I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in my right breast in December 2014 when I was 35 years old. I was offered reconstruction, but I knew immediately that this was not for me. My surgeon spent time showing me reconstruction photos; encouraging me to hold silicone implants of different sizes, and explaining how safe and durable they are now. When my surgeon was discussing reconstruction to my right breast this included options to increase and/or lift my left breast at the same time. But instead I requested that my left breast be removed too, so that I could be symmetrically flat. My breast care team offered me delayed reconstruction, silicone prostheses, and fabric ‘softies’; but, I told them that I wanted to live flat. The breast care nurse warned me against this saying “You won’t be able to find nice clothes.”
So, I went away and researched this shocking statement. All I found was advice on ‘disguising’ my chest with scarves and baggy tops. This and the comment from the nurse annoyed me so, two weeks later just before my double mastectomy, I set up my website Flatter Fashion so that no other woman would think she should be ashamed of, and hide, her body just because she doesn’t have two breasts.
My website is all about sharing basic tips to help women develop confidence to try on new things to see what suits them now, and not feel that they should cover themselves up and hide who they are. All high street brands can work for women who are living single or double flat. The recent trend for ruffles, frills, fringing and bardot tops has been brilliant for us. The classic cowl neck in jersey, or light fabrics is always great too. Finding clothes that you feel confident in can play a huge part in helping you accept your new body. Personally, I prefer being flat when I look at my figure, and I love experimenting with different styles I would never have worn before my mastectomy.
The website now also features seasonal fashion blogs with tips and photos from members of the Flat Friends UK closed Facebook group, which means the advice is current. But it is also now relevant to more women as it includes different sizes and styles modelled by women who have had single and double mastectomies, and those who wear prostheses.
I have been a trustee of Flat Friends UK since it became a registered charity in 2016. We support women who have had a single or double mastectomy and are living without reconstruction, or are facing that decision.
Basic tips on how to flatter and decorate single-flat and double-flat chests
To add movement and volume look for:
• A-Line tops and swing dresses which flare gently from the chest
• Bubble hem tops, or dresses with elasticated waistbands
• Off-the-shoulder, halter-necks and boat-necks can all add width across the chest
• Avoid darts and princess seams where you are flat as they may not hang properly.
Floaty fabrics such as crepe, chiffon and light cotton create movement; jersey drapes and gathers to create shape; lace and embroidered layers add interest, and textured knits add depth. Layer contrasting textures and colours to add depth and shape.
Extra features which suit a flat chest include:
• Double breast pockets (or single on your flat side)
• Gathered or cowl necklines
• Frills and pussy bows
• Pleats and pin tucks
• Contrasting sleeves
Be proud of your chest: Decorate it! Look for:
• Patterns to draw the eye around your outfit
• Contrasting patterns on the bib or yoke
• Appliquéd designs such as sequins, gems and beading
• Statement necklaces or long pendants
If you have had a single mastectomy also look out for:
• Pleats, draping or frills from one shoulder
• Contrasting panels or bold patterns to decorate your flat side
Scarves worn in various ways are also a quick way to do all the above. So, if you do not feel ready to splash out on a bold gingham cold shoulder blouse, or bright floral maxi dress, then build your confidence with your new style by decorating plainer outfits with bold accessories! Try patterned scarves, statement necklaces, and bold jackets instead.
For more fashion information and to get in touch go to the Flatter Fashion website and for further support contact Flat Friends. Our thanks to Sarah for providing such inspirational top tips – lots to think about and a good excuse to organise some winter retail therapy!