Post Mastectomy Style

post mastectomy dressing chikara designs

Dear Trinny and Susannah,

I’m a 36 year-old mother of two and I’m currently going through treatment for breast cancer. I’ve lost one breast and will lose the other this year. Reconstruction will take place later on, so now I have the quandary of dressing with asymmetry. I am a shop-a-phobe and found it hard to dress myself with two boobs! I live in the tropics so wearing the silicone breast form is ok but very sweaty and most post mastectomy bras are just too hot for my climate. I don’t know what to do and I’m overwhelmed. Can you help me?

Sonia

Dear Sonia,

First of all may we say how sorry we are to hear about the tough time you are experiencing. When a friend of ours went through the same ordeal we became all too familiar with the sartorial challenges that women face as a result of breast cancer treatments: how to deal with baldness; what to wear on painful feet; how to be comfortable and glamorous at the same time – and how to dress to disguise breast asymmetry. Our friend started the acclaimed blog: Chemo Chic. You might like to check it out.

Let’s face it, breast cancer is an out-and-out assault on your femininity. As if a woman doesn’t feel ghastly enough losing her breast – and possibly her hair too – she is then faced with the most depressingly god-awful range of hideous post mastectomy bras, swimsuits and clothing that look like they have been created in a surgical appliance workshop. Who designs these monstrosities that seem to exist solely in tones of flesh, white and black? Our guess is: not women!

But there are some who have taken on the challenge, with inspiring results. One such is American designer Hilary Boyajian who founded a company called Chikara. We completely endorse her approach, which is to create comfortable elegant garments that will look great on anyone – mastectomy or no. These are clothes that we would happily wear ourselves.

When it comes to asymmetry, gathers, knots, draping and ruffles are your friend. As with all our principles of dressing to flatter your shape it’s about creating optical illusions. Try a shirt with giant ruffles on the front or a dress that is gathered and knotted high on one side of your chest. Just because an outfit is comfortable does not meant that it can’t be glamorous. Forget the D&G corset dress – the number one fabric for achieving this look is jersey. Jersey is soft, elegant and endlessly versatile.

For inspiration take a look at some of the garments on the Chikara website. You may not be able to find exactly these pieces in your local town but if you understand the principles you can easily source or adapt your own. For example: buy a t-shirt dress several sizes too large for you and and knot it high on your chest or tie a skinny silk scarf into a huge ruffly bow and pin it to one side of the front of your shirt. A large and beautiful, square scarf will be your most useful accessory – fold it into a triangle and tie it around your neck so that all of the fabric is draping at the front, then secure it in place with a slim belt. Wear it over a plain white t-shirt with a simple skirt or trousers – this quick trick creates instant chic, every time!

Mixing up patterns and textures will further help to confuse the eye of the beholder.

High street chains that regularly carry great lines in jersey include Zara, Top Shop, H&M and Cos. Cos is also the winner when it comes to finding pieces that disguise the unevenness of your body by playing up the asymmetry of the garment.

As for those frumpy mastectomy bras, there are alternatives. Here are a few websites that are leading the way: About the Girl; Heide’s Mastectomy Store and Essential Luxuries for Cancer.

Feeling comfortable with your image is a huge confidence booster. Please let us know how you get on! We hope that you are getting masses of love and support at this difficult time and we send you our very best wishes.

With love

Trinny & Susannah

p.s. you say you are a shop-o-phobe so we have decided to give you a little nudge in the right direction. We visited one shop (Top Shop) and we found all of these. So, no more excuses!

 

Do you have any great tips or experience about post mastectomy dressing? Please share it in the comments section, below.

14 Comments

  • Reply February 3, 2014

    Claire

    Dear T&S,
    How wonderful to find you again. Thank you for your terrific response to Sonia. As a breast cancer survivor, I so wish I’d had your sage advice five years ago when I was diagnosed. I lost one breast, and opted NOT to do replacement (too many surgeries, too many scars). I found the silicon fake boobs just too much, and after having 3 months of physical therapy for a hurting shoulder, gave them up and use “chicken fillets” instead. Light, cool, cheap, easy to replace. They can be sewn into bathing suit tops, etc. A little Christian Dior concealer on the scar and voila’! I love the Laura Mercier brightener for post chemo faces. The Chikara site is GREAT! Love you gals — Claire

    • Reply March 5, 2014

      Trinny and Susannah

      Thank you so much Claire. We are delighted to hear that you have got through your breast cancer and that you are doing so well now. Viva la chicken fillets! love, T&S x

  • Reply August 11, 2014

    marie okeefe kerry

    I am totally without breast tissue following a prophylactic bi lateral mastectomy. I cannot wear bras or prosthesis and none of the mastectomy shops have what I need and that’s a diversion away from my flat chest or even padded tops. I feel abnormal and people do look. I am scared to have reconstruction.

