Feeling challenged by clothes shopping?

PinkCollective Member Posts: 8
edited March 2020 in Health and wellbeing

I'd like to reach out to other women who find
it hard to buy clothes because of changes to their bodies brought
about by breast cancer. I'm almost 60 now and have lived with a mastectomy for
over 20 years, with a handful of those years as a younger woman dressing around
a reconstruction that I had removed back in 2006. I have felt quite
frustrated over this entire period with how hard it has been to find clothes
with high necklines that don't gape and that also disguise the imbalance I have
in my breast shape and nipple outline. I've never regretted having the
mastectomy - but have been really surprised at how down I would get with
clothes shopping, for I consider myself to be a fairly strong and resilient
person. Over a decade ago now I surveyed 423 affected Australian women about difficulties they experience - and realised some of us live with quite a significant and silent problem. 

About two years ago I approached the fashion
industry to see what could be done for us generally, after struggling for months
to find an outfit for my daughter's wedding. I met with some very supportive
retailers and from there sourced a web developer to build a fashion site
tailored to our needs. It includes a filter that enables browsing by selecting for a whole range of design features that women after breast cancer seem to look for but struggle to find - e.g. loose sleeves for lymphoedema management, high necklines and disguising patterns to name a few. The site is called Pink Collective Styling and it's
listed within the BCNA Service Directory which is found under the Menu Tab "Understanding Breast Cancer", then selecting for "Find Services & Support Near You" and then "Physical Appearance Support".  

This has just been a subject that has got under my skin over the years because I feel it's an unnecessary burden to have layered on top of all the tough decisions that go with breast cancer
and getting on with life. I am keen to hear from anyone who can recommend
a fashion label or retailer that you've found offers a great range that 'works' for your needs so I can continue to grow the site and make it as broadly useful to the breast
cancer community as possible. I'd also be very keen to hear where the site doesn't
quite cover your particular needs if you too find clothes shopping a struggle. Julie 



  • jackie 4
    jackie 4 Member Posts: 45
    I ain understand completely what you are describing above. 
    After a double mastectomy in 2016 I was more aware of what features I looked for when shopping - the neckline being number one focus for me.  Did not have the cleavage to fill some garments.
    Have since had a diep flap reconstruction in 2019 so my abdominal spare tyre has gone, which in my case is causing another set of problems with my change of shape.  Pants have to fit my waist but then tend to fall down to the flat area.. Can pull my pants down without undoing some of them, hence my new best friends are draw string pants or a belt.
    Flat tummy, careful what you wish for 🙂.
  • PinkCollective
    PinkCollective Member Posts: 8
    Hi Jackie, it's not easy is it? Thanks for telling me this. Speaking as a nurse and someone who has had a silicon implant in the past, I think there is a general misconception that reconstructive surgery automatically returns the body to 'normal'. Sometimes there are lots of compromises to be made alongsides the gains, aren't there? Are you happy with your reconstruction?
    You'll find the fashion showcased on Pink Collective Styling only caters to dressing around the chest and problems with lymphoedema. But thank you for educating me about how it is to live with a DIEP flap reconstruction. I'll keep what you've said in mind. Regards.  
  • Sister
    Sister Member Posts: 4,960
    Clothes shopping has become so depressing - the continual weight gain from the AI is getting me down and I don't seem to be able to stop it.  And higher neckline shouldn't mean that I have to wear dowdy clothes.
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,369
    I have been thankful to my surgeon for years for leaving me ‘a little baggy’ - his words, not mine. He did it in case I changed my mind about no reconstruction (I haven’t) but it provides just a smidge of cleavage. Having never worn plunging necklines (my boobs were quite big enough to attract attention) I have never had to change what I wear. We can all adapt but I am grateful for what I don’t need to change. 
  • PinkCollective
    PinkCollective Member Posts: 8
    Hi Sister, I can see from reading your profile that you've had an intense time with your breast cancer since diagnosis. I hope there are better days ahead for you. There were many women who took part in the survey I conducted into clothing difficulties who felt depressed by the shopping experience and frustrated by lack of age appropriate choice when it came to high necklined items.You're not alone with this flat feeling you are describing and your struggle regarding weight gain. The Pink Collective Styling website is designed to support women with these problems by allowing you to filter for 'high necklines' and 'loose fit' or even 'plus size' if appropriate. Some of the retailers on the site that offer affordable loose or plus size clothing are Birdsnest (Cooma), Ezibuy (online NZ), VERGE (NZ) and Marks & Spencer Aust online. There are over 50 retailers that support the site and if there is one thing I clearly see as I draw from their product lines to create the content for Pink Collective Styling, its that high necklines definitely do not have to equal dowdiness! I do hope things get easier for you. 

