- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2016

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - Darnell Reda could be relaxing at this point in her life, but the question “What if?” kept popping into her mind.

The 68-year-old woman was fed up with the clothing offered in stores after failing to find a dress for a special occasion last year.

“I wore like a size 6 or 8, and I would have to go up to a 14 to get it to fit my midriff. It drooped on my shoulders. It didn’t fit anywhere else. It was big in my hips. I kept thinking, ‘I’m going to design something myself. This is crazy not being able to find clothing that fit somebody who carried their weight in their middle section,’” she said.

Reda did just that half a year later by kicking off La Bella Donna Inc. clothing in October. The clothing line features quality fabrics and designs that flatter mature women and are easy to care for. Right now, the clothing is only offered through trunk shows at customers’ homes.

“This is just a dream for me to do this. It’s something I had to do. If I don’t try it, I’m going to wonder my whole life if I could have done this or not,” she said.



La Bella Donna also features Reda’s signature T-shirt dresses, created from a variety of band T-shirts, which she makes out of her Elkhart home. She said she was inspired to make the dresses for herself from all the T-shirts she accumulated while working with artists and bands such as B.B. King, Aerosmith, Slayer, Matchbox Twenty, Slipknot and Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray.

It was all the roles Reda had played in her life that led her to become a clothing designer.

She owned a public relations/advertising company for about 20 years before being involved in a head-on collision in 1989. The other driver lost control of their car, and Reda said she made the decision to not swerve out of the way.

“There wasn’t any place to go. The lake is right there, Simonton Lake. I could see people walking on the side that were going into restaurants. I thought, ‘If I try to go off the road, I’m either going to kill somebody by hitting them or I’m going to go into the lake,’” she said.

Reda had to be cut out of her car and had injuries to her ribs, collarbone, liver, sternum and ankle.

“I was in so much pain. I knew that my ankle was dangling. My upper body was just on fire. I tried not to pass out because I was afraid that, if I passed out, I wouldn’t wake up again,” she said.

Despite healing from her injuries from the crash, Reda still felt an enormous amount of pain in her ankle.

“I said to my orthopedic surgeon, ‘I think something’s wrong. I feel like I did the day I got in the accident. I’m not getting any relief from pain,” she said.

Reda eventually was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, a “chronic pain condition most often affecting one of the limbs (arms, legs, hands, or feet), usually after an injury or trauma to that limb,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

She never got any relief from her pain, so she was put on morphine drips and other opioids. After being forced by family members to go to a pain rehabilitation program at the Mayo Clinic, Reda used cognitive behavioral therapy to treat her pain.

“I haven’t had a pain pill in five years. I do yoga and tai chi. I meditate. I do all these to try to keep me busy and active so that I don’t think about the pain,” she said.

To take her mind off her pain, she began sewing, a skill she learned from her grandmother when she was about 7 years old.

“When the pain was bad, I would stay up all night, and it was to help pass the time away. It was just something I always enjoyed doing,” Reda said.

She loves incorporating her past skills and experiences to create clothing for people.

“I want everybody to feel like they could put something on and feel comfortable and good and look good,” Reda said. “It’s just a way to make women feel good about themselves.”

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Source: The Elkhart Truth, https://bit.ly/1S32ueR

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Information from: The Elkhart Truth, https://www.elkharttruth.com

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