March 8 is International Women's Day! This gives TopVintage the ultimate opportunity to pay tribute to a number of power women throughout the month. This week it's Janine’s turn: a wonderful woman who has experienced a lot of setbacks in her life, but who doesn’t let herself be discouraged and tries to remain positive no matter what. Want to know how she does that and what her story is? Let yourself be inspired, gorgeous! 

Meet Janine!
I’m honoured to be sharing the story of Janine, a woman who has gone through a lot in her life but has managed to overcome everything. She is happy to introduce herself: “I’m Janine 33 going on 34 but I feel a lot younger than that. In my spare time I enjoy watching Hollywood films and vintage-inspired series like Las Chicas del cable. Those looks are stunning and weren’t those chicas just beautiful?! I once flew down to Madrid dressed in a TopVintage outfit to visit a friend. We then went to some of the locations where the series was filmed and took some pictures there. So cool! I’ve also always had a passion for languages and I’m currently taking a self-study course in French (I absolutely adore France) and I regularly write letters to famous actors. I also enjoy being creative, I draw and I play the piano for example and I’m crazy about vintage fashion. So doing a photoshoot dressed in this gorgeous look is an absolute dream come true for me!”

You were ill for a long time, would you like to tell us a bit more about that? 
‘’When I was 16 I choked on some food. That was a very traumatic experience and resulted in me developing phagophobia (a fear of swallowing). This means that my brain links eating with dying, which made it super hard for me to swallow or keep food down because I was so aware of the food that was in my mouth. This made it very difficult for me to eat and I ended up losing 16 kg in 4 months’ time. I never really recovered from that. For years I received supplementary feeding while also having periods when I managed to actually eat a little more. But as soon as something stressful happened, it would cause an instant relapse. I did, however, still manage to take up a study in International Business in France and in Maastricht. I really enjoyed that time and also did a lot of travelling then. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep this up for long, because at one point I only weighed 45 kg. Eventually I had to quit my studies and I was declared unfit for work. I struggled with this for years, because you get to a point where you can’t do anything and your body just isn’t cooperating. It also had a massive psychological impact, I changed so much that I just wasn’t myself anymore. At some point I was in a relationship which did a lot for me in terms of recovery. Unfortunately, this relationship ended 3 years ago. I then got into a new relationship and that has really taught me to make the best of the situation you’re in. To stop longing for the way my life used to be, like travelling, or having a busy job but to focus on what is the right match for me NOW. This has really helped me a lot! Unfortunately, I did end up having a kind of ‘mental breakdown’ probably due to all the strain I was under. At some point I couldn’t see properly anymore, I couldn’t walk or go outside and I had an increased heart rate. According to the doctor, if I had had any additional stress, I most likely wouldn’t have made it. I was then prescribed antidepressants and taking these has really improved my wellbeing. I also met someone who is now a very dear friend of mine and with him I got my darling dog Polly. This also gave me the idea of making Polly my service dog. Because when I’m looking after Polly, I don’t suffer so much from external stimuli or the chaos in my head. And thanks to Polly I also get to go outside again, which has done me a world of good. So we are now working hard to make that happen! 

Because there was a time when I didn’t leave the house anymore and I felt despondent. So I started looking for ‘little moments of light’ that could help me feel better. My boyfriend and I then bought some things to entertain me at home, like a piano, drawing supplies and an online language course. That’s how I started doing things to get myself into a positive flow. I also made daily telephone calls to the ‘listening line’, a phone service where you can share whatever it is that you want to share. So every day before going to sleep, I would share how my day had been by summing up all the positive things. All these things put together helped me become more and more cheerful and people started noticing a change in me. I also started going into town again and really have been feeling better ever since. Nowadays I also go to a care farm once a week where we take care of animals and play games. I’ve now reached a point where I can say that the horrible time I’ve had over these past 3 years is almost over. It makes me really happy that I have persevered. For the coming years I’ve come up with a lot of plans for myself, like continuing to train Polly, learning how to braid my hair and I also dream about travelling to Scotland or France. Those goals and dreams give me a lot of positive energy and a sense of direction. Unfortunately, I will never be completely rid of the phagophobia, but I do have a much more positive outlook now.”

What have you learned from this period and would you like to pass on to other women? 
‘’Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t set the bar too high. I feel like everyone always wants more and more and that social media only reinforces that. That’s how you end up comparing your life to the lives of other people even though that’s very unrealistic. Nowadays I might just be much happier than someone who for example needs to work very hard in order to pay off a high mortgage. So my advice would be to be happier and to be more content with less! Simple things like taking nice walk or a friend who makes time for me can bring me so much joy. Another thing that helped me when I was really ill, was to break everything up into small pieces. For example, doing the dishes really drained my energy, but by making an agreement with myself ‘to wash dishes for 5 minutes’ I could still get that feeling of accomplishment. An approach that really helped me personally. Making everything smaller will still get you there in the end!”   

How have clothes helped you empower yourself?  
"For the past 2 years I have been shopping at the TopVintage Store on a regular basis, I really save up for those visits and I can spend hours at the store. I love both the service and the attention! I always feel like a princess and wearing those clothes makes me really happy. I also take a lot of pictures of all the outfits and those are the moments that I can actually forget how poorly I sometimes feel. Simply looking at my wardrobe and seeing all those pretty dresses brings me such happiness. It’s great to get all dressed up and to get a lot of compliments when I go into town, for example.” 

Who do you consider a power woman and why?   
''I think of Sarah Michelle Gellar as a real power woman! Back in the day I instantly fell in love with her character in the TV-series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because Buffy was so brave and strong and had great fighting skills. Then came a time when I was also inspired by her looks and bought the same items she wore and used, like make-up and clothes. I even have the prom dress that Buffy wore in the season 3 prom episode. And from the interviews that she has given over the years, you can also tell that she is a genuine role model. She is just such a real and normal person, with a long and happy marriage free from scandal and who raised her kids with great values.''