One of my readers, Maddy, sent me an email about the challenges she had finding a suitable mastectomy bathing suit. She couldn’t find one she was happy with so she decided to make one….herself. She wrote down how she converts a “high neck” bathing suit into a mastectomy bathing suit. I am happy to share it in this article with other women.
Introduction by Maddy
I’ve been doing this for years now and it works great. When I first had my double mastectomy, I thought maybe a flouncy bathing suit top would just cover the area. That definitely didn’t work well and left me in tears. Then I tried on mastectomy bathing suits…but I was always on the tall side and found that built in bras in those suits left my prostheses hanging unrealistically and uncomfortably low.
Necessity is the mother of invention
So it seemed I had to be resourceful if I wanted to wear a bathing suit and be comfortable doing that. They say necessity is the mother of invention. My technique is still evolving. This is the first time I’ve used bathing suit lining material and I wouldn’t do that again. I prefer the silky softness of bathing suit material. Using an old slip is fine too…but bathing suit fabric is naturally smooth and has a little give. It’s perfect…and you don’t need a lot of it.
About low cut bathing suits…
About the bathing suit brand I’ve discovered…. I was in a mastectomy shop in a hospital and wanted to look at mastectomy bathing suits. I don’t know how they fit your body but I could never understand why a mastectomy bathing suit would be what I consider to be low cut.
There is nothing I choose to reveal to the world about the scars on my chest. I have no problem having those scars…they’re proof that I’m a survivor…they’re just no one’s business but mine. I did have reconstruction on one side that had to be undone when I later developed a sarcoma on my chest wall…but there was no way that I was interested in having additional reconstructive surgery. That first reconstruction was so much fun that I decided against having reconstruction on the other side. My body is my body and I love being alive…but what is going on in my bathing suit is no one’s business but my own.
Love the Longitude bathing suits
Low revealing necklines are SO not something I’m interested in.
One day in a Kohl’s, I think, I first noticed what I consider to be a high necked bathing suit. I call them turtle neck bathing suits but they’re really just high cut and perfect…to me. You can actually bend down and absolutely no one will see what’s going on inside…and it’s no one’s business anyway!
Since then, I’ve also seen the brand, Longitude, in Beall’s in Florida.
A few years ago, when I surprisingly either couldn’t find the brand in either store or couldn’t find the brand in a fabric I liked, I finally woke up in the right century and realized I could look on line to find the company’s website. They’re Longitude bathing suits and I LOVE them.
I think the company is called Longitude perhaps because their bathing suits are really designed for tall (get it…LONGitude) women….and I’ve always been at the taller end of the spectrum…but they also have lots of photos of women in their bathing suits who seemed naturally well endowed (as in big boobed)…and we know that’s not me. They also have skinny models…and that’s also not me…and more Reubenesque models than me (translation: plus size.)
My friend tends towards getting skin cancers on her chest and she has also begun to buy and love Longitude bathing suits. Translation: maybe this company’s bathing suits are worth taking a look at.
I’d previously used only one prosthesis and had decided a few years ago to use two instead…only I never adapted these two swimsuits I already had. I decided to make a slightly larger prosthetic pocket to fit each prosthesis in so it would be easier to insert and remove each prosthesis.
What fabric did I use? Originally I used an old slip I wasn’t using, figuring it was silky and washable and patiently waiting for me to do something with it…and that worked absolutely fine. I’ve also used bathing suit material, which really worked great….but this time I purchased and tried using bathing suit lining material. This is actually my least favorite option because the fabric is a little coarser to the touch.
How I proceeded….
The making of a DIY mastectomy bathing suit
I put my prosthesis face up on the table on my chosen fabric and cut around the prosthesis with about an inch to spare all around…except…I’ve discovered that I like to leave what I think of as a tail at the end of the cutout to cover the edge of the prosthesis once it’s inserted into the prosthetic pocket I create.
Once my prosthetic cover is cut out, I pin and fold about 1/8 inch around the entire prosthetic cover and then machine stitch that initial raw edged seam around the entire piece of fabric.
I then repeat the process to make a finished edge for my prosthesis cover that won’t unravel.
And this is where you figure out if you made the prosthetic cover for the right side of your bathing suit.
Turn your prosthetic cover with the sewn seams towards the bathing suit. The flappy side where you insert the prosthesis should be facing your armpit. If it’s facing the middle of your chest…oops!…you goofed! I’ve done this several times myself so just relax and do it over, keeping in mind where that insertion flap for the pocket needs to be…facing your armpit. That flap is there for you to insert and remove your prosthesis and to cover the edge of it.
- Hand stitch the prosthesis holder in place. I like to pin the prosthesis holder loosely in place, matching the fabric’s top curve to the top of the bathing suit bra’s top curve, pinning the inside corner in place, and pinning the bottom midpoint in place as well.
- It’s important to remember that the prosthesis has bulk and you need to keep the opening for inserting it wide enough for you to easily slide the prosthetic in and out of the pocket / holder when it’s sewn into the bathing suit. If the opening is too tight, too small, it will be hard to do that. I’ve never had a prosthesis float away but I guess I wouldn’t want the opening too wide either.
- I use a small tight overhand stitch, if there’s such a thing, to attach my prosthesis holder (or two) to the outer edges of the bathing suit’s built in bra.
Me, I have a prosthesis for both sides so I sew a prosthesis holder into each side of the built in bathing suit bra. Voila!
I hope my idea helps you find summer comfort and happiness.
I’m no professional seamstress. I just sew straight lines with my little, inexpensive, nothing amazing sewing machine. There is nothing intricate or impressive about my sewing skills. I had a need. I figured out a way to meet that need.
All you need to do this bathing suit conversion is rudimentary hand and machine stitching skills coupled with the desire to create a bathing suit that you can wear without being self conscious. Everyone deserves that. Everyone should be able to have that. And if we can do that for ourselves…that’s empowerment.
Do you have a question? Please let me know (I will send it on to Maddy, she’ll be happy to help you if she can).
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