I’ve been meaning to write this piece for quite some time now and I apologize to those of you who have been waiting for it. Life struggles, busyness and weight gain (none of my clothes fit anymore) made it a bit of a challenge getting to it, but I managed to get out prior to my breast reconstruction in April to go find some clothes that work for a flat chest.
You heard me right, I did not stay flat chested. This is a choice that I made long before my diagnosis, back when preventative surgery was still an option for me. I always knew I would have a DIEP/TRAM procedure like my sister did before me. At 42 years young, this seems like the right choice for me, but I could’ve also just as easily left it at this point. I’ve never thought myself to be overly concerned about my appearance, but I do love clothes. I prefer how I look with breasts, and it makes clothes shopping easier, but I was also able to see myself staying flat. I didn’t hate it at all. In fact, I found I preferred the flat chest in some clothes. I found I was able to wear things that I never could before, even with my small Bs. There was definitely some benefits.
After my double mastectomy, I was flat for a few months before I was able to comfortably wear prostheses. I wore them most days when I went out. They did make a difference, even when I thought I was perfectly comfortable being flat in public. It was a big surprise to me, to be honest. Once I started wearing them, I felt somewhat “normal” again. Some prefer to stay flat and that is a great choice, but it can be difficult to navigate this new body change. Women’s clothes are designed for women with chests, after all, so discovering what works can be a frustrating chore for many. Whether you are flat for a short time as you wait for reconstruction or choose to stay flat for longer, or permanently, here are my tips and tricks to hopefully help remove some of that shopping frustration and discouragement.
Body Shape Changes:
Many of us breast cancer survivors are not only dealing with the loss of a breast or two or changes in breast shape in the case of a lumpectomy but often we’re also dealing with hairloss and/or weight gain that also digs at the self confidence. For me, I’ve had short hair before and I kind of even liked my buzz cut look so that wasn’t much of a concern appearance-wise, but the fact that the hair that came back in was so different made it frustrating and difficult to deal with. The curls versus my previously straight hair and the thickness (not complaining) versus my previously thin hair, was a challenge in learning how to style this completely new head of hair. Learning curve #1.
I also gained a lot of weight. I was warned not to give into carbs and I don’t think I did too badly but the menopause and inability to do much physically definitely worked against me so I’m now the heaviest I’ve ever been. I feel that the weight gain in my belly area did not help with achieving a balanced look with no breasts so that was definitely another challenge. Not only does it eat at your self esteem, clothes are even more difficult to find when you need a large size for your belly, but smaller for your chest. I had outgrown most of my clothes so I headed to the mall to try and find some things that I could wear flat chested with confidence.
There are two types of women who are living flat chested. Those who are living this way but don’t necessarily want to draw attention to their flat chests and those who DGAF. I’m going to focus a bit more on those who want to flatter their flat chests but not necessarily show it off. Neither is right or wrong, it’s all a matter of preference and what you’re comfortable with. I, myself, have gone through all sorts of stages, wearing clothes that obviously showed my lack of breasts and then later not being comfortable in those clothes any longer.
When you’re ready to go shopping for the first time after your mastectomy, make sure you go on a day when you’re feeling emotionally strong. Take a day when you’re feeling kick-ass. Grab yourself a coffee and set aside a whole day. Take a friend if you like or go on your own but you need to have your head wrapped around the idea that it’s not going to be the same as before, because it’s not. Sometimes a friend/loved-one whose opinion is honest and you can trust can help you see past your preconceived views of what looks good on you. We can often get stuck on what we’re used to and not see the beauty in what is different. You’ll likely find things you can still wear, probably many things you can’t, and some things you couldn’t before but can now. Expecting or limiting yourself to clothing that were your go-to’s before though may bring you disappointment. You need to look at this shopping trip with an open mind and have fun with it. It’s the best way to achieve success. And remember, it might take awhile to build up a wardrobe you are happy with but you will get there so also don’t expect to do it all in one day.
1. Try on everything, even stuff you didn’t like on you or couldn’t wear before.
One thing I noticed is that there are certain clothes that look better with a flat chest than with breasts. My breasts were not large (small B) to begin with but even though they were small, I still found some things I knew I would never have been able to wear before, I now put on and liked on me. I never would’ve though these clothes didn’t work because of my boobs, but it seemed without them, I had opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. This was a bonus! Have fun with it. Go into stores you normally wouldn’t, try on things you never would’ve. I went back to trying on some clothing styles I haven’t tried on since high school (I’m 42) and actually found some things I loved on me. Pretend you’re a whole new you.
2. Bohemian Style
I love bohemian clothes. If you look at a lot of the bohemian stuff, it’s flowy, baggy and most of the models wearing it are not big chested women. It’s often built for flatter chested ladies so a lot of it works well for us. The style isn’t for everyone, obviously, but even if it’s not your thing, you might be able to find some clothing with a bit of that influence that works for you. It’s all over the stores right now so that’s a good thing for us flat-chested ladies. More to pick from. Nothing beats a flowy kimono.
