How lingerie brought about a revolution in post-mastectomy collections

“When I asked eleven years ago, after my mastectomy, where I could find a suitable swimsuit, they looked at me as if I had said a bad word, remembers Céline Lis-Raoux, director of the’RoseUp association. Women with cancer had to hide … or at least avoid the beach. It’s interesting to see how lingerie has gone from denial of disease to bloated offerings. “

Things have indeed changed in a few years. Because today, many brands, general public or confidential, expensive and sexy, have widened the offer for women after a mastectomy, with or without breast reconstruction.

A multitude of constraints

It must be said that this garment quickly becomes your enemy when you barely manage to raise your arms because of the pain … Nasrine callet, gynecologist at the
Curie Institute, “It’s important to think about the aftermath, to feel good about your body. Fortunately, brands have been made aware. »So that women, after the disease or a preventive mastectomy, find comfortable and aesthetic clothing, according to their chest size, their tastes, the operation (lumpectomy, mastectomy on one or both breast, reconstruction or not…) and stages of healing.

During radiotherapy, “it is better to put on a cotton bra than nothing at all, because often the breast has swollen. But being supported allows better blood circulation. »And once the treatments and operations are finished? “The first requirement is to find a bra with a pocket for the prosthesis, so that it does not move and that there is no asymmetry between the breasts, and therefore no imbalance. for the back, resumes the gynecologist. You can put on a bra with a metal frame, but I don’t recommend wearing it all the time. When the breasts have been treated, the skin is more fragile, so the friction can create balls. This skin thickening, not dangerous, may worry the patient. “

The option of underwired lingerie – or a non-metallic frame – should be preferred. “And which closes on the front, which limits the movement of the shoulders,” adds Céline Lis-Raoux. It is also better if the closure is done on three levels, which allows to be very tight or to release a little as the healing progresses. As for the material, “it’s cotton we want,” adds Angélique Lecomte, who had cancer and a mastectomy five years ago. Afterwards, we have to find a consensus: support, but not too much, so that it does not tighten too much. “

This demanding to-do list has not held back some brands, and the collections have adapted. “Before, it was above all the Amoena brand, which is very expensive and often sold in pharmacies,” confirms Céline Lis-Raoux. But little by little, we saw projects coming from women who had gone through cancer. »Cécile Pasquineli started Garance in 2012, a brand of swimwear and lingerie. Then Angélique de Rocquigny designed Coeur de Lys, with models 100% made in France, respectful of sensitized, colored and feminine skin.

When the big brands are positioning themselves

But the real boom is more recent. For about two years, major brands have been invited to this niche. And many needs are covered: post-operative bras from Kiabi and Etam for small budgets, those from Décathlon for sportswomen, Coeur de lys is on sale in the Blancheporte catalog… “This flowering of lingerie is proof that cancer is no longer taboo”, enthuses Céline Lis-Raoux, also director of Rose Magazine.

To meet the needs as closely as possible, the big brands have often teamed up with patients. In particular Tam-tam Princess, questioned by one of her consumers three years ago. Gaëlle, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 39, complained on the site of his favorite brand not to find what he is looking for. So the brand assembled its collection with her. Likewise, when Carrefour took an interest in the issue, the Rose Up association gave it a hand.

Faced with this more varied offer in terms of style and budget, the patients applauded. But “we must not be naive, continues Céline Lis-Raoux. The big brands have seen that the number of cancer is exploding, that it affects more young women, that there is a market. The pioneers, former patients, created the desire by showing that we can do beautiful things! “

Modular lingerie

For a year, a newcomer has enriched the catalog: the Unicycles. At the helm: Angélique Lecomte. This ex-nurse, who had a mastectomy on one breast five years ago, has chosen not to be reconstructed and not to wear a prosthesis. “I passed the windows of stores where I bought before my lingerie and I wanted to cry, she admits. Before, it was a pleasure. There, it became only utilitarian. Already morally, it is difficult … “

This is why her credo is to leave women free to decide what they want to wear, by offering them to build their modular bra. In all, 8,000 combinations are possible, between the models for a deep breast, flat, cotton, lace, with pocket or without pocket, and each in 17 colors.

History to adapt to the tastes of each one, but also to the stages of the operations… “How good it feels when it hurts after a radiotherapy session to put only one side of the bra!, Assures Angélique. When we are undergoing reconstruction and the chest is asymmetrical, we will be able to buy two cups of different sizes. »Or a black side in flat cotton for the scar and a purple side in lace on the breast side.

“I even have a client who has done nudism on a beach wearing a one-cup bra with a flesh-colored pocket. She didn’t want to show her scar, or expose it to the sun. It allows absolute freedom and that’s what I wanted. “Her ambition is also to change the way women look at the body:” Only 30% of women undergo breast reconstruction. It is not because we only have one breast that we are no longer a woman, that we no longer have the right to sexuality! “

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