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    Make a Mastectomy Bra

    It's Economical and Easy!

    These instructions by Melissa are based on a design her mother Nancy came up with and thought others might like to know about.

    Mastectomy bras are expensive. And they may not be all that comfortable. However, you can make your own bra by adapting one purchased from just about any department store.

    Before getting into the instructions for making your own mastectomy bra, it's important to note that this bra is not an official mastectomy bra. If your prostheses have a warranty, you may void it by using them with a bra that is not purchased via medical prescription. If you are not concerned about making the warranty null and void, this is not an issue. If you are concerned, be sure to check with the prostheses company before proceeding. You will also want to make sure you have been cleared for wearing bras again.

    What to Look For

    You'll need to start with a bra that meets all the following criteria. This is the hard part, since bras are like fashions, and once you find the perfect one, it may be changed. If you end up finding a bra that you just love, you may wish to purchase multiples of it and save the extras for future use.

    So, now that we have all that down, look for a bra that:

  • Is a sports bra with no hard cups or wires.
  • It should be an under-the-clothing bra (not one meant to be worn on the exterior)
  • Is a soft knit
  • Has cups that are double (i.e., lined). This is extremely important.
  • Includes a line of seaming directly in the middle (this can also potentially be sewn in after purchase, but it's easier to start with one that already has the middle established and is designed to be divided down the center.
  • Ideally closes with hooks. Many sports bras are "slip ons," which can make them difficult to put on and remove for ladies with limited motion, lymphedema, and those who have the prostheses already in the bra when it's put on. But if you are limber and it's all you can find, one that fits over the head will suffice.
  • Is comfortable. Racer backs, for example, are the most common in sports bras, but they're generally not nearly as comfortable as conventional straps. However, if you do not find racer backs uncomfortable, they work, too. The fabric and its "feel" should also be a consideration.
  • Is a wild and wacky color or leopard print. Okay, or white.
  • Here's the type of thing you're looking for:

    Getting Started

    Bring the bra home and run it through the washer and dryer, and try it on to make sure it still fits.
    If not, try another size. You will want one that is well-fitting so that it doesn't shift around a lot.

    Once you have one that fits, it's time to get down to business!

    Get Out the Scissors

    Do you wish you had been a rebel in the '60s? Here's your chance . . . although it comes a few decades late.
    On the inside of the bra, cut horizontal slits in the inside (lining) of either (or both) cup(s) where you will be putting prostheses, at about the middle. This slit should be large enough to just barely be able to slip in your prostheses. It's easy to find the right size--just test the slits by attempting to put the prostheses in the cups through them. Keep the hole as small as possible. This will help keep the prostheses from slipping back out again unless you want them to.

    Custom Tailoring

    If the bra already houses your prostheses to a T, then you're all set. But, chances are, the cups might be too large, causing the prostheses to be able to shift around. It's time for some custom tailoring.

    Don't worry--not having a sewing machine and sewing by hand is fine, but be sure to use a stitch that is strong (like a backstitch) and stretch the fabric as you go, so the thread doesn't snap or break under pressure. If you're using a sewing machine, a zig-zag stitch is best to allow for stretch.

    Sew along the inside middle, on either side, using approximately a 1/4" seam allowance from the center seam. This will keep the prostheses from joining together in the center as a uniboob. If you are larger busted, putting the extra space in the center like this may not look as natural and you may wish to just do the next stitching. Experiment and know that stitches can always be removed. These extra stitches are shown in red below.

    Next, put the prostheses in the cups and see if they're a good fit. If not, extra stitching can be added to both front sides, near where the armhole is. Sew at 1/4" from the side seams, on the front sides of the bra.
    This ends the extra stitching needed to help support and center the prostheses. Try on the bra with the prostheses in to see if they fit well.

    Security and Peace of Mind

    All of us have probably heard horror stories of prostheses flinging themselves about outside of one's clothing. To be extra discreet, you can hand tack the prostheses into the bra.

    Wait!

    Don't under any circumstances tack the prostheses themselves in--only sew the fabric of the slit you made on the inside of the bra. Turn the fabric slightly in, reconnect the two edges that were originally cut from one another, and use a quick stitch, being extra careful not to poke the prostheses. It doesn't matter if this stitching is loose and sloppy, because any time you wash the bra (take those prostheses out!) it will need to be redone, anyway--plus, it's on the inside. This tacking is used merely to close up the holes so that the prostheses are now basically a part of the bra.

    Let's Be Lazy

    You were probably told when you got your prostheses that they needed to be stored in the box in order to have a longer lifespan. So, prop the boxes open and place one prosthesis in each one . . . while they're still in the bra.

    Finally, take a nap. You deserve it.


    October 2008