Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: Dressing a Post-mastectomy Figure

chikara

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

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts

Reader Request: Where Did You Get That?

3729853880_879b068174

Reader AK e-mailed me this tough question:

I get a lot of compliments on my outfits at work, and I love my style. So what’s my problem? I get asked almost daily, “where did you get that [scarf, necklace, boots, sweater, bracelet, watch, purse]?” The questions are coming from my female colleagues, who are also friends. I have a really hard time answering this question depending on who’s asking. There are some people who ask simply as a conversation starter, and I don’t think they really intend to go out and copy me. There are others who immediately hop online to try to find the item, some going so far as to buy it. This bothers me because I spend a lot of time finding the perfect pair of black heeled wide-calf tall boots –I don’t want to see them on three other people in my office. Sometimes I lie and say “Marshalls!” knowing they won’t brave that store (which I love).

I know this goes back to my junior high years. I moved to MN from San Diego (!) and felt like a martian when I arrived. It was the early 80s and I was wearing off-the-shoulder shirts, studded double belts, parachute pants, etc. while everyone else was wearing “mom” jeans and appliqued sweatshirts. I was the only kid who traveled to Minneapolis (instead of St. Cloud or Duluth) to buy clothes, so my clothing was unique at my school. If someone asked where I got X, I would tell them, then face several other people wearing X the next week. I started lying or saying I bought the last X to avoid further copying. I also started shopping only in CA when I would go back to visit.

So, how can I deal with the “where did you get that” question? I don’t want to upset people, but I also don’t want to always say where I got something!

Oh, this hurts my heart, friends. Anytime someone compliments me on what I’m wearing, I offer up where it was purchased without prompting and usually encourage my complimentor to run out and get one for herself IMMEDIATELY. Because I really, truly love spreading the sartorial joy. But although I haven’t worked in an office environment for a couple of years now, even when I did, I never encountered outright copycatting among my peers. I mean, never. I never encountered it in college or high school either, and back in middle school we all wanted to dress like clones so it wasn’t an issue. In AK’s case, she is a person who takes great pride in her style and researches her purchases meticulously, only to have those purchases show up on her female colleagues. I think we can all agree that this is a cruddy situation. Because “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is a lovely sentiment, but seeing your coworkers copy your very specific style choices will chafe.

I generally believe that honesty is the best policy, but in this case I’d probably lie. It’s one thing to have one friend or coworker occasionally ask for a source and then run out and buy an identical item. And it’s certainly a different matter if the person asks if you’d mind if she bought one for herself – at least then you have some warning, and the (albeit awkward) option to say, “No.” But in a case where multiple people with whom you work on a daily basis are blatantly copying your style and purchases, I feel like you can opt to protect your sources.

Unfortunately, this means outright lying. “I don’t remember” won’t fly if the item is obviously new, and “I’m not comfortable saying” will raise hackles. Citing places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx or even thrift or vintage stores can work, as can saying, “It was a gift” or “I snapped up the last one.” Share your sources when it feels right to do so, of course, and be honest whenever you can. But remember that sharing your shopping resources is a courtesy, and you aren’t required to do it. Especially if others are using you as a free personal shopping resource.

The grown-up option? Confrontation. If there’s one particular person who has purchased nearly every item you’ve sourced, it might be worth a sit-down talk. Say, “I’m really flattered that you like my style, but I spend a lot of time and energy researching my purchases and it makes me feel awkward to see loads of other people wearing identical items around the office.” I can’t imagine this being a fun or easy conversation, so it would be best to have some resources at hand. Point this person to websites you love and think would suit her, local shops she might not have heard of, and stores that offer personal shopper services. Always best to follow “Please stop doing this” with “try this instead.”

There is also the “suck it up” route. Each woman will style that pair of black, heeled, wide-calf boots differently, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter if four people in one office wear the same pair. Most observers won’t even notice. But for someone like AK who does research and takes pride in her unique style, it may feel like she’s being used. She pores over the options, compares products, tries out different garments, and makes decisions. Then folks swoop in behind her and basically use her as a free personal shopping service. There are far worse crimes to be sure, but watching someone else steal your ideas and utilize your hard work without permission only to take credit for tracking down an item that you used your own time and taste to locate? Definitely frustrating. Especially if it happens on the regular.

