My disgruntledness about my appearance grew proportionally to my recovery from an operation to remove both breasts (and all the treatments that go with a breast cancer diagnosis).
As my tissue inflammation and core strength improved I tended to wear false boobs and bras alternatively with Loose Debra-style tops. Loose Debra tops are great when I want to feel the fabric moving around on my skin all day: I feel freed from age and gender. I can stretch without the nagging reminder that I lack anything. Bras with inserts and pretend boobs are a double-edged sword for me, serving both as an aesthetically more comfortable version of me but also as a reminder that there is something substituting what isn't there. Hey ho, thats one of life's little tensions that may or may not resolve as time goes on. I'll never change my mind about not having reconstruction, that I'm sure of. Why? Because for me, disease is enough for a body to cope with, without hampering it with foreign bodies and more cutting and sewing up.
I couldn't find bras that did not compromise my breathing or dig into me, even non-wired. They are all hideous as far as I'm concerned. So, one day, as I was trying to pack my holiday clothes for somewhere hot, out of pure necessity (nothing else can make me get out my sewing machine), I made a bra top (or 'bra-lette' or 'bralet' as they are formally known). My style is straightforward, and 'pretty-ing around' in patterns and layers and frills is kind of against my personality - so the bralet makes life simpler for me.
I also bought strappy bra tops from Top Shop and converted them, and a few from Urban Outfitters and Brandy Melville (see pics below). (This made a nice change from browsing mastectomy websites that tend to cater for women older than myself). I added pockets on the inside for inserts, and bra straps so that the tops were adjustable, and to allow for fabric stretch over time.
They have got me through the last 6 months but I'm working on further designs, using minimal fabric, especially for hot weather.
Essentially these tops need:-
- lightweight inserts which have removable stuffing so there is little weight involved and it doesn't drag the fabric of the bralet down (and lets you feel as free as a hopping little fairy). These soft moulded ones from Nicola Jane are nice round and as flat as you like for anybody who doesn't like sticking out boobs.
- as far as the bra top is concerned, it has to be all soft and flexible to imitate being in your own skin and ribbed cotton works well as it's that bit stronger to stay in shape. This cropped ribbed cami from Top Shop (in first pic below) was perfect for me to customise.
- adjustable (bra) straps for the bralet allow for fabric stretch (available in transparent or cotton from John Lewis or ebay)
Here are some more ideas for where to get bralets from, and customise as you might:
Jane Anderson, Arbiter of Taste, Self-Appointed