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?
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.
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.
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.