And that’s about all I’ve got, folks. It really does pain me to condone lying under any circumstances, but I know that if I were AK I’d be very reluctant to share my shopping resources with a pool of people who have proven that they’ll steal my style quickly, remorselessly, and without acknowledging that they’ve done so. What about you? Do you have any more honest solutions? Would you confront? Suck it up? Anyone else dealing with a similar situation?

Image courtesy ben dalton

Related Posts

Reader Request: My Makeup Routine

sally_mcgraw_makeup_

Reader Lydia e-mailed me this request:

Since you’ve been posting about the use of cosmetics recently, is there any chance you’d do a post on a gentle beginner intro to starting to wear make-up as an adult?

I’ve been back through the beauty tag and looked at the individual posts on cosmetics, especially the one about falling down the rabbit hole, but was hoping that you might do one that draws all the threads together. You made such a great transition from not wearing make-up to really understanding how to use it for the effect you want, and your posts on individual products have been really detailed and clear.

I’ve been trying to start wearing make-up as an adult, but, when I’ve tried going to a store’s beauty counter for help, I end up looking like a clown and being given a long list of products. Most online information seems to be aimed at the experienced make-up wearer, with even novice tutorials calling for three brushes and sixteen products.

I pointed Lydia to Sonja’s Makeup 101 series, which is really fantastic … but does go pretty deep into techniques. And uses an awful lot of brushes. So even though I STILL feel like a laughable novice when it comes to anything makeup-related, I will take a stab at this. Because I remember feeling just like Lydia as a 30-year-old woman, having those same experiences and frustrations, and wondering where to turn.

Of course, all I can really share is my own routine. It’s fairly simple, works for me, and doesn’t require loads of expertise or fancy tools … but I would never say it’s the ideal set of practices for anyone. Still, I hope it’ll be helpful for those of you just beginning to play around with cosmetics.

headshots

So first, the general:

  • I have become fanatical about skincare, and I feel like having healthy skin makes for a great canvas. When I’m broken out or sore, applying makeup hurts and irritates, but more than that, it feels like a chore concealing stuff that I don’t want seen instead of highlighting stuff that I love. My skincare routine includes oil cleansing (posts here and here), using a Clairsonic every other day (info and review here), and many other tactics to manage my hormonal acne (full post here). I do NOT believe that my methods will work perfectly for anyone besides me! But I definitely recommend finding a cleansing and moisturizing routine that feels good and works for you. Any makeup you apply will work and look better on clear, happy skin. (Or as clear and happy as you can get it. Some of us struggle more than others with skin-related challenges.)
  • I have had my makeup applied professionally and plied the artists with questions. I have paid for makeup tutorials. I hang out with Beauty Bets on the regular and am constantly hounding her. But as a hands-on learner, I STILL have had to do a lot of playing around and experimentation to find products and techniques that work for me. This just sucks. I wish I could say that this book or that class will help you find exactly what you need, but in all likelihood, you’re gonna have to spend the occasional evening trying out eye makeup techniques. In front of a mirror. And then wiping everything off and trying other techniques. Nothing beats trial and error, friends.
  • I put a lot of stuff on my face to achieve the much-lauded “no makeup” look. This drives me up a wall. Just had to mention that.
  • All of the makeup I use for the Sally version of a “full face” is shown at the very top of this post (minus BB cream and eyebrow fillers). All of the tools I use are shown below.

makeup_tools

Next, the blow-by-blow:

Base layer: I don’t use foundation, have no idea how to apply bronzer or highlighter, cannot contour, and apply my entire base layer with my fingers. I do two things to make my freshly-washed skin look even in tone: I apply BB cream all over my face and under my chin, and I dab on some under-eye concealer. You can read my review of my BB cream here, a post that includes before and after photos. For concealer, I use the Glo Minerals palette shown above. I apply a thin layer of under-eye cream first to plump the area and prevent the concealer from settling into my winkles. Then I dab the light color on with my ring finger, and add a tiny bit of the darker shade to blend the edges. Ages ago, I was taught to use this wedge shape for concealer, and it is KEY to making my under-eye area look lighter.

