Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year to you all.

Well, 2013 proved to be a very difficult year! Those of you who have had breast cancer will know that it involves enduring a series of both physcial and emotional losses over a period of some months, a process that is both exhausting and demoralising.

The year was not without it's rewards, however. I am eternally grateful to the medical and nursing team that gave (and continue to give) me such excellent care. I also had the experience of doing an amazing program through a company called Precision Nutrition which not only helped me lose 15kg, but also allowed me to build a healthy and sustainable lifestyle and find a joy in movement and physicality that I didn't know existed. And finally, where would I be without my friends? Their kindness and support were a bright light in a dark tunnel. My hope for everyone  is that 2014 is full of much more of the good stuff that fills your heart and nourishes your soul.

Shorts:Country Road
This is my New Years Day attire, casual as befits a day at home and cool in deference to the Queensland summer. The top has a cocoon shape, and whilst the front lies fairly flat, the back billows out in an interesting way.
I have decided that I enjoy clothes with interesting details and designs and having a straight torso can provide a good canvas for them. One of the discussions over at YouLookFab is on fashion New Year's resolutions. Mine is to develop a wardrobe that contains only things I love. This may be a good starting point. What are your fashion resolutions for this year?

Monday, 23 December 2013

Another Brick In The Wall

This outfit is another experiment with choosing tops that do not disguise the flatness of my chest.  I have tried on a few jersey tops with draping and cowls recently, but have not had success. I think because the fabric is quite thin they cling too closely and hang oddly. This tank is a knit, and the thickness and texture have made all the difference for me.  I bought this top a month or so ago, and have found it surprisingly versatile.
Skirt and top:Veronika Maine
Sandals:Joanne Mercer
Knit skirts have been very popular this year, and having worn this one several times, it is easy to see why. They are so comfortable that it is like wearing pyjamas! The tank is also soft and comfortable and, whilst I don't always wear them together, I do enjoy the optical effect of all those little rectangles!

The nice thing about a knit top is that it is a bit form-fitting and allows me to show my waist and hips. The bad thing about a knit top is that it is form-fitting and is not very flattering over my chest.
The horizontal lines at hip level and the larger rectangles of the skirt do tend to draw the eye down, so I was hoping that the overall vibe was a flapper-esque 1920's look. I have also added a chunky necklace over the textured tank, in the hope of breaking up the broad, flat area over my chest.
I understand that this is not a look that is as conventionally flattering as loose woven tops, but as I begin to feel more confident about my body I am starting to be willing to sacrifice the flattering for the fun and novelty of different styles. Especially when they feel like I am wearing pyjamas!
What are you willing to sacrifice figure flattery for?

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

My Favourite Things

There are two new things in my outfit today. The first is the top I am wearing. I bought this about two weeks ago and I love it so much that I have to be strict with myself about not wearing it every single day!
Pants:Veronika Maine
The front is made of a faux snakeskin material. It is quite stiff and sits away from my torso and I love the unusual textural element that it adds. The cool thing is that although it has a dart, it is positioned in the middle of the top instead of the more usual side position. This means that if the fabric does collapse back onto my body, it does so in the middle, rather than over where my breasts should be, and gives the impression of cleavage rather than empty space.
I am also loving the back, as it is cool, airy and soft and acts as an interesting juxtaposition to the structure at the front of the top. After having to wear a bra for over 30 years, being able to wear nothing at all under a sheer, soft top like this still feels a bit transgressive and naughty in a fun kind of way, even though my husband assures me that I am not exposing anything!

The other new thing is, of course, my lip colour. I have a group of girl friends I went to university with and who I still see regularly. Our Christmas tradition (stolen from Oprah!) is to give everyone in the group the present of our favourite thing that we have bought, found or made during the year. One of my friends gave all of us a new lip stain she had discovered, and I think she did a great job in choosing the perfect colour for me.
What has been your favourite thing this year?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

I Walk The Line

One of the dilemmas of dressing post-mastectomy has been deciding whether to stay true to my old  style persona or try to forge a new one. I was always a fan of a hint of bombshell, which usually meant emphasising my waist. However, many of the tops that have volume or pleating over the bust are quite an A-line shape, so I find myself sacrificing my waistline in order to  create the illusion of breasts. Conversely, tops that are fitted at the waist are often also tailored over the bust, and those empty darts and structured seams do not assist at all in the illusion of curves!
Top:Veronika Maine
Skirt: Cue
Shoes: Wittner
I think this top walks the line quite sucessfully. It is a peplum style, and comes in at the waist, but the bust has a lot of pleating and draping without a lot of shaping underneath and I think gives a very successful illusion of an hourglass shape.

