Dressing for the boobies

Once upon a time I bought a dress online from H&M – a cheap red dress that I wore once to a Christmas party, and may never wear again. I say ‘may’ because ‘maybe’ next Christmas I’ll start feeling festive and  try it on once more. But honestly, it kinda reminds me of the chemo days, so thinking about it as I write, it’s probably better to send that red number along to the charity shop as a donation.

Anyhow – not my point.

Ever since ordering from H&M, they’ve been assailing me with magazines. Every other week I receive a magazine about their new spring line, new summer line, new home line.  This morning the delivery boy dropped off H&M’s  ‘Shades of Summer 2011’ and I’m just cracking into this baby.

Thankfully, magazine browsing somewhat satisfies my craving for new clothes. Somewhat. And I pour over these pages as though if I stare hard enough, the fashion will materialize from thin air into my apartment. I wish!

I’m noticing a lot of loose tops, which bodes well for my post-mastectomy figure. If you’ve had a mastectomy and don’t want to wear an overly structured bra every day (and if you have a small breasts, because I doubt this would work with a larger cup), then it’s somewhat easy to pull off the sans-boob look with the right clothing.

For example – sans boobs: Tube tops are OUT.  Bandeau bikinis are IN.  V-necks are GREAT. Plain t-shirts are OBVIOUS (obvious you’re missing a breast). Patterns, flowing material, and asymmetrical cuts are the best. Apparently crochet tops are back? But I don’t think that looks good on anyone, boobs or no boobs.

Talk about body image battles. If a woman can go without her breast and still feel sexy, then you’ve got to admire that. There are times when I feel like there’s been no change. Small or no boobs, the figure is still androgynous. And when I throw on my pink sun dress with those oversized shades and white flip flops, damn – I do feel sexy.

But then, I totally get why women wear prosthesis breasts. If you have B and above curves (which most women do) a missing bump will become far more noticeable. I’ve seen bras designed for the Amazonian woman (one cup only) and some really nicely structured clothing to hide any unbalance (or even the total absence of breasts). Actually, ever since my trip to the mastectomy shop, I’ve been taking my floppy falsie out on the town, and the response has been surprising.

So I’m out and about meeting friends, going to work, whatever, all while wearing my spare boob. And here are the comments:

“Oh, cute top.”

“I like your shirt.”

“Is that new?”

1) They are cute tops. 2) I am glad people like my taste. 3) No, they’re not new. They’re way old, and I’ve been wearing them every other week for the past nine months.

BUT – I haven’t worn them with my boobs on.

It’s so absolutely fascinating that as soon as I put on two breasts instead of one, my tops become all the more attractive. Maybe it’s because they’re cut for the typical women’s shape? Maybe it’s because my new mastectomy bra makes the girls pop out to their best advantage? Maybe people feel awkward when they notice my chest isn’t shaped as expected, and so look away before noticing how cute I’m dressed?

Maybe, maybe, oopsy daisy.

Anyhow. For this reason I’m starting to reconsider the idea of mastectomy lingerie. I love the bras we obtained two weekends past. And have my eye on purchasing a couple more before leaving the UK. There is this provider called ‘about a girl’ who I’m becoming curious about. They have silk mastectomy lingerie, and the stuff looks quite – dare I hope? – sexy. I’m thinking of making a pilgrimage to their store (because when it comes to mastectomy clothing, you generally have to make a long trip or order online) and see what’s what.

Anyhow, that’s me and my cup of tea – pouring over this morning’s junk mail, an easy start to an easy morning.

Mastectomy shopping

Beauty is good for you, don’t you think? Yesterday I sat in a cathedral and listened as a touring choir rehearsed for the evening’s concert. It was absolutely fulfilling. There’s something so awe inspiring about high vaulted ceilings and light shinging through stain glass windows;  Somehow a place that large inspires peacefulness. Throw in a round of fifty harmonized voices and wow – that’s something powerful.

But – Zsolt and I didn’t travel along the A3 to Chichester just to visit pretty places. We were shopping for boobs.

The last mastectomy store I walked into (in Southampton) was not impressive. The sales lady stood behind her counter the entire time, the selection was minimal, and my bra size turned out to be way tiny on the UK sizing charts. FACT: in England they have a AA cup, which is essentially the same size as a North American A cup. Ugh. Therefore, I can kiss any hopes of ever reaching B again my life good bye. Good bye, you curvy mounds of womanhood.

But whatever. I’m a double A, and thankful to at least have one remaining breast. She’s small, but she’s mine. And according to the last ultrasound, she’s healthy too.

Right – so, shopping for boobs.

Since radiotherapy it’s been uncomfortable to wear bras. The burning and strain made the entire idea impossible. However, it’s now been one month since radio finished, and while the tan remains – the burn has faded. Wearing a bra is less uncomfortable.

Therefore, I decided it was time to try another mastectomy shop. This one, Nicola Jane, has an online presence and several shops across the country – one being in Chichester.

Unlike a proper retail shop, this place doesn’t have a displays in the window. In fact, it doesn’t have a window. Instead the store is located amongst offices, and you (me, we the clients) need to enter a small hall, then push through the door marked, “Come in.”

So Zsolt and I went in. And  you know, at first I was a little disappointed. It looked almost exactly like the previous shop – samples on the racks, but otherwise you didn’t get that ‘pretty lingerie shop’ feeling.  You know those shops? Carpet flooring, pink everywhere, long gilded mirrors, lace, candles, potpourri . . . well it didn’t have any of that.

But it did have two shop assistants who were eager to help.

(Maybe a little too eager? At one point I was between bras when the sales lady waved her hand, “Hi ya, can I come in?” and before I could utter the ‘neh’ to ‘no’ – in she came. Chalk up yet another person who has now seen me topless.)

It was a true group effort. I’d try on the bra, then pull back the curtain to show everyone – Zsolt and the two sales ladies received a mini fashion show, and I was helped in identifying which bra size works best. That’s a win-win-win situation.

Fifty pounds later and I have two mastectomy bras that fit far better than my original one. And while I whinge about being a double A, they’re some pretty good looking double As. Today I took my spare breast out for tea and it looked totally normal. Actually, better than normal – perky!

Really, going without a bra is no big deal, and having a small chest means that it’s okay to not always strap on that particular bit of underwear. But once in a while I really love to have some nice, perky BOOBS.

So there you go. A good purchase, which had better last  me at least two or three years – because my goodness, this stuff is expensive!