3. Sexy doesn’t just come from cleavage
Exposed shoulders, open back, peak a boo cut outs all provide a bit of sexiness without showing cleavage. And guess what? With no need for a bra, you don’t have to worry about your bra straps being exposed which is a bonus! One of the parts of my body that gained the least amount of weight is my shoulders. They still look OK and I love how sexy I feel when my shoulders are exposed. Another thing is my back. Feeling sexy in my clothes on a daily basis was never high on my priority list before cancer, but with all the physical changes that take away your feeling of femininity (ie. breasts, hair, ovaries), I realized it became more important to me. Hope is not lost. Being flat, doesn’t mean you can’t be sexy. Think about showing off your shoulders. Open backs, and some low cut tops work well for flat chested women. If subtlety is more your thing, how about looking for peek-a-boo shoulders or cut outs (avoid cut outs in the chest area if you don’t want to draw attention there).
You know those really deep cut dresses you see at the Oscars or those tops that are so deep cut? Many women with larger breasts couldn’t wear them because they’d be bursting out all over the place. Well guess what?! Now’s your chance to seize the opportunity to try some of these things. Many of the women that wear these dresses have smaller chests. Many tape their boobs down to make them smaller. These things are made for flatter chested women. Not all are created equal though and some don’t work without a bit of cleavage. Also, scars may get in the way or, if you’re like me you have a dip in your chest wall that shows sometimes, and that you don’t want to expose, that can be an issue. If you find the right one, though, this could be a very sexy way to dress when sexy is what you want.
My surgeon’s nurse told me when I had my mastectomy that I’d probably want to stay away from v-necks, and while I find many v-neck clothes don’t work well, certain ones do so don’t immediately shy away from all v-necks. If you like them, give them a shot and you may find one that works well.
4. Flat chested models
I found that quite often if I looked through magazines or Pinterest I found that the flatter chested models (which are many) helped me find styles that would be flattering. If you see something on a model with a flatter chest, and you like how it looks, it might be a style that would be worth trying.
5. Layers – jackets, vests, kimonos
Layers are great ways to minimize and look good with a flat chest. One important thing to remember though is that if you hot flash (because that may be a thing for you now) or are in a place where you may want to un-layer, you are going to want to make sure your lower layers work on their own. Otherwise, use a light layer so this becomes less of an issue. A jean jacket, blazer fur vest or kimono are great ways to minimize the look of a flat chest if that’s what you want to accomplish.
6. Scarves or Shawls
Scarves and shawls are so huge right now. In the winter/fall or spring months (especially in Canada) you can throw on a big blanket scarf over any top and voila, no one will notice your flat chest. Don’t forget those hot flashes though so if you think getting too warm could be a problem, you’ll want to ensure your under-layer is something that you’re comfortable in by itself. Blanket scarves can also be worn as a “jacket” too, serving multi-purposes. Lighter scarves work in the summer too, just make sure they’re big enough to fall down to at least chest level. It’s a great way to make use of those head-scarves from your chemo days that may be sitting in your closet gathering dust now that your hair is growing back in.
Off the shoulder ruffle tops are perfect for camouflaging flat chests. They make you feel pretty and sexy, and if you pick the right one you won’t even be able to tell there are no breasts under there. Cowls do the same thing in the winter. Just make sure the ruffles or cowl are big enough that they again hit at or below the breast area. Not only are the off the shoulder ones good, all ruffles will help disguise the lack of breasts by providing interest and depth to take away from the fact that the chest is flat.
8. Patterns and other details
I found that not all patterns worked well for me but patterns can draw the eye to the pattern itself making a flat chest less noticeable. Other feature details not near the chest area such as bows or those peak-a-boos we talked about earlier, maybe a bright flower on an otherwise solid top are examples of things that can draw your eye away from the flat chest to an area you’d rather them focus on.
Fabric is a very important factor to consider when dressing regardless of if your flat or not as not all fabrics are flattering on all body types. It’s even more important when you’re looking to draw attention away from a body feature such as a flat chest. I found more structured or stiff fabrics worked better on me. Flimsy fabrics that cling will often not be forgiving at showing the flatness of your chest and/or any of those dips or bumps left over from your mastectomy. A flimsier fabric, however, on the right garment (ie. right cut) can still work so again, if it catches your eye, try it, because it may just work.
10. Button up dress shirts
One of my favourite things to camouflage my flat chest was baggier button up dress shirts. I love how these looked with my flat chest, despite them not being my favourite clothing prior to my surgery. You can unbutton them to add some sexiness and they are very forgiving at hiding a lack of breasts due to the bagginess and the pockets that many have.
So there you have it, my suggestions for dressing with a flat chest. Although I now have belly boobs (TRAM free flap reconstruction), they have come with their own struggles with regards to finding clothing that works and sometimes I find myself missing my flat chest. I hope that those of you living flat chested find this guide useful to finding clothing that makes you feel sexy, beautiful and happy. I’d love to hear if you have any tips and tricks of your own, so if so, please comment below for all to see.