The other thing I like about this top is that it also provides some volume over my hips, which I think gives some balance when I wear my much-loved pencil skirts.

Even the side view is not too bad, although I confess that I have given up trying to mimic breast projection on side view as it never really works. If I one day  have a outfit that requires that appearance, and it is important enough to me,  I will consider a prosthesis. For now, I will try to live my style the best way I can the way things are. Do you ever walk the line between your style preferences and the dictates of your body?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Walk Like A Man

One of the advantages of being breastless is that it is much easier to rock an androgynous look. In days gone by, I greatly admired outfits with a menswear vibe but found that they were hard to wear well with a large bust. Now, I find the look easy to achieve but confess to a fear of being mistaken for a man! I think I have gravitated towards more feminine clothes since my mastectomy in part to avoid that possibility.
                                                          Top: Veronika Maine
                                                          Jeans: Just Jeans
                                                          Shoes: Wittner
My shoulders are the broadest part of my body now, so I am finding myself drawn to bootleg and wide-leg pants and flared skirts to provide some balance. However, the jeans and long sleeve T-shirt combination isn't the most feminine of outfits and I recognise that I do look somewhat boyish.
One of the standard pieces of advice given for dressing post-mastectomy is to wear scarves. Indeed, some of my lovely friends sent me scarves as post-op care packages, a very kind and thoughtful gift. I have scarves with more drape and volume than the one above and they definitely provide better coverage of my chest and a more feminine vibe. However, on this day I wanted a simple, clean look and hoped that wearing earrings, sandals and carrying a handbag would provide the requisite gender cues.

As it happened, no-one called me "Sir' and I enjoyed the freedom and simplicity of my boy clothes. I suspect that for me to feel comfortable with these styles I need to incorporate a few more feminine pieces. This is probably the time for more refined footwear or even a bit of lipstick! Anyway, playing dress-up is always fun and it was nice to experiment with a new style.
Do you have a style you yearn to try but feel too shy?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Pumped up kicks

Well, I did threaten another post about work-out clothes, so if you are afraid of exercise, look away now! And then look back and commit to moving your body just a little bit more today. I promise it will pay you back by making you feel better!

One of the problems associated with weight training is all the mirrors. Whilst the singlet and crop combination I showed you a few weeks ago is fine for most exercise, it does worry me a bit when I do push-ups or rows or any other exercise that involves bending right over. Especially in front of the mirrors. With all the bros. This top has solved that problem for me nicely.

Tights:Lorna Jane
As you can see, this top has a halter neck that makes any inadvertent chest exposure impossible. I think this was designed as a yoga top to prevent Down Dog related incidents, but it works very well for my purposes. Just as with the crops, this has a shelf bra with padding built in. I didn't think the padding was as well-constucted as the Lorna Jane ones, so I took them out and I pop in the Lorna Jane ones when I am going to wear this.
I have had to be careful to make sure the top is pulled up high enough, as it cuts away fairly sharply at the back, but I usually find that if I get the elastic bottom of the shelf bra positioned correctly right at the beginning, I don't have a problem.
The only downside of this style is that it does show quite a bit of skin at the back. I suppose if you are doing hot yoga that would be a good thing. I figure exposing large tracts of skin at the back is better than exposing large tracts of skin at the front and I am sure the bros at the gym would agree!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Back to Black

I am not a big fan of black in the Queensland summer, but this season I have found some items in black that feel so cool and comfortable on that I have put my reservations aside.

