How to make an ordinary bra into a pocketed mastectomy bra!
You're kidding, right? Nope! Now you can avoid having to do without extra bras, especially because sometimes you can't afford many expensive mastectomy bras. You may not have medical insurance to buy bras, or your insurance may only pay for one or two bras. I think Medicare and Medicaid will usually pay for up to 6 mastectomy bras per year and a pair or two of foam leisure forms. Many other insurance companies do also.
Before getting into the bra conversion (Convert-a-Bra), I'd like to clarify that I'm not saying making mastectomy bras is always the right thing to do at first. Going to be properly fitted for a good mastectomy bra will show you the wide variety of bras and forms currently available and get you a really good quality, well fitting, and properly sized bra, so at least you'll know what it SHOULD feel like. Having a good fitter on your side can give you the best chance of being comfortable. They are professionals and can guide you to what may help you feel the best with your personal surgical results.
Not all style bras work for every body. It's important to find one that's comfortable, without undue pressure on your scars. Personally, I've found one called, "Almost U Wide Band Mastectomy Bra" to be among the most comfortable for me, but since I have a big tummy it even rides up eventually when wearing silicone breast forms. See the page on my website called, Bra Band Ouch Fix for a solution if that happens to you.
Convert-a-Bra Extra Tip: When you're shopping for a bra to convert, first try searching among the full coverage Playtex bras with the wide shoulder straps. The Playtex 18 Hour Airform Comfort Lace #4088 already has a 'sort of' pocket in it that may work for some breast forms without having to sew another pocket in. This is the bra I'm using in the instructions ( see part 2), but here we're adding a REAL pocket to it.
Always look in unexpected places, you never know when you may find something usable. I don't advise 'sports bras' as they are made to compress breasts. This is something you absolutely DO NOT want to happen with breast forms. It presses them HARD into your scars, ouch! It's quite possible that can contribute to lymphedema, while pressing breast forms too firmly into already scarred tissue where lymphatic fluid needs to pass.
Here's what you'll need before you get started:
- Ironing board or sofa pillow, anything you have that can be pinned into
- Sewing pins
- Sheet of plain typing paper
- Fabric that stretches a lot in both length and width (Swimsuit fabric works best, look for skin color preferably, or bra color, and don't mistakenly buy 'swimsuit lining', make sure it's the real swimsuit outerwear fabric!)
- Pencil or pen
- Scissors, cheap ones for paper and your good pair for fabric
As I said earlier, a full coverage bra similar to this one - the Playtex 4088 - can easily be converted into a pocketed mastectomy bra (Convert-a-Bra). There's probably quite a few full coverage bras available that will work, if you look around.
You want to make sure the neckline will fit close to your body, covering any 'sunken in' areas.
The underarm should come up high enough to fit closely above your side scars, but not so tightly that it can compress you too much.
The cup size needs to be large enough for whatever breast form you choose to use, and the style of the bra cup should look filled to the end with the breast form you wear.For example, the bra in this example happens to be a size 38C. A foam breast form, a silicone form, and a microbead breast form, all fill it fairly well, but the smoother rounded-front foam form might not fill it firmly right to the apex (the largest part of the bustline), especially if your foam breast form is older and becoming compressed, as foam does over time. Silicone or microbead forms keep it firmly protruding to the apex, the same as a breast would.It all depends on your particular form and what style and size it is.
Remember BEFORE your mastectomy, you needed to try on several bras to find one that looked and fit correctly? This has not changed. You still need to try on several to find what you need. I'm just showing this one because it's one of several that happened to work for me, and it's a good starting point to help you begin your search.
Please come back for Convert-a-Bra Part 2 where Mary gives us detailed directions about exactly how to convert your regular bra into a mastectomy pocketed bar.
Author Mary LaCaze is a breast cancer survivor/THRIVER, an accomplished seamstress and owner/creator of Mastectomy Solutions. Visit her website for other fabulous, easy-to-make solutions like Covert-a-Bra.