Friday, October 9, 2009

A tip for dressing the post mastectomy body

(Actually, if you have any issues with your bustline this entry could be of interest)

This may seem a frivolous subject at first glance – really, who cares what one wears while they are recovering from breast cancer? Clearly comfort is the word of the day immediately after surgery…soft, baggy clothes are essential, especially items with buttons, snaps or zippers to make limited arm motion easier and avoid having to put anything on over your head.

But what about after that?

Life goes on. There’s your job, errands, and typically many miscellaneous doctor visits. As I well know now, battling cancer is not a short-term process…a lot of life gets lived during the various phases of treatment and recovery. Depending on your individual situation you may need anything from an entire professional wardrobe to just something decent to run to the store or pick up the kids at school.

Speaking personally, now that my midsection swelling has gone down I can almost fit back into my jeans again – but the top half of me is a completely different story. I have to hide bandages or tubes at the moment, but even without that issue I still couldn’t wear my old bras and probably won’t be able to for some time. I always wore good supportive bras and really notice the difference without them. And because like a lot of women I was always trying to camouflage my tummy, most of my clothes also seem to accentuate my chest with empire waists or v-necks. That look TOTALLY doesn’t work right now on many levels and I’m betting it probably isn’t flattering or comfortable for most women post-mastectomy, for a while at least.

So what I’ve found that does seem to work great are various button-down style shirts and blouses…and I suspect that they would be effective for many women of all shapes and sizes in similar circumstances. First and foremost the blouse has to fit properly – no gaping or pulling at the button area; frankly that would only make matters worse. To detract from any asymmetry issues try a darker hue or an all over pattern. Shape-wise, a princess seam that tapers in slightly at the waist will flatter or create an hourglass figure and make you feel more feminine – something that is often much needed emotionally after surgery. Pockets on the chest can either work for or against you, depending on what type of reconstruction you had (if any) and what size you are. I’ve found that some flap pockets actually make my breasts look a little higher up and less droopy, others, not so much.

The length really depends...try to hit at mid hip for regular jeans or pants but you could go longer with so called skinny jeans. And if you have the waist for it, try belting -- just be advised, if you belt too high up and close to under the bust you defeat the entire purpose of trying to find another area of focus. A shirt tail type of hem, which is curved, works great for some, but if you are concerned about your hips a straighter hemline might work well. And there are lucky women who are brave enough to tuck their shirts in -- experiment and see what looks best.

If you are not too curvy, stripes can be great to elongate the body. No matter what your figure type the vertical line of the buttons down the front emphasizes the center of the torso and shifts the eye away from the breasts. Since v-necks are flattering for most women you still get that effect too, but if the shirt also has a collar that further draws the attention back up to the face rather than below the neck. For those of us wearing camisoles or sports bras these shirts are additionally nice because we can let the cami peek out from the blouse to add another dimension of color or texture with layers.

A button-down blouse or shirt is a classic so even after your body recovers any pieces you invest in will continue to get good use. They fit every style sensibility and work with practically anything, from casual jeans to more dressy or professional looks. They also come in a myriad of fabrics and sleeve lengths to work any time of the year.

In the end, feeling like you look good can matter alot more than you think at a time like this. It can contribute to your state of emotional well being thus helping to speed your recovery, especially when you feel less like a sick person and more vital and healthy. Any boost of confidence in your appearance can help restore control over at least one aspect of life. The first time after surgery that I was able to look even a little like my old self gave me a sense that there would be an end to this…a return to, if not my exact old life, then at least some semblance of a new normal.

I’m not saying that anyone should ever feel the need to hide or otherwise compensate for their figure – whether due to surgery or anything else for that matter. But I know that a lot of women feel losing their personal sense of style, or not looking like themselves when they gaze in the mirror, is yet another in the long line of cancer’s many assaults upon our lives. But with a little simple rethinking you can still just grab a blouse, throw on a pair jeans and move forward through treatment, and more importantly, beyond it.


The Small Fabric Of My Life said...

Hi Kayleigh - Just catching up with your news. Your spirit never ceases to shame me for getting grumpy about things that don't really matter.
I am glad you are talking about clothes again.
Sending some hugs and cuddles from the UK XX

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Reina Sofia said...
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