Deciding what to wear after a mastectomy can seem daunting, but there’s no need to sacrifice your own sense of style or comfort.
Start with the basics
Overcoming something as emotionally and physically challenging as a mastectomy creates huge changes in a woman’s life. We emerge stronger and more resilient, with a new awareness of our bodies. Inevitably, there’s also a new set of considerations when choosing an outfit.
Once you’re comfortable with the basics, however, there’s no reason why your surgery should limit the range of your wardrobe, or hamper your own sense of style.
While being temporarily limited in the area of décolletage might seem to reduce your choices, remember the changes in your body are usually far less visible to others than they appear to you.
Natural SymmetryLoose-fitting tops with modest necklines are an easy starting point. With the right breast form and bra combination, you can achieve a look of natural symmetry without showing cleavage.
Create a Focus PointPerfect for casual or smart dressing, tops with gathers, knots, drapes and ruffles can give your outfit texture and create a focus point.
Improvise on the GoWear the clothes you love. Don’t rule out a dress or top with a revealing neckline until you try it on with a cami. Alternatively, a scarf could provide the coverage you need.
Find the Perfect FitWhen shopping for tailored dresses, take note of where the dart sits. This will give you an idea on how a dress or shirt will fit around the breast area before you have even tried it on.
Essential Mastectomy Bras
Bra support and comfort is a must. Ensure you have one of these three essentials on hand for any occasion.
Non-wired Soft BraIf you’re feeling tender, this is a softer alternative to an underwire bra. Look for a bra with slight padding for extra comfort.
T-shirt BraThis should be a staple in every woman’s wardrobe. Comfortable and slightly padded with moulded cups, T-shirt bras are smooth under your clothes without showing any visible lines.
Front-Closure Bra. An essential after a mastectomy, a front-closure bra is easy to fasten and is more convenient to use in case range of motion in the arms is a challenge.
More than ever, it’s vital to choose clothing made from fabrics that offer all-day comfort, breathe well and don’t chafe.
Modal offers superb flexibility, is soft to touch, and drapes beautifully to flatter your figure, with a texture similar to cotton.
2. JerseyLight and flexible yet insulating, Jersey is a soft and stretchy knit fabric used to make fantastic leggings and classic comfort T's.
3. CottonDurable, absorbent and still considered the best natural fabric for its remarkable breathability, cotton is a firm favourite for sensitive skin.
Down toward legs and shoes
Belts:Instead of wearing in the loops of your trousers, cinch at your waist over dresses, coats and oversized shirts, creating a shapely silhouette and drawing attention to the centre of your body.
Shorts and patterned skirts: Attract attention to the lower half of your body with textures and patterns that are bold, pretty or simply interesting to look at.
Statement Shoes: A killer pair of shoes will draw attention immediately. If you don’t have an eye-catching pair it’s time for some shoe shopping.
Upwards to the neck and face with colours and accessoriesEarrings:
Now’s your chance to wear a bold and flashy set of earrings. There’s never been a better excuse to accessorise your ears.
Necklaces: Wear a short necklace or choker to attract attention upwards. Avoid a necklace that dangles over the bust line as it will draw attention to the area.
Scarves: A quick way to visually transform an outfit, wearing pretty scarves and shawls is also a subtle way to cover scars or drains.
Wear the Right Breast Form
Whether you prefer a traditional prosthesis or an attachable prosthesis is often simply a matter of personal choice, but new technology has blurred the line between the two, with massive advancements in the comfort and appearance of both.
Traditional Breast FormSupported by your pocketed bra and perfect for times when you’re wearing loose fitting or thicker fabrics. They are popular because they are easy to get used to.
Adhesive breast form - Amoena Contact Amoena Contact attaches directly to your chest and is the ideal option to relieve pressure from your bra straps or when getting a little more daring with your neckline.
Comfort is key - It’s never worth wearing uncomfortable breast forms. Aside from the discomfort, you risk irritating your sensitive skin and creating posture problems down the road.
Start with these basic tips and you’ll find that you have a great range of clothing choices and shopping opportunities!
By simply using colour, texture and accessories, you can create a fresh new look that’s comfortable and an expression of your own beauty.
Keep in mind, too, that your body may change over time as a result of diet, fitness and time itself! What fits you this year might not feel as good next year, so it’s important to visit your fitter once a year.
Many women write in to ask us if they can travel whilst wearing their silicone breast forms. The answer is a resounding “yes,” but there are some things you might want to know ahead of time.
Every country has its own security procedures and policies; it is wise to ask your travel agent or do preliminary research online if you are travelling outside your home country.
The Aqua Wave breast form is designed specifically for water activities. This lightweight swim prosthesis is made from a clear silicone which is water-resistant and dries quickly. Supplied with a handy waterproof bag.
Black dots on a prosthesis after a flight
One other item that we must address: The change in air pressure. It is not uncommon for lightweight silicone breast forms to develop temporary air bubbles if they are at higher elevations where the air pressure changes.
If you are a frequent flyer, you may have seen what appear to be small, black dots inside your breast form, due to the change in elevation. This is not a defect, nor will it harm the form. In fact, the air bubbles typically disappear within about two weeks of travelling or climbing.
So don’t worry, travel happy!
