I found plenty of beautiful mastectomy bras on display at the latest annual lingerie trade show.
Well-known brands like Amoena, Anita Care, and Royce, showed off their latest fashions for women whose bodies have been changed by breast cancer surgeries.
These bigger lingerie names design pocketed bras used to hold breast forms, or a breast prosthesis. The materials take into consideration the needs of more sensitive, post-surgical bodies, even those who have undergone breast reconstruction. Some brand collections even offer stylish shape wear, active wear and swimwear.
So why don't you find the latest and greatest in beautiful mastectomy bras at your local retailer? There are a few reasons, and most have to do with the way these products have historically been marketed and sold to women.
Some 40 years ago, breast cancer wasn't a topic you found wrapped up in pretty pink ribbons. Women who had a mastectomy, like my mother, were sent to medical supply houses to order breast prostheses and a pocketed bra. There wasn't much to choose from when it came to bra style, color or fabric.
Lingerie retailers face more complex fit issues when selling post-mastectomy products. It's not just the scar tissue or individual surgical sites involved, it's also the size and type of prosthetic a woman buys and wears. Some are heavy or lighter, and they're sold in numeric sizes, not like alphabet cups bras. To give you an idea of the complexity of this task, Amoena requires a minimum of 500 hours of special training to qualify as one of their certified mastectomy bra fitters.
There's also the matter of medical insurance reimbursement, at least in the U.S. Some cover breast forms plus an annual number of pocketed bras. Others only pay for forms. This can be confusing both for the customer buying, and the retailer selling, mastectomy products.
A few department stores, like Nordstrom, and online and brick and mortar boutiques, specialize in fitting mastectomy bras. But each site and store carry a different inventory of sizes and styles.
The problem seems to be getting harder-to-fit lingerie products into the hands of women who need, and can afford, them. Any company in the business of selling mastectomy products must factor in returns and access to a fit specialist. Customers who've just gone through a difficult medical diagnosis and recovery may not be aware of what's available, either.
Consumers interested in more variety have to take the initiative to get these prettier pieces stocked on lingerie shelves or web pages. Pretty mastectomy lingerie does exist. It just might take a little time to find it.
There's no lack of interest in providing women with beautiful post-mastectomy alternatives in lingerie and swimwear. New brands pop up on the market every year. Even those not in the mastectomy biz now offer pocketed bra designs. UK Maternity brand Lorna Drew just introduced two gorgeous styles. Marlies Dekkers adapted their iconic Dame de Paris bra style with pockets for forms, a few years ago.
What do you think of some of these mastectomy lingerie designs? Do you have any post-mastectomy lingerie resources you'd like to share?
This blog first published on The Breast Life.
All images copyright The Breast Life.