When Raquel Pellerin, a one-year survivor of breast cancer, went to Victoria’s Secret looking for a post-surgery bra, she encountered confusion from store clerks. They didn’t know what to suggest and said they weren’t trained to fit women of her “situation.”
Most women enjoy an assortment of options (like Victoria’s Secret) when it comes to finding the perfect bra. But for women who have lived through breast cancer and undergone surgery, the number of bras available — that are also cute, comfortable and functional — is low.
The market for mastectomy bras has grown since the 1990s; however, products are often unattractive, matronly and not built to fit women of diverse shapes and sizes. With an increasing number of lingerie brands overall, there should be more variety for women who have experienced breast cancer, one of the most common cancers for women in the United States.
Dana Donofree, a 33-year-old breast cancer survivor and founder of intimates brand AnaOno, was unable to find any suitable products after her mastectomy and implant reconstruction surgery.
A photo posted by AnaOno Intimates (@anaonointimates) on
“Implant reconstruction is not like breast augmentation or reduction surgery, because no tissue remains, and in some cases, women lose additional chest wall muscle and tissue,” Donofree tells Mashable. “In my case, my breasts could not fall or be placed into a molded or fixed bra cup, so my traditional, pre-cancer size no longer fit, nor did the cup size that was the equivalent of my implant.”
Donofree often had to size up. But sizing up left gaps, which led to painful underwires and seams that dug into her scars. Like many other women, she wanted nice lingerie that didn’t cause these issues.
“There is really nothing that works well. They are uncomfortable,” Jean Sachs, CEO at Living Beyond Breast Cancer Cancer, tells Mashable. “Not that women are totally even, but after a mastectomy if you’re using a prosthetic, it is impossible to match the size of your other breast. You can’t go into a store and grab anything.”
Bra fit is also dependent on what surgery women choose. Some never reconstruct, or reconstruct one or both breasts, making the need for a larger pool of bras even more important.
Pellerin wanted a bra that made her look good and feel sexy after having a bilateral mastectomy and multiple reconstruction surgeries.
“After surgery they tell you that you cannot wear bras with wires, that they need padding around the nipple, that you should go to a specialty store,” Pellerin says. “But nothing is cute and sexy.”
“Sometimes something as simple as having bra and panties that fit can be a mood booster and a slice of normalcy, and it can go a long way in making you feel feminine, beautiful and whole again,” Donofree says. “Which is something every woman who’s had breast cancer wants to feel. We just want to feel like ourselves again.”
Below is a small assortment of brands that have created sexy post-surgery lingerie that many women are looking for. Two of the brands, Kitt Allan and AnaOno, were created by breast cancer survivors who worked to fill this gap in the lingerie industry. Nordstrom and Marks and Spencer are known to sell products specifically for women who have had mastectomies.
All women know the struggle of finding a comfortable bra; adding on the fact that these women have had breast cancer surgeries means their needs are very specialized. While this is a starting point in the $9 billion lingerie industry, this list is still very limited in designs, with most unavailable in brick and mortar stores.
Nordstrom has a Breast Prosthesis Program where certified fitters help women find bras following reconstructive surgeries. The retail store sells Amoena bras, a company producing lingerie as well as breast forms.
Amoena Marlena Seamless Bra, $35; Amoena Lara lace Molded Foam Bra, $65
2. Marks and Spencer
Model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley helped design a lacy post-surgery bra that includes molded padded cups and inner pockets to fit a prosthesis. Marks and Spencer also has a post surgery bra collection created with organization Breast Cancer Now.
Marks and Spencer Rosie BCN Collection Post-Surgery Bra, $30 (£19.50)
3. Kitt Allan
Breast cancer survivor Kitt Allan created a lingerie and swimwear line for fellow survivors and those who support the cause.
Kitt Allan Angelica Wirefree Lace Bra, $60; Kitt Allan Daisy Wirefree Lace Bra, $60
AnaOno Intimates (the line created by breast cancer survivor Dana Donofree) makes bras exclusively for women who have had breast cancer surgeries. The website includes a size guide that explains which bras are made for which surgeries, ranging from mastectomy with no reconstruction to bilateral reconstruction.
AnaOno Kelly Bralette, $48; AnaOno Rachel Wire-Free bra, $54
5. Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney recently designed a post double mastectomy compression bra, called Louise Listening, named for her late mother who died of the illness. The bra has a front zip and wide underband made specifically for the healing process.
Stella McCartney Louise Listening Bra, $131 (€115)
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