Helping Women All Over the World Feel Supported and Confident: We are pleased to present a brand new website, The Day I Was Told. Interactive and full of information including personal stories from breast cancer survivors, we aim to support women through every step of their breast cancer journey, from initial diagnosis, through treatment, to recovery and beyond. Visit https://thedayiwastold.com/
If ever there was an example of how urgently we need to review our preconceptions about ageing, Joy Foord is it. Her looks certainly belie her 63 years and her enthusiasm for running, swimming and cycling obviously helps her keep that healthy glow and trim figure. Joy has always liked to stay fit: “I’ve never really sat still! I’m always on the go and I’ve actually done more as I’ve got older,” she explains. “I like to run, cycle and walk my dogs. But it hasn’t always been easy when wearing a standard prosthesis. I used to put on a big T-shirt over my sports bra so that no-one would see my breast form. And back in the days before I had a silicone one, I used to have to take it out of my bra after a run, wash it and wait for it to dry before I could wear it again.”
In the 30 years since her diagnosis, Joy has witnessed a revolution in the development of breast forms: “I came home from hospital with a tiny pad with cotton wool in it, and was subsequently fitted with a foam prosthesis. The main problem with these was that they were all the same shape, no matter what shape the wearer, and because they weren’t soft like the silicone ones are now, they didn’t move with your body. I had to wear clothing that didn’t cling too much, as both breasts looked different from one another. “They also tended to ride up inside my bra – there was no ‘weight’ to make them feel more like part of me – and I was constantly afraid that they would pop out. I can remember actually using safety pins to attach one to my bra, top and bottom, so that I knew it wouldn’t ride up and escape! “When I first went back to work after having my mastectomy, I asked a friend for her honest opinion and she said that the prosthesis just sort of stuck out in front and didn’t go round my rib cage as a real breast would. That was somewhat traumatic, so I guess maybe I shouldn’t have asked!”
When silicone breast forms finally came along in the early 1980s, Joy found them much easier to wear: “They were a definite improvement as they felt more natural and heavier,” she says. However, because she’s so active, even the silicone form had its limitations: “The problem with wearing a prosthesis in a bra is that when you bend forward it just falls away from your body. It was a real issue for me when I was cycling because I was leaning over the handlebars. And when I went out with the dogs, if I bent down to throw a ball for them, the same thing happened.” Joy adapted her sporting style and clothing choices as best she could, but all that changed when, on a recent checkup at her local hospital, her breast care nurse suggested she might like to try Contact.
So good “I got talking to her about my running and she explained how Contact sticks directly to your body.Immediately I tried it, I loved it. It was just so good!” Joy’s enthusiasm for Contact is boundless. “It changed my life. I train regularly and run for about eight miles. You do get hot and sweaty – I come back in need of a good shower, but my Contact is still attached to me.” Did she worry that Contact might not stay put when she was pounding the pavements? “You are always a bit dubious but knowing how good it felt when I wasn’t running, I had the confidence to try it. I’ve never looked back!”
Joy found that her Contact really came into its own in the warmer months: “I don’t find it anywhere near as hot as other breast forms because it feels like part of my body. I love to wear little tops in the summer and Contact just looks good in any neckline. When you’re shopping for summer clothes you can go out and buy something pretty and you don’t even have to think about it. I’m going on holiday to Cyprus soon and I know I can just put on a vest top with very thin straps – it makes me feel normal.
I even feel happy to look at myself in the mirror. It’s the first time I’ve felt reasonably happy looking at myself since my mastectomy all those years ago. Before, I could see it wasn’t me.” So positive is Joy about her new body image since discovering Contact that she now feels no need to hide behind layers in winter, instead wearing tight sweaters without giving it a second thought. And, should the occasion demand it, she says she would also feel happy in a skimpy evening gown: “I’d even have a bit of cleavage showing, as Contact has given me the confidence to do so.” She is also delighted with how long her Contact has lasted: “I clean it every day and at night I put it back in its box. I got my current one in December 2009 and it is still perfect.”
Something really different Joy has raised a lot of money for cancer charities over the years. She first ran the Race for Life in May 2007 and has taken part every year since then. She sometimes runs with her granddaughter, Elise, 12, and the two of them completed the ‘Santa Mile’ for a local children’s hospice last Christmas. Joy is thankful that running resulted in a special discovery: “It was my fitness that led me to Contact and it has transformed my life. Wearing the right prosthesis for your lifestyle is as important as, say, buying decent running shoes if you do as many miles as I do, to protect your knees and ankles. If you have something appropriate for what you are doing, it just makes such a difference.”
Would she recommend Contact to other women?
“Definitely! The bras with pockets are brilliant to wear with an ordinary prosthesis and I know some women don’t trust a self-adhesive breast form. But you just have to try it – you will be convinced. “We are always so quick to criticise and moan about things when they are not right. But when something comes along that is really different and better than anything that went before it, I think you have to say so. I can’t speak highly enough about Contact. And I know it has worked wonders for my self-confidence. I told my friend that I was about to do this interview and she looked at me, amazed. ‘I thought you’d had reconstruction,’ she said. Comments like that are proof enough that Contact doesn’t just work well – it looks good too!”
What makes Contact so special? Whether you’re always running around or just love the idea of a breast form that really feels like it’s a part of you, Contact could be just what you’ve been looking for. Contact breast forms are amazing because they have an integrated adhesive surface on the inside, which attaches the breast form directly to your chest wall. If ever you’ve worn hold-up stockings or a strapless bra, you’ll be familiar with the type of adhesive Contact uses – very gentle to the skin, it combines firm adhesion with easy removal and has been a favourite of the fashion industry for years.
The Contact tick-list: