Post-mastectomy it can be difficult to get used to your new shape and in particular how to dress for it. If you have made the decision to “go flat” this can be a particular challenge as you work out how to flatter your new figure and still feel feminine and beautiful – not to mention costly as you revamp your entire wardrobe. In this article, Tracy from @goingflat explains how vintage and second-hand shopping (or thrifting as it is known on her side of the pond) helped her to rediscover her fashion voice, and how she now helps others to do the same.
How thrifting helped me reclaim my body after a double mastectomy
In 2007, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 37. I had a mastectomy on my right side, 4 months of chemotherapy, and 30-days of radiation. I then had a prophylactic mastectomy to remove my left breast, and expanders inserted to prepare for my reconstruction with implants. After nearly 5 years of having my implants (they were painful and making me sick), I decided to go flat.
My choice after my surgery was to stay flat — I don’t wear breast prosthesis, preferring to go “au naturelle”. But this choice created a whole set of challenges for dressing.
What would I wear? How would I minimize the “visibility” of my flat chest? How would I draw attention away from the fact that I had no chest anymore at all? And did any of this really matter?
I was an avid thrifter before my diagnosis. As a teenage punk rocker, second-hand clothes were my uniform. As an art school student, and subsequent “poor starving artist”, I could only afford clothes on a thrifty budget. And as a creative soul with a job in the arts, I felt that the unique finds of the thrift store gave me credibility and stepped up my wardrobe to just the right level of quirky.
So, as I faced this next phase of my life — my post-cancer life — I embraced thrifting even more. I was able to experiment with my wardrobe and really find things that worked for my new body. Sometimes I only wore things a few times before I took them back to be recycled and loved again by someone new. And, most importantly, the thrift store was comfortable — it was a place I knew well. A place I could return to again and again and know that I wouldn’t be judged or stared at (even if the perception of people staring at my new body was only in my mind).
Guiding women to find their new fashion voice
As I moved through my cancer journey, and through my thrifting life, I decided to give back to my community. I started a project called @goingflat (www.goingflat.com), that offers second-hand clothing, thrifty wardrobe styling, and personal shopping services to women who have undergone mastectomy surgery and have chosen to remain flat.
My mission is to help guide women on their post-mastectomy journey to finding their new fashion voice through thrifting, as I did.
With the advent of COVID-19, I’ve ported all products and services online. With many women recently out of treatment or very wary of going out to shop, I’ve hopefully created a safe space for them to re-imagine their new post-op life. The clothing is all available online, and I’ve created a unique process to deliver a personal wardrobe styling experience on the web.
How to get in touch
Find me on Instagram and Facebook @goingflat
Online at goingflat.com