                                                             Pants: Veronika Maine
                                                             Top: Cue
                                                             Shoes: Joanne Mercer

The wide-leg pants are in a thin fabric that swishes satisfyingly when I walk, providing the sensation of ventilation and the top has a cut-out back that keeps me cool. The top also has an interesting neck detail that provides volume  and movement over my chest in a way I think is quite flattering.
Cue have had a few tops in this style this season, for which I have been grateful as I like to  have enough work-appropriate tops in my closet to get through the week without laundry. This top is my favourite though, because the pattern has enough colour to make it versatile without being too boring.
The silhouette of this outfit kind of reminds me of Astroboy, but I think the drama and movement of the pieces when I am moving creates enough interest that I am not mistaken for a cartoon. What cartoon character would you be, if your clothes were the basis for your character?


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Raise Your Glass

When I first started receiving corrospondence from the various breast cancer support organisations, the first thing that went through my head was "Wow. That is a LOT of pink". Pretty much everything to do with breast cancer seems to be pink. I have never really liked or worn pink, and I wondered if I would be thrown out of the club.
Top:Veronika Maine
Pants:Veronika Maine
Shoes:Joanne Mercer
However, a blog post http://youlookfab.com/2013/10/08/the-versatility-of-blush-pink/ by Angie at YouLookFab convinced me that maybe I had been too hasty in my dismissal of pink, and so here is my first foray into the world of blush.
I have not been nearly so daring with my colour matches as those the original post showcased, but I have to admit to enjoying the softness and femininity of this outfit. Short hair, strong features and no breasts can send a mixed gender message but I think this outfit is unambiguously girly.
This tops is of a light, thin fabric and does not provide a lot of volume over my chest. However, I feel it has a 1920's look about it, an era when straight figures with small breasts were considered very fashionable indeed, so I decided to channel the spirit of the times and embrace the flatness. It was quite a revelation to me to realise that I don't always have to dress to disguise my lack of breasts. For some styles, it can actually be an asset to be flat-chested. The 1920's may be my new favourite era!

Just don't ask me to do the Charleston. That can only end in tears.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Every 1's A Winner

Yesterday was Melbourne Cup day, and although up in Brisbane we don't get a public holiday and although I was going to work rather than the track, it still felt like a good excuse to frock up.
I think this dress will be a favourite this summer, as it is soft and light to wear and the print is neutral and works with lots of different accessories. I have had a lot of trouble finding dresses that look good since my mastectomy. So many of them have been cut to accomodate breasts, and there is something a little sad about that empty fabric when I try them on!
 This dress has gathers at the neckline and an A-line shape that provides a bit of volume. It actually looks quite cute without the belt, too, but I wanted to define my waist on this occasion.

I was listening to some Melbourne Cup fashion advice on the radio a few days ago, and the stylist cautioned that it was OK for expose the knees OR the shoulders, but not both. Since I would hate to be arrested by the fashion police, I added a jacket over the dress.
I think the trapeze shape of the jacket works well with this dress. I have struggled with styling this jacket, as it is such a modern shape, but I think the key may be to pair it with a little more volume on the bottom.
It's always good when you feel like you picked a winner, whether it is on the track or in your wardrobe! I hope you all enjoyed the race that stops a nation, especially those of you lucky enough to live in Melbourne!


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Mr E's Beautiful Blues

A little shout-out to The Eels, as it is, indeed, a beautiful day and this blue top is one of my favourites!

I discovered it in Target about a month ago, and found it so comfortable, flattering and easy to style that I immediately bought another one in a different colour! Having to replace enormous chunks of a wardrobe is not an inexpensive proposition, so finding something reasonably priced, in a style I liked, was a real win.
Skirt:Country Road
The style gives great coverage with the high neckline and armholes, and the ruffles add volume over my chest and provide textural interest and movement when I walk.
This is one of the few tops that I own where I feel that the side view is also quite flattering.

Oh, and did I mention it is machine washable? It really is the top that keeps on giving. I wear this or it's sister at least once a week. Do you have a style that has become a wardrobe workhorse for you? And if so, have you ever been tempted to buy it in other colours?

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Good morning, sunshine

Summer is on it's way, and as you can see from these photos, the sun is already very bright even quite early in the morning.

