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With the right mindset, even the necessity for wearing glasses can be transformed into a personal statement. That’s how it is with Deborah Katz Dorman, a friend and colleague I admire not just for her distinctive style, but also for her enthusiasm for causes that matter.

Now in her seventh decade (I know…it’s not fair, is it?), Deborah supports a variety of local charities and non-profits—everything from Coburn Place, a safe home for families affected by domestic violence, to the Indianapolis Museum of Art Fashion Arts Society. An outspoken Democratic, human rights advocate and critic of the current administration, she does that thing Senator Cory Booker suggests as a response to the hateful rhetoric a new president has empowered, “…taking small increased steps of service that, along with others doing the same, could make a significant difference.” Case in point: she recently hosted an organizational meeting at her home to recruit volunteers for Indiana’s state and local elections and invited her considerable network of friends to attend.

I got to know Deborah when we worked together on a volunteer project—well enough that I knew she would have an opinion about Melania Trump’s recent fashion faux pas (or was it a political faux pas?) The one where the first lady visited an immigrant shelter for children at the U.S.-Mexico border, wearing a jacket with the words “I don’t care. Do you?” on the back.

Deliberate style

First ladies (Melania Trump included) are notoriously intentional about their wardrobes. In public life, clothes (and words) matter, but Melania’s publicity team responded by saying it was just a jacket…that there was no intention behind her choice. They later tried to recover by saying the message was directed at the media. (In other words, it was intentional—we just misunderstood the target.) Deborah’s response was succinct: “Well, if that was the case, I think I’d advise her not to wear something that can be so easily misinterpreted.”

If ever there were someone conscious of the potential for using style to send a message, it’s Deborah. “I never leave the house without a plan,” she says. “I really dress for myself. I’ll pick one thing I want to wear and build everything else around it. The final icing on the cake is my eyewear.”

She is known for her meticulous look, upbeat attitude and trademark eyewear—usually sunglasses. With a collection of over 60 eyeglasses, Deborah is deliberate about choosing designs that suit her wardrobe and her petite face—not so deliberate about the brand. She is just as likely to buy an inexpensive pair of glasses as a designer label. “Eyewear has become more popular, and so many companies are coming out with very stylish and fancy designs,” she says. “I always try them on, but I won’t buy unless they look good on my face. The glasses shouldn’t be wearing me. I should be wearing the glasses.”

Her passion for eyeglasses started as a girl, when she wore them to correct vision. One of her uncles owned an eyewear company, and that gave her easy access to the latest designs. When she saw a cool new style or color, she bought it. “I noticed that I felt good in glasses and, since it was a necessity, I just turned that into part of my image,” Deborah says.

Later on, she was also enamored with the protection sunglasses gave her blue eyes from sun and glaring indoor lights. After cataract surgery, her eyes became especially sensitive to bright light. Even at an inside event, it’s not uncommon to see her in sunglasses, a touch of glamour that stimulates conversation almost everywhere she goes. “Every day of my life, someone will stop me and say ‘Oh, I love your eyewear. Where did you get it?’” she says. “It’s just a pair of glasses, but it gives me the opportunity to offer a huge smile and thank them for making me feel so good.”


Do people ever ask why she’s wearing sunglasses indoors? Of course, they do. “I’m not hiding behind my glasses. I’m just comfortable in them,” she says. “When people ask a question like that, I never take it personally. I always have an answer.”

The mother of reinvention

At this stage of life, Deborah says she can handle whatever life throws her way. Her experience as a successful real estate agent and occasional model has conditioned her to climb most any mountain and to retain her confidence no matter what happens. “When I was younger, I spent a lot of time wondering why I didn’t get a modeling job or why someone wouldn’t use me as their agent,” she says. “Eventually, I learned that it wasn’t personal. Maybe they chose another realtor because they already had a relationship, or maybe another model got the job because they fit an image the creators had for an ad; it wasn’t because I wasn’t pretty enough or good enough.”

Deborah believes in hard work and preparation as a formula for success, but no matter how hard you work, everyone tastes failure at some point. Accepting this reality and moving forward is the only way to become a confident person. “I am always so grateful for a world of rejection,” she says. “No matter what happens to me, I always try to dust myself off and reinvent myself to be the person I feel I should be. I’m still searching. Reinvention keeps me feeling alive.”

I adore Deborah’s high personal standards and never-say-die attitude as much as her signature style. Wherever you are when you read this, I hope you have access to strong women who are part of your support system. A good role model is like a de facto life coach—only less expensive. What’s your latest step toward reinvention?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.