to do for me, nor did he want too. This was not his problem, it was mine and I was left to deal with it, while raising two children in diapers. It was the hardest years of my life. I didn’t understand what was happening to me and I certainly didn’t understand why! What did I do to deserve any of this? I questioned everything from me as a wife, my faith, my sanity even. I was very sad.
Unfortunately it did not stop there. An appendectomy, partial thyroidectomy, laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder), left breast lumpectomy and then a completed hysterectomy just last year would follow. The side effects of menopause have been quite unpleasant. I was on blood pressure medication at age 35 and have recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that attacks my muscles. For those of you who do know me, going to the gym is my passion next to fashion! I know there will be a day when I cannot walk, but until that day comes, I’m living my life the only way I know how, one day at a time with one breath at a time!
I know the reaction most would have by simply reading all of that and yes, it’s incredible for even me to read as I type this. I never talked about my health because I was embarrassed. I did not want to be judged. I simply did not want people to feel sorry for me because I knew I was going to be okay. I had to be okay! I had two children depending on me to be an amazing mom to them and that’s exactly what I did! Being a mother was the one thing I never questioned. The love I have for my kids is beyond anything I could put into words. For that reason it was easy, and I knew exactly what I needed to do. I needed to be a better me so that I could be a better mommy to them! They deserved that and so did I! Just because I was divorced with two kids did not make me less deserving.
I remember waking up one morning, looking over at my daughter that had been snuggled up against me, and I knew then that I needed to pull it together. This precious being that laid next to me was a gift, a blessing, and I had to do this for her and her brother. What kind of example would I be setting for my children if I were to continue to feel sorry for myself instead of making something of myself!
I started with the only thing I knew to do, and that was my wardrobe! How I look on the outside, reflected who I was on the inside. When I look polished and put together, I feel powerful, sexy and secure! There was only one problem, those darn Spanx! Do not get me wrong, they are absolutely amazing and I had quite the collection going. Those things never stayed in place. If I would sit down, they would roll up, and it would be at that moment when I had a reality check that maybe I wasn’t as powerful, sexy and secure as I thought I was as I scurried off to the closest restroom to put my shape wear back in place. All I wanted was to wear a shirt and not have to grit my teeth every time I sat down, praying that my Spanx stayed put. So, I set out to do exactly that. I knew there was a way to make a basic button down blouse into shape wear. I wanted the arms, belly, and back to be compression spandex while still having the collar, cuffs and front button panel of a basic collar shirt. The key to this piece is that it fits as a one-piece. This allows the shirt to stay nicely tucked and taught. What do you do if you don’t want the spandex to show? You just slide on a blazer and there you go. All of the compression spandex is located in the areas that a blazer would cover, no problem. No one would ever know because all they see is what looks to be a blouse! That was the beginning of Sottile Fashions and Design.
Dressing the shaper up has been a lot of fun. It really does give me a sense of confidence, which in turn, makes me more adventurous in fashion. The great thing about fashion is that it can tell a lot about us in what we wear. I don’t like feeling that I can’t wear something. We are women, and we can do anything we want to do and excel as we do it! I can envision an outfit and make it come to life. That is how 99% of my outfits come to be, which is what birthed the idea of the amazing tutu skirts. They are fun, flirty and sexy! Nothing screams confidence like a woman wearing a tutu skirt!!! This confidence radiates off of us adhering itself to other women who cannot help but smile. They smile because they see a strong, beautiful woman, expressing herself through fashion.
I love the woman I have become today! I get the ability to design clothes that make women feel better about themselves. My designs create an outlet for women who may be struggling with their bodies, or who simply need guidance in fashion. This incredible journey that I’m living has not fogged my vision on life, but rather opened my eyes to something beautiful! Something that I would have never been able to see before. Although there still may be more obstacles ahead for me, you can bet I will look great as I conquer them!