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Post Mastectomy Bra Shopping

Posted Nov 10 2012 9:35am

Bra shopping after a mastectomy is an emotional experience.  I chose implant reconstruction and after I had my final reconstructive surgery , none of my old bras fit.  When you have implants, you certainly need  a great sports bra  for exercising purposes, but to be fair you don’t really need a bra after implant reconstruction – the new boobs just kind of sit there. This is probably not what women intend when they want to be stauesque.

I have to admit, there is something wonderful about the new boobs.  They are perfectly shaped without a bra.  The size fits my frame.  In terms of wearing a bra, the main difference between real breasts and reconstructed breasts is their ability to spill, smush, and be shaped.  Breast tissue is fatty and will mold to whatever cup is presented.  Implants are heavy and more stubborn and hold their shape regardless of the bra.

Even though I didn’t need to, I decided to go bra shopping after my surgery because I wanted to feel normal.   Bra shopping is an activity common to women, so why shouldn’t I partake in it as well?   Also, I’ve seen the sagging that can happen to implants that go unsupported over time.  And that’s not a place where I want to be.

In my previous life I loved Calvin Klein perfectly fit bras .  They were sleek, elegant, well fitting, and often on sale at TJ Maxx and Marshalls.  But Calvin had to go as my plastic surgeon warned against wearing underwire (since I no longer have sensation if the wire poked me I’d have no idea).  That new bra stipulation effectively eliminated 90% of the bras out there.  Like with my new requirements for cosmetic products , I was confined to a small section of the market.  Frustrating, yet liberating at the same time.

I went to a department store and tried on their entire selection of wire free bras.  I had no idea what size I was, and I didn’t feel like getting measured but the associate.  I was in no mood to be judged lest she figured out that I wasn’t all natural, and I wasn’t at the point where I could announce to total stranger what I had done without bawling.  So I grabbed bras in every vicinity of my former size and headed to the dressing room.  And nothing fit.  It was either too tight, squished the implants in an unnatural way, made it obvious that I had implants, or was terribly uncomfortable.  I started to cry.

Getting used to my new body post mastectomy was not difficult in the larger sense.  I was fortunate enough to have reconstruction done at the same time as my mastectomy so I always had something to call “boobs”.  Since my surgery was preventative, I was able to have a nipple sparing mastectomy (when the entire outside of the breast is conserved, and it’s just the stuffing that changes), so the look is as natural as possible.  In the larger sense, I was ok, But when it came time for something silly like bra shopping, I broke down.

I had been trying so hard to be the same as I was before surgery, but how could I be?  I had made a life altering irreversible decision.  I had changed emotionally and physically.  My life had taken a completely different trajectory a la Mr. Destiny .

That experience sent me on a rampage to find the perfect bra.  They do have special bras for post mastectomy patients but I wanted to live and shop in the real world.  A friend of mine who had the same surgery buys the Victoria’s Secret cotton underwire bras and cuts out the underwire – but I didn’t find that to be comfortable for my taste.  I went through a bit of trial and error, and the Gap wire free bras have been a godsend for me (plus there is almost always a discount code available ).  The bras are attractive and comfortable, they feel and look like the bras I used to wear, the cups go up high enough as to provide good non smushable implant coverage, and they come wire free.

Wire Free Bra
Gap Favorite Wireless Bra

I had to go up a cup size (back to the non squishing issue) which was surprising, but the fit is perfect.  They also come in all the standard colors (black, nude, white) and they also have some pretty patterns and lace options.

So I had a great sports bra , some pretty bras , and I just needed a casual and comfortable lounging bra.  I was surprised that the sports bras from Forever21 did just the trick.  I originally got these bras for after my final surgery when I needed to wear a bra 24/7 (ugh).  They are soft and stretchy and while they don’t provide enough support for a full fledged workout , they are soft, comfortable, and are great for everyday wear.

Forever21 Sports Bra

If bright colors aren’t your thing, Gap also has some simple and comfortable wire free bras :

Gap Pure Body pullover bra

So if I feel like wearing a bra, I now have some options to choose from and if I feel like free-boobing it, I have that luxury as well (why not take advantage of my statuesque boobs every once in a while).  My bra drawer used to be full of bras in different colors and fabrics, and now, I have just a few styles that I rely on.  But I don’t feel deprived or that I’m missing out – I use all of the things I have instead of having things I don’t use.  And the declutterer in me is totally loving this.

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