I was always a sucker for a cowl neckline. There is something quite elegant about them. This, however, is not an elegant top. With the bright colour and bubbly texture it is bordering on a bit too young for me, but I enjoy wearing it for casual occasions. Sunshine yellow in the morning sun seemed appropriate for a Sunday morning! The pants are crops that I bought this season in order to have a light-coloured casual bottom to wear on weekends.

I think the draping and gathering of this top is quite flattering. It manages to both disguise the absence of breasts and give the appearance of a waist,  desirable qualities for clothes in my book.

My one concern was the cowl flopping open and exposing more than I wanted. I solved that little problem with a well-placed safety pin. Not the most elegant solution, but it got the job done. I may put in a little stitch once I am sure I am happy with how it sits. On a side note, the necklace was a gift from a friend and although I loved it, I couldn't work out what to wear it with. It turns out that it matches this top perfectly and fills in the empty space above the cowl beautifully. It was clearly meant to be. I love wardrobe serendipity. :)

Friday, 25 October 2013


With apologies to Justin Timberlake - I'm sure he did not intend his song to be used as an anthem for middle-aged women!

One of the issues I have struggled with since my mastectomy has been how to dress in a way that made me feel attractive again. I had an hourglass shape before surgery, and I enjoyed dressing to show off my curves. Whilst I recognise that my fairly straight body can also look alluring, I do miss the bombshell look occasionally. So when I found this dress, I was very excited.
Dress: Country Road
Sandals:Joanne Mercer

It has a lot of gathering around the neckline and down the front, giving the illusion of curves and it is a very soft, silky material, so it feels very comfortable to wear.

Even the side view is fairly flattering, and the bright colours just scream summer!

Sometimes, what we wear can be as much about how our clothes make us feel as how they actually look. When I wear this dress, I feel like I've got sexy back and that is a very welcome thing!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Pump it!

I exercise most days. It keeps me healthy, it makes me feel good and it has helped me gain back some sense of power and ownership of my body. I love exercise. Exercise clothes, not so much. I found two main problems with most of the work out gear I had in my closet:

1.They are tight. And aside from being flat-chested, my chest is still a bit lumpy and bumpy. Yes, I know I'm probably the only one who would notice this, but it does make me feel self-conscious.

2.They are low-cut. I really don't want to show everyone in the gym my mastectomy scars every time I bend over or raise my arm. The end of my scar is visible with the low arm hole of this tank.

Luckily, there was a simple solution!
It turns out that a lot of sports wear is designed for women with small breasts, and a many of the sports bras and crops available have a significant amount of padding, in addition to good coverage.

The padding is very lightweight and removable and does not interfere with my work-outs, but gives me enough shape and coverage that I feel very comfortable wearing my usual gym wear.
Crop, singlet and tights: Lorna Jane
I bought this crop at Lorna Jane, where they have them in a variety of colours, but I am sure it would be possible to purchase something similar at any shop that sells women's sportswear. I have also found a few gym tops with high necklines, but I will save those for another day!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Hi ho, hi ho...

Well, this is an outfit I put together for work. The skirt is pretty much what I would have worn before my sugery, but the top is new. I chose it because the pleating at the neckline gave it enough volume not to cling to my chest, whilst the pattern was so happy and busy that I couldn't resist!
The mornings are still fairly cool here, so I put a jacket on over the top. The jacket is also quite drapey, although I have an eye out for a proper waterfall jacket with more volume in the front.
Here is another photo with the jacket off, and also a close up of the pleat detail on the top

 The side view is not quite so flattering, I don't think, but I have concluded that I will have to accept a certain level of difference between how I would like to look and what is actually possible. :)

I take part in the wonderful community that is You Look Fab,( www.youlookfab.com) a fashion blog and forum run by the talented and generous Angie and Greg. I always find it a supportive place to post a picture and get constructive criticism or reassurance and happily this outfit got the thumbs up! Angie, a fashion stylist, was kind enough to give some tips for those of us facing the challenge of no breasts. She recommends high necklines, fluid fabrics and drapey style tops over structured bottoms. I will be following her suggestions to the letter, as everything she styles looks fabulous.