Saturday, 30 August 2014

With Or Without You

I had an interesting experience whilst on blogging hiatus and I would like to share it with you. There sometimes seems be an ideological divide on the issue of wearing prosthetics. I understand the idea of accepting your body the way it is and perhaps contibuting to the acceptance of body diversity and the meaning of femininity by going flat in public. However, I also appreciate the deep sense of loss that some women feel and the vulnerability that presenting such an altered appearance might require for them.  I really had no firm views either way: I go flat because it is comfortable, simple and most of the time I feel good about how I look. However, after a discussion with my husband I decided I would be fitted for prostheses, and see how I felt about them.

I went to Spirit of Life boutique, a specialist mastectomy store and I can certainly recommend them for providing very personal and caring service. I ended up with what I am told was the equivalent of a B-cup. This is significantly smaller than the E-cup I was wearing before my surgery, but after 9 months of going flat, they felt enormous! Of course, I took them for a spin as soon as I got home, trying them with most of my wardrobe and at that point I had a revelation that took me by surprise: for many outfits, the presence or absence of breasts didn't make a lot of difference. Some styles looked better, some styles didn't but it certainly made me realise why so few people even notice that I am breastless. That in itself is quite encouraging. Anyway, I thought I would share with you some photos of my experiments so you can have a visual comparison of how various outfits look with or without breasts. I have put the prosthetics versions on the left of the screen.

                           Knit and skirt:Veronika Maine
This is an outfit I worn to a daytime wedding a few weeks ago, sans breasts. I don't think the prosthetics actually improve this look. Wearing the prosthesis actually required adjusting the neckline to cover the bra staps and I prefer the wider neckline I could wear going flat.

                                                        Jeans:Just Jeans
                                                        Sandals:Joanne Mercer 
I don't think it is obvious which is which, although in real life I felt that the prosthesis broke up the drape of the top and made me look a bit larger across the shoulders.
Jeans:7 For All Mankind
Shoes: Joanne Mercer
Now, this is where I think prosthetics really come into their own. A slim-fitting jersey knit gives you nowhere to hide and my husband is a big fan of the hourglass look that prosthetics worn with this type of top provides.
I must confess that I have never worn my pretend breasts out of the house. I feel a bit awkward about creating an illusion that I am so aware is false. I know that rationally this makes no sense, as at some level most of fashion is about creating illusions; however, those illusions don't have the same sexual connotations that breasts have. In any case, it is nice to know I have options and on days when I am feeling sorry for my self and feeling like nothing looks good anymore, it is good to remind myself that I can choose to appear however I wish. Which, ironically, was not an option when I had real breasts!


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Hello again

It's hard to believe that it has been nearly 6 months since my last post. Suffice to say, I think in my haste to try and re-establish my life and reclaim the aspects that I had put on hold after my diagnosis, I may have bitten off more than I could chew! I also found that whilst physical recovery happened quite quickly, the emotional stuff takes a bit longer, especially as it invariably involves renegotiating relationships. Anyway, this semester I have taken one fewer subject at Uni, decided to try and keep work to four days a week and made a list of the things I find enjoyable and fulfilling, and promised myself to do more of those! Fashion definitely made the list and that realisation gave me the push I needed to give this blog some love.

I have heard a number of women comment that they find post-mastectomy dressing easier in winter, because they can layer. Unfortunately, that hasn't been my experience. I usually want to wear long-sleeved T-shirt styles, layered under jumpers, a combination that is fairly close-fitting. Whilst it is warm and comfortable it is not especially flattering so I was keen to find a few work-arounds for situations where I think I will feel self-conscious. Of course, wearing a scarf is always a good option but sometimes I want a simpler look.
My basic winter casual uniform. Flat and fabulous.
Jeans:Country Road
One of the my favourite items from summer was my cropped top, and I was very happy to see that the cropped trend has continued into winter (and now in the new Spring fashion hitting the store). I plan to stock up on this trend, because I can see myself wearing it even when it is not trendy anymore: it covers up my chest, it provides a bit of extra warmth over my torso and it finishes at waist level, so I have the option of emphasising my waist with a belt, or hiding it under a longer shirt layered under the crop as I have done today.
                                                       Crop top:Veronika Maine
Another style I have embraced is the drapey knit. I was not convinced about these when I first saw them in shops as I was concerned that they would be too thin to provide much warmth. However, I have actually been very comfortable when I have worn this as an outer layer, and I think the soft folds look quite arty and interesting.
                                                               Knit: Veronika Maine

And of course, if I am going to be outside, I always have the option of a coat to layer over the top. This jacket was my winter splurge. It is wool and is very warm and comfortable. It is a casual style, but I think that the straight cut and the breast pockets look good on a straighter figure. I have found this winter to be very cold. I'm not sure if it has actually been colder this year, or if it has been the effect of less insulation on my body but whatever the cause, this coat has been very welcome.
                          I feel a bit like the Fonz in this. Ehhhh. And I need a haircut!
                                                           Short coat: Cue
How do you stay warm and comfortable in winter? Are you a fan of lots of layers? See you next week!