    • Reply September 6, 2014

      Claire

      Hi!
      I am sorry you are having such a hard time. I too am a survivor. I lost one breast and didn’t do reconstruction. The mastectomy shops are heinous. After sitting in too many dressing rooms sobbing I finally bought the foam chicken fillets and stick one in whatever soft cotton bra I am wearing ( Calvin Klein DKNY or Victoria’s Secret) and one in my bathing suit (J Crew). For you: I wonder if trying the chicken fillets in a shapewear cami, tacking them in with a couple of stitches, would work and be more comfortable than a bra? I also find that those cardigans w/o buttons that drape around the neck and front a la Eileen Fisher hide a lot of ills, as does a good face brightener and lipstick. Christian Dior lip glow is fantastic and can be used also as blush. You have time to think about reconstruction if you decide you want it. Maybe it would help you decide if you were to go speak to a really good surgeon and ask to see some pictures and discuss down time (double what they say!)?
      All this is really hard. I am six years out so I can say it does get easier eventually. There us a whole world of sisters out there who support you and send you love!
      Claire

  • Reply September 5, 2014

    Chris

    I must be honest. I was, at first, excited to find your website….the title seemed to fit me…. post mastectomy. I am only 40 years old. No reconstruction. Lumpy and divots. Scars are ugly. Lumpy and bumpy. Prosthetics don’t fit well. I have felt less than feminine in everything. But being a size 16 woman, your styles do nothing for me and I was disappointed with how they enhanced my lumpy, bumpiness and showed my scarred divots. Please don’t advertise this line of clothing for post mastectomy women unless you do a little more research. Not all of us fit into cute little boxes. :-(

    • Reply March 7, 2016

      carol

      sadly, I’m in the same boat. what did you find that worked for you?

    • Reply June 16, 2016

      SK

      I Chris I have a friend who had a mastectomy yesterday, it must be a scary journey at times. I hope everything is going well for you. Did you find some suitable outfits to wear? I’m also a dressmaker and interested in how clothes fit ie those that aren’t catered for very well. In Australia we get a lot of imported clothes are made for tiny people. Thanks to you for sharing your personal story.

  • Reply September 14, 2014

    Barbara

    Marie, I am a thin 78 year old formerly C-cup bra wearer who had mastectomies (cancer, of course) in 1985 and 1992, no reconstruction. I really can’t remember what I did during the period between the surgeries, but I certainly put something in the empty part of the bras I wore. But after the second one, with a totally flat bony chest, unwillingness to spend a lot of money (which I really didn’t have anyway), and some sewing experience, I tackled the clothing question like this: I sewed pockets into the inside of blouses or shirts that had two breast pockets (and I shopped for tops that did have them) that could hold shoulder pads; I did the same with my few purchased dresses hanging them from the neck facing; when I make dresses the pockets are part of my plan. I began with using shoulder pads in the inside pockets, which worked pretty well but they were hot and not exactly the right shape. Just a couple of years ago I found that Hobby Lobby (I am sure other stores with sewing departments also have them – these are made by Sew-Ology and cost, I think, about $4.50 for a pair — by the way, this store regularly publishes 40% off coupons in our Sunday newspapers, which really helps! and when I googled Sew-Ology I learned that Hobby Lobby is having a 50% off sale on their Sew-Ology products right now. The forms come in more than one size and are apparently meant to be sewed into garments; I cut them down to just the significant part and I simply slip them into the pockets. They are comfortable, totally cool, and rigid enough to keep their shape; I suppose that if someone other than a relative were to hug me (quite unlikely) the forms could be temporarily flattened, but that certainly has never happened. It is important to get the pockets in the right area, but easily accomplished. I am very satisfied with the result. Women who don’t sew surely could hire a seamstress to do the same thing. I am sorry that I cannot supply pictures, but I will certainly respond if anyone has questions.

    • Reply July 27, 2015

      Pat Thompson

      Good morning. I am responding to Barbara who commented on your site. I am a sewer and I have friends who have very unfortunately have had mastectomies. I very much want to help these women look and feel beautiful about themselves. I want to help them with their self confidence. I can sew and I am looking for ideas and any suggestions on how to help them. I am very interested and want to help other women. If you have any ideas, suggestions or sites where I can get ideas and suggestions I would be very thankful. My friend forwarded me your site and I really like it.

  • Reply October 31, 2014

    stephanie devine

    Thanks so much for the lovely mention of our site, Essential Luxuries for Cancer and our non-frumpy Annie Bras in organic cotton and silk! Just so super to hear you’ve heard the word over there. I am from the UK, living in Sydney now but we do ship worldwide :-)
    We are determined to pioneer for beautiful, non-wired bras in proper cup sizes for women with BC or not! x

  • Reply January 26, 2015

    jacky roth

    Dear Trinny and Susan,

    I am a 3 time survivor of Breast Cancer. I have developed special clothes that can be worn without a bra or prosthesis.

    The special clothes look symmetrical are feminine and are very comfortable to wear.
    I do not know know how I would live my life without the clothes.

    I am a nurse, live in Israel and have opened up a boutique for women in which I sell bras, prosthesis and swim suits for women with have gone through mastectomy. It gives me great satisfaction to help others in my position.

    I have 2 websites one in hebrew for my boutique and one in english in which I sell my clothes abroad. The clothes help particularly after mastectectomy,{I had not created them yet} they helped me during chemo and radiation and hospitalization where I did not want to walk around lop sided.

    Please have a look at them on my website.
    Maybee through your good work you can help other woman feel a little more comfortable whilst going through physical and mental trauma.

    Best wishes and Shalom

  • Reply September 11, 2015

    Zoe

    Dear Sonia,

    I am really pleased to see that you have received so many responses. I do hope by now that you have found something suitable.

    I work for a company based in the UK that specialise in Mastectomy and lumpectomy clothing.We offer a huge range of bra’s, prosthesis, nightwear, head-wear and accessories for women who have had or currently have breast cancer.

    We have a large range of super-soft bras which are ideal for after surgery and also a fantastic feminine range with lace and embroidery, too.
    If you are interested, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us. We are a very small team of 25 and are extremely dedicated to delivering excellent standards of customer service.

    I wish you all the best in the future.

    Zoe Gadd

  • Reply October 10, 2015

    Virginia Boyle

    Why is all the information about dressing post mastectomy about fake boobs or ruffles. many women choose to live flat. help:) Clean simple elegant lines for women with out breasts, falsies or reconstructon. again. help:)

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