Reader Allison e-mailed me this question:
I am a 37 year old petite woman who loves clothing and style and am quite healthy and in excellent shape. I have enjoyed reading your blog because you seem to be able to address style issues for a variety of body types. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of the month and will soon be undergoing single mastectomy with reconstruction. There will be a period of time for several months where I will have an asymmetric bust while the plastic surgeon is working on increasing the size of the tissue expander that will ultimately be exchanged for an implant that matches the healthy side.
All of my clothes are form-fitting, with scooped necks/ v necks. I would really appreciate suggestions for some new styles or some ways to work with what I own so that I can make this as un-obvious as possible. I know that looking good and more like myself and not always feeling self-conscious about this will ultimately make this very difficult thing much easier to deal with.
So. I know that some of you have direct experience with this health, personal, and dressing challenge. I do not. So I’m going to offer up a couple of ideas and suggestions, but really want this post to be a launchpad for discussion and resource sharing. Here’s what I know, much of which is fairly obvious:
- There are loads of resources for breast forms if you’ve had a single mastectomy and prefer to give the visual impression of two breasts. I have searched around a bit and found dozens upon dozens of sites selling forms, bras that accommodate them, camis designed for forms, and other related items … but would rather have those of you who have bought and used some of these products recommend specific vendors and websites. Please chime in in the comments!
- If you’ve had a double or single mastectomy and prefer to downplay that fact, you can do so with ruffles, draping, and other garment features that add volume to the bust. Asymmetric ruffles, gathers, and drapes work best for a single, while similar design elements that cover the entire collarbone and upper chest area work best for doubles.
- Scarves can also be a great tool if you’d prefer to distract and downplay. Larger scarves – either lightweight or thicker – that can be looped and draped several times will fill out the neck and chest area. The fake infinity scarf tie is ideal for this purpose.
- The main company that I know of that provides truly gorgeous garments designed for post-mastectomy bodies is Chikara Design. I found out about this brand right around the time I started blogging, and am delighted to see that they’re still thriving. And they’ve expanded beyond clothing – beautifully designed tops and dresses – into swimwear, lingerie, and activewear. The stuff isn’t cheap and you could certainly just look for items with similar features. But the mission of this brand and the gorgeous duds it creates are both worth supporting.
After we first corresponded, Allison sent me this update:
I also found out that the free alterations done by Nordstrom applies to their bras. They will sew pockets into any of their bras for customers who use breast prostheses!! I was super happy to find out that I can wear the same perfectly-fitted, pretty bras that I usually wear with a little adaptation while I am undergoing reconstruction.
So that’s a starter list of ideas and resources. I am absolutely certain that some of you have undergone mastectomies or have loved ones and friends who’ve had this surgery. Please chime in and share! What dressing techniques do you recommend? Shops or designers do you love? Any other resources to share? Thanks in advance for contributing to this important discussion.
Images courtesy Chikara Design
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