  • kmakm
    kmakm Member Posts: 7,974
    I'm having similar difficulties as @jackie 4. Having had a DIEP I am flat of stomach but broad of hip! Trousers that cater for the width have a large saggy pouch of fabric at the front for the stomach. Which I don't have. So it's quite difficult to find pants that look flattering. I'm not whingeing about it, it is what it is. But it tends to rule out a whole style of dressing which can be frustrating.
  • jackie 4
    jackie 4 Member Posts: 45
    Hi Pink Collective.  The surgeons do wonderful work and am very grateful for what they have done for me, that is why I don't want to seem like a whinger. 
    When I had the reconstruction I did not want to go back as large as I was which was a DD cup.  Not enormous but during my three years with no breasts or prosthesis I quite enjoyed being smaller.  However I assume it is not an exact science and you get what you get.  Being my own tissue if I put on weight so do my "breasts" and visa versa.  However I thought I was getting larger and larger even though my weight was not increasing, so back to what I was.
    The op was enormous and certainly took some recovering.  The 'pants falling down' issue is what is most annoying now but just have to adapt. 
  • PinkCollective
    PinkCollective Member Posts: 8
    Hi jackie and kmackm, I'm keen to understand more about this problem if you could help me out please? Can I ask if you have found success buying the type of pant style you need from anywhere? Is there a label or retailer that seems to work best for you? Or is it a case of trying pants on and seeing how 'baggy' they are in the front?? Can you describe the features you look for in a pant? Is it a stretch pant you go for? Or a hipster style? Do summer shorts pose the same problem? Can you only wear pants that are belted? Does being either a larger size fit in clothing or smaller seem to make the problem harder to shop for? Would appreciate knowing more about this as I imagine there are a few more women facing the same contstraint.  Regards. 
  • Scaredycat
    Scaredycat Member Posts: 61
    Thanks pinkcollective, that’s a very impressive site. 
    There is also a lady in Ballarat, Victoria who makes swimsuits made to measure including for those who have had mastectomies. I didn’t see her listed on your website.
     I haven’t gotten around to getting a swimsuit yet but I did have her recommended to me & will see her when I’m ready to start swimming. I didn’t have a mastectomy but I do have trouble with buying clothes re height/weight etc. The website is Wendy watts swimwear. 

  • June1952
    June1952 Member Posts: 1,826
    Thanks for your post @PinkCollective
    The fatter arm and the wandering fakie are joined by the no cleavage look to be my issue with clothes.  'They' say not to use stripes as that highlights any difference in boob size and shape but the plain colours highlight the wandering Miss Rightie as she fights to sit close to Miss Leftie !
    All I can say it that on some days I am glad I have a naughty sense of humour !
  • PinkCollective
    PinkCollective Member Posts: 8
    Hi Scaredycat, Thank you for telling me about Wendy Watts Swimwear! I have been in touch with her today and have posted an advertisement of her service in the Lingerie section. She has quite an extensive range of swimwear and makes compression garments as well. The more options women have the more likely they are to find what they need. I remember when I was first diagnosed many moons back (in the pre-internet era), I though David Jones was the only place I could get a bra or pair of swimmers. The range was incredibly small back then. Regards

    Hi Summerhill, I like the resilience in your humour! I personally experience the colour problem too and how it shows the imbalance in my breast size and presence of one nipple, but only understand lymphoedema as a nurse. I appreciate that mix of constraints must be really tough and I thought a lot about the needs of women with lymphoedema when I built the site. For the type of issues you describe the site is designed to help by allowing the content to be filtered by 'loose sleeve', 'multicoloured' (either dark or light), 'high neckline' and also select for 'design features' which will bring up anything with 'work' across the front that can help disguise a few imbalances. Would appreciate feedback if you do take a look. Regards
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,369
    I recently discovered Breast Care Victoria (Port MELBOURNE) and the selection (underwear and swimmers) was good. I find most general outlets claiming to have mastectomy swimwear have obviously never tried to put them on!! While I have a lymphoedemic arm I can fit most tops as long as they are not super tight - the problem is not so much the fat arm (it’s not that fat!) but the drag of the fabric of the compression sleeve. Many thanks. 
  • PinkCollective
    PinkCollective Member Posts: 8
    Hi Afraser, thank you for that insight. Can I ask if there is a material type that works better in relation to the 'drag' - synthetic or non-synthetic? Do you tend to only look at clothing made from a certain fabric? I'll take a look at Breast Care Victoria over the next few days. Regards 
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,369
    I tend to buy what I like but slippery fabrics (silk, polyesters) slip
    better over the elasticised fabric than cotton. Extremely light fabrics, even very light silk, tend to get ‘caught’ and don’t sit so well. Very tailored shirts are most likely to have tighter sleeves that tend to twist round when you put them on and don’t sit that well even when straightened out. Wool is fine as long as the sleeves aren’t really tight. 
  • kmakm
    kmakm Member Posts: 7,974
    At the pricier end of the range, I've often noticed Alpha60 and Morrison have high necklines. I've just flicked through their websites and there are quite a lot. K xox