Eyebrows: I get mine threaded every so often to keep them in shape. I’ve gone to fancy spots, but now I go to a gal at Ridgedale Mall who has a kiosk and she does a great job for $12. I pluck strays with Tweezerman tweezers, and generally have to do this daily, being a gifted Hair Farmer. I use a pencil and light strokes to create a rough outline, then brush some brown powder in there to fill any gaps. I actually use an eyeliner pencil and eyeshadow powder. Many makeups can multitask!

Powder: I use Neutrogena Healthy Skin. I get a little on my finger, and apply it to my undereye areas. Then I apply all over my face with a compact puff. I get very shiny without powder, and also keep a Neutrogena Shine Control compact in my purse and oil blotting sheets handy for touch-ups.

Cheeks: I tried powder blush for a while, but I really, REALLY prefer cream. (My favorites here.) I generally use the Elizabeth Arden shown above, so I’ll run my finger around the compact to get a thin glaze going, then dot it along my cheekbones, and blend upward toward my temples. Using my fingers. That’s it.

And that’s also it in terms of what I apply if I’m working at home or seeing friends or doing anything other than a TV or press appearance, event, or other fancypants activity. I don’t do eye makeup on a regular basis. I know it looks nice, but it makes me feel delicate and smudge-able and cranky so I am yet to make it a daily ritual. Considering how much stuff I use now and how little I used six years ago I won’t say “never,” but for now, eyes are a special occasion thing.

headshots2b

When I do eyes I do this:

Curl eyelashes: Une Femme taught me this one. Even if you hate mascara, curling your eyelashes can help those lashes look longer and opens your eyes considerably. I curl mine pre-mascara. I have no special technique. I grab as close to the lid as I can without hurting myself, and hold for 20 seconds. Do the other eye. Then another round of 20 seconds on each.

liner

Apply “liner”: Audi taught me this one. When I attempt to apply actual eyeliner – especially in dark colors and black – I look like I’ve allowed a drunk toddler to do my makeup. So I use matte black eyeshadow and an eyeliner brush. I press the powder along the top of my lash line where liner would go, making it darkest where my lashes are thick. It creates a soft, dark line that is much more forgiving than eyeliner. The powder migrates throughout the day (even if I apply some sort of lid primer), and for much of the time it just looks soft and smoky. After 5-6 hours, it looks like a splotchy, greasy, weird mess and needs a touch-up.

Sometimes I will also use a black pencil to apply VERY light liner to the outer 1/2 or 3/4 of my lower lid, then blend with a finger or Q-tip. I’ve heard that doing liner on top only makes your eyes look bigger but my eyes can look a bit odd to me without a hint of lower liner, so I apply it, “rules” be damned. This also feathers and needs a touch-up after 5-6 hours.

Apply mascara: I apply to upper and a tiny bit to lower. Usually just one coat, but sometimes two. I use the brush on the far right above to separate my lashes if they stick and get rid of clumps. Right now I’m using Lash Domination. It is the second type of mascara I’ve ever used and it is better than the first (Benefit Bad Gal), in that it is more lengthening. The physics of this mystifies me.

And that’s it for eyes. My deep-set eyes mean that eyeshadow is meaningless so I just skip it.

Lips: For formal lips, I use Make Up For Ever in Rouge Artist Intense 44 (story here) and occasionally Bobbi Brown Creamy Matte Lip Color in Crushed Plum. Both of these are SUPER pigment-rich, which means that if I apply and blot, they will basically stain my lips for several hours. I can eat and drink and some color will remain. If I’m going to an event that is many hours long and involves eating/drinking, I use Sonja’s lip liner layering trick. Otherwise, it’s apply/blot/apply/blot. My lack of lip liner means that, if I don’t blot, the lipstick bleeds. But most days, I just use some combination of gloss or tinted balm and skip true lip color.

And we’re done.

I’m absolutely happy to answer questions about my choices and techniques, and will do my best to field other questions! But I definitely recommend talking with friends whose makeup application techniques you admire, poking around Pinterest for other simple tutorials, and lots of hands-on experimentation. Especially if you’re a novice and feel overwhelmed by beauty blogs and magazine tutorials. And I truly hope this was helpful!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts