walking on a beach
Female Identity

Finding the Right (Perfect?) Bathing Suit After a Mastectomy

If there is one question that pops up time after time in breast cancer online groups and forums, it is “Where can I find a bathing suit to fit my new body?”

I have to admit, it was a concern of mine when I was first diagnosed and understood I would be facing a double mastectomy. I had chosen to go flat, and I was mad, that the two brand new bathing suits with plunging necklines I had bought from Andies may no longer fit. I remember six days after my surgery when I had my drains removed, one of the first things I did was dash upstairs to try on my black Andies one piece. Much to my relief, I  was delighted to find the cut worked perfectly on my newly flat body.  

Your choice of swimwear depends somewhat on your choices regarding mastectomy and reconstruction. Women who have breast reconstruction such as implants or a diep flap have no limitations when it comes to swimwear. 

Women with a single mastectomy or women who prefer to wear prostheses often look for a bathing suit like this one from Gottex or this one from Amoena with built-in pockets to hold a prosthesis securely in place. The last thing you want is that girl floating off! 

Heading into my second summer as a flattie,  I have found there are plenty of options for women who choose to present flat to the world. Some women simply cut the cups out of their suits. I like a plunging neckline now that I have no cleavage to worry about like this one from Andies. A halter neck bikini top like this one from Anne Cole works really well on a flat bod, and you can’t go wrong with a single shoulder and slight ruffle like this pretty one piece. For women who have had radiation as part of their treatment and may be sun sensitive, quite several friends I know are now opting for rash guards as their swim wear of choice. It keeps you protected from sun burn and damage and some even have built-in SPF ratings for extra measure. 

When deciding upon your swimwear post-mastectomy, it’s important to remember that this is fundamentally about what makes you feel comfortable and confident and not about fulfilling societal expectations.

In the first few months post-surgery, I purchased a lot of new clothes that suited my transformed body. I would stand before the mirror, putting on halters, open-back dresses, and spaghetti straps – items I never wore previously because of my D cup size. Similarly, when it came to swimwear, I found some styles that I wouldn’t have even considered pre-surgery started to complement my body. I also reached out to brands like Andies, to let them know how I felt and why inclusive fashion should mean including women with breast cancer. To my delight the team was very receptive, featuring me during the Fall of 2022 in an Instagram campaign. Our collaboration continues to this day – so stay tuned for more soon. 

Of course, feeling comfortable in your own skin isn’t something that happens overnight. It is a process, and it took me a while to get there. Fundamentally I don’t buy into the believe that we should dress or be dressed differently simply because we have had a mastectomy. Why should women like us settle for less? We need to challenge societal perceptions and outdated standards. Just because a woman opts for a single mastectomy or flat closure, it doesn’t mean she lacks anything. The fashion industry has some catching up to do, and we must lead the way. 

Whether you’ve had a mastectomy or not, the key to picking the right swimsuit is feeling confident. For someone like me, confidence came from accepting my scars and embracing my ‘flat’ look. For others, it might mean simply accepting and loving your wonderful body in any shape and form. Above all, let’s remember that true beauty is not dictated by societal norms but how comfortable and confident we feel in our skin.

Ellyn Winters-Robinson is a breast cancer survivor, entrepreneur, author, in-demand speaker, women’s health advocate, professional communicator and a globally recognized health rebel. Ellyn's best-selling book "Flat Please Hold the Shame," is a girlfriend’s companion guide for those on the breast cancer journey. She is also the co-creator of AskEllyn.ai, the world’s first conversational AI companion for those on the breast cancer journey. With Dense Breasts Canada and award-winning photographer Hilary Gauld, Ellyn also co-produced I WANT YOU TO KNOW, a celebrated photo essay showing the diverse faces and stories of 31 individuals on the breast cancer journey. Ellyn’s story and AskEllyn.ai have been featured in People Magazine, Chatelaine Magazine, the Globe and Mail, CTV National News and Your Morning, and Fast Company.

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