Who is Aldine Dallas?

My lowest moments inspired me to start my own business’ After a violent assault resulted in various health complications, as well as weight gain, Aldine Dallas, 47, found a profitable way to feel beautiful again. She lives in La Lucia. The past few years have been challenging for me, both physically and emotionally. It started when I was attacked in 2013, and one of my breast implants ruptured, which caused a number of health and psychological problems.

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I turned to comfort-eating to try cope with the trauma, discovering that chocolate had the ability to numb my emotional pain – I was eating up to four slabs a day. The comfort was short-lived though, as my stomach would bloat from then-unknown allergies to both gluten and dairy. I gained 15 kilos, mostly around my tummy, which became distended and hard. People would stare at it and wonder if I was pregnant – someone even congratulated me. My self-esteem took a huge knock and I went into a deep depression. My health continued to deteriorate and I finally had to give up my job in marketing. I couldn’t afford my apartment and started ‘squatting’ at friends’ and family members’ homes.

I lived off my savings for a while, but knew the money wouldn’t last. To help pay for my food and petrol, I started covering old shoes with colourful Shweshwe fabric to give them a new lease of life. This idea was sparked on Heritage Day last year; I loved how the local women in my area would dress up in their traditional attire. In fact, I had a dream that SA’s women would be wearing my shoes for Heritage Day 2017 – little did I know that it would happen. As I continued to put on weight, it was impossible to find flattering clothes. I didn’t feel good in anything I found in the shops, but I learnt how to make myself look slimmer using patterns and prints. Along with upcycling the Shweshwe shoes, I started sketching dresses, jackets and maxi-skirts that I knew would help make the most of the parts of my body I liked, while disguising the bits I didn’t. I can’t sew so I worked with a tailor in Durban’s CBD, who’d make patterns based on my sketches.

The turning point

The first time I wore one of my own designs, I cried. It had been ages since I’d felt beautiful – and I received many compliments. Best of all, nobody stared at my bloated stomach anymore, as it was cleverly disguised by my outfit. Slowly but surely, I built up a wearable wardrobe that I felt confident in. My clothes attracted the attention of so many women that I realised I could sell them, so I started a clothing label called ShweshweCHIC. Because my clothes are designed around body shapes, from full figures to pregnancy bumps, I called the range Proudly Curvy.I can’t believe how life has changed in a year; I now live in my own rented flat and I’m self-sufficient again. After having surgery in April to remove both breast implants and all the toxic scar tissue, my health has improved significantly and I feel like a brand-new person.

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