Going by how much difficulty I had with my post-mastectomy Summer Plan, I wanted to write something specifically for post-matectomy women planning to go flat chested. This post will do until I can find the time to update the book with my findings.

Life Post-Mastectomy

Having a mastectomy can be a difficult time in a woman’s lfe; your boobs are the obvious sign of your femininity, not to mention a fundamental aspect of the way you move and dress. How can you have an hourglass figure when the top half’s broken off?

Some of us choose implants or prostheses, and for them, there’s no outward change. Those “lucky” women can continue to dress as they were pre-mastectomy, and I wish them luck.

This post is for those of us struggling to adapt our image and clothes to being flat chested again.

On the bright side, you have the opportunity to start more or less from scratch!

Draft a Wardrobe Plan

I use four steps to plan a wardrobe.

1. Set a Budget

The budget is based on a percentage of annual net income (say 5%), and the prortion of the year you’re buying for, so half the year would be half the annual buget. And I usually suggest setting it first, because lack of money tends to get the creative juices flowing.

So despite knowing that half of the problem is a mastectomy is usually sudden, and half is needing to replace a large chunk of your wardrobe, I’m going to suggest just taking a stab at it, and seeing how it feels when you get to the end of the process.

2. Determine Your Appropriate

The chances are, nothing has changed about your life per se. You probably still live in the same place, experiencing the same climate, doing the same job and leisure activities. And most likely nothing has changed about your age or your tolerance to specialised washing.

What might have changed, is your health, and perhaps your toleration of rough or clinging clothing. You might be taking medication that makes you sun sensitive, or that assists you to gain or lose weight. These changes might be temporary, but they might also be permanent.

Make a note of your findings, and start writing your shopping list.

3. Establish Your Style

Style is not just what you wear, but how you wear it – your posture, carriage, and dare I say it, confidence.

Body shape can affect style, but not as much as your personality does. You might find you want to diminish your visibility for a time, or decide to change your preferences to conceal (or enhance) your missing boobs.

Let’s look at the building blocks of style, bearing in mind your opinions may change over the next few months because we are all works in progress. As you go, take any notes that seem relevant for your shopping.


Your general preferences for red or blue or orange are are unlikely to change. But at the same time, having a flat chest changes the way light and shadow fall across your body. You won’t know for a while how you’re going to feel about that.


Patterns create interest by combining colours. The positive and negative spaces they create suggest movement or change perspective. Or depending on the scale, change your preception of colour, (e.g., thin red and blue stripes can look purple from a distance). And shadows can affect that too.


The most obvious form of texture is the difference between knited and woven fabrics, and the difference in drape and structure. Lighter, smoother textures have more movement while heavier, rougher textures have less.


Silhouette, in this situation, refers to whether you like your clothes fitted or loose fit. If you’re wearing a unisex fit t-shirts, you most likely prefer a looser fit, if you’re wearing a feminine fit, it’s more likely fitted. But, depending on the outcome of your mastectomy (lumps, bumps, and asymmetry), you might prefer a boxier fit.

Design Lines

The design lines are the locations of the seams, darts and pleats. It also relates to where your camouflage ruffles and swags go. And you might find you prefer higher arm holes to make sure your scars are covered.

4. Decide Your Needs

Clothing should at least:

  1. preserve your health by keeping you warm and protecting you from injury.
  2. allow unrestrcicted movement so you can move freely through all the activities you need to do.
  3. be sufficiently “decent” to allow participation in social and community events, e.g., eating out, movies, or athletic events.

So taking that into account, you probably need at least two inner, mid and outer layers with a focus on what season you’re in at the moment.

You might need one set of “good” clothing, and two for every day. Or if you’re working, five for every day and two for slobbing about the house.

Add these items to your shopping list, and anything else you’ve noticed in the meantime (the uniquitous socks and undies).

Take Stock of Your Wardrobe

Now that you know what you need, the next step is to review your tops and dresses. It’s very likely your skirts and pants still fit you, so it’s up to you whether you decide to review all of it, or just the tops.

It might be a good idea to allow plenty of time, and to do it on your own. It might be difficult, and you might need to pause, or stop and come back later.

Gather it all together, but set aside the clothes you haven’t worn for a while – I’m guessing they can go straight to the charity shop (you might like to have some garbage bags ready to go). Likewise, all the ones you don’t like (or love) for whatever reason.

It’s also a good time to look for garments that need repairs. Do the simple ones yourