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Leading Lady Spotlight: Jessica DeFino {I Dress For Me}

Styleshack recently sat down with Jessica DeFino, Founder of I Dress For Me, to get the inside scoop on her inspiring new fashion nonprofit. Read on for all the details! 

{SS}: What is the mission of I Dress For Me?

{Jessica}: The mission of I Dress For Me is to raise awareness for sexual assault and sexual harassment. I started IDFM after the #YesAllWomen hashtag became popular, and I realized that while fashion plays a huge role in many women’s stories of sexual assault and harassment, there wasn’t a conversation being had about that relationship.

The realization that fashion had become a vehicle for sexual victimization (as in, “Well, what was she wearing?” or “She asked for it being dressed like that!”) was huge for me. Having experienced assault and harassment in the past, I felt personally compelled to start the conversation and educate people on the real reasons for rape and assault — which have nothing to do with how a woman is dressed.

I Dress For Me encourages strong women with style to stand up for a cause that affects us all. Through outreach and education, we hope to eradicate the idea that a woman in a short skirt is “asking for it.” We want to make it less taboo to talk about these issues because conversation is the first step toward prevention.

{SS}: Can you tell us about your background? How has this helped the growth of I Dress For Me?

{Jessica}: I started blogging on my site Hell or High Fashion during college. I went to school for songwriting at the Berklee College of Music, which was 75 percent male. I desperately needed a creative outlet, and blogging was just that!

After school, I found work in LA as a wardrobe stylist for musicians. Through interning and assisting, I got the chance to work with bands like Green Day, The Fray, Daughtry, Jason Mraz and Atlas Genius. It was a dream job. I continued blogging through all of that, which ended up leading to opportunities to write about fashion for online blogs and print magazines. That’s what I now do full time.

All of my experience in fashion — styling, blogging, writing, production — came together with I Dress For Me. I knew how to create an online platform, start a social media campaign and get all of my contacts in the fashion world onboard.

{SS}: How can we connect with I Dress for ME and/or support the cause?

Photo via DazeyClothing.com. Click to purchase!

Photo via DazeyClothing.com. Click to purchase!

{Jessica}: You can connect with I Dress For Me on Instagram (@idressforme) and on our website (www.idressforme.com).

To support I Dress For Me, use the hashtag #idressforme on outfit posts, selfies and other pics on social media! The idea is that every time the phrase #idressforme is seen and heard, it helps fight the myth that women bear the responsibility for rape and assault if they are dressed provocatively.

You can also support the cause by buying our T-shirt, which was a collaboration with DAZEY Clothing. The tee features our hashtag, and 25 percent of the proceeds go to the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, which is the nation’s first 24/7 bilingual rape crisis hotline. 

Harper’s Bazaar Arabia/Ruven Afanador

{SS}: What’s the best part about your job?

{Jessica}: For my day job, I work at an editorial agency that specializes in producing content for international fashion magazines. I’ve gotten to write stories for Harper’s Bazaar China, L’OFFICIEL Singapore, Conde Nast Traveler and so many more. My favorite thing about my job is getting the chance to connect with people in the fashion industry that I’ve admired for a long time — like when I interviewed Nina Garcia for Marie Claire China or collaborated with Rihanna for her cover of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia. Total dream moments!

{SS}: Do you have any advice for those trying to start their own socially good company? Are there any resources you can recommend?

{Jessica}: My best advice is this: make sure you’re 100 percent passionate about it. Especially with a nonprofit, my dreams are bigger than my means, and finding money to allocate toward the cause is hard! It takes a lot of time, patience and putting yourself out there.

The biggest help for me has been seeking out womens’ events to attend. I go to every women’s empowerment seminar I can find, and have attended so many panels on how to get ahead in the business world. Every event takes I Dress For Me to the next level because the crowd in attendance is basically tailored to the I Dress For Me audience. Figure out who your target audience is, and do everything you can to reach them.

{SS}: What’s your secret to work/life balance?

{Jessica}: The secret to work-life balance, for me, is a business coach. I work with Kerry at Mustard Seed Coaching once a month, and she helps me plan out my goals and create tiny, manageable steps toward achieving my dreams. It’s honestly the best investment I’ve ever made! Having someone there to hold me accountable for all the goals I have whirling around in my head is such a motivator; I know that if I don’t follow through on a plan, I’ll have to answer to someone.

With my goals outlined step by step, it’s easy to say, “OK, my work for the day is done; time to have fun.” I don’t feel guilty taking time to go out, grab dinner with friends or spend a day at the beach because I know I have a plan in motion, and the plan accounts for “me time.”

{SS}: What’s your favorite style or fashion app?

{Jessica}: I’m obsessed with the Style.com app! Whenever Fashion Week comes around, I watch the runway shows as they happen. Instagram and Pinterest are my go-tos for style inspiration, and Fashion Tap is a new app that I love. It’s a network for bloggers, stylists, makeup artists, designers, etc. and makes it so easy to find people in your area to collaborate with!

Now, on to your personal style…

{SS}: Do you have a signature accessory?

{Jessica}: My signature accessory is heels. You will hardly ever catch me in flats! In fact, I think I only own one or two pairs of flats. I love the extra “oomph” that heels give me. They help me feel confident and powerful and ready to take on anything that comes my way.

{SS}: Do you have a few items in your Styleshack (aka closet) that you can’t live without?

{Jessica}: The must-have items in my Styleshack are my #idressforme T-shirt (I wear it at least twice a week), my DVF wrap dresses (perfect for literally every occasion) and my leather jacket.

{SS}: Who inspires your style? 

{Jessica}: My biggest life/style icon is Diane Von Furstenberg. I just love everything about her: her style, what she stands for, her charity work — everything. I love that she designs for a curvier woman!

Other than DVF, I’m very inspired by Solange Knowles, Mary Kate Olsen, Olivia Palermo, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alexa Chung and Iris Apfel. All women with signature styles that are 100 percent their own!

{SS}: What’s your style archetype? 

{Jessica}: Classic! This is very accurate. I love starting with the basics and building from there.

{SS}: What are some of your favorite pieces currently available on Styleshack?

{Jessica}: The DVF Tallulah Two Dress, the Markus Lupfer Sequin Lip Sweater and the Boyfriend Blazer.

                          

{SS}: What blogs do you love to read?

{Jessica}: I check They All Hate Us every day for picture inspiration. Fashionista.com is a go-to for fashion industry intel, and ManRepeller.com is full of intelligent, hilarious articles.

{SS}: Do you have any favorite local boutiques?

{Jessica}: My favorite local shop in LA is Wasteland, which is a designer resale store. All the celebrities and fashion folk sell their clothes here, so it’s always full of barely worn Alexander Wang, DVF, Balenciaga and Louboutins at crazy low prices. I love local designer Veronica M and her boutique on Beverly Boulevard, and Shareen Vintage in downtown LA.

{SS}: What are your words to live by?

We all have two lives; the second one starts when we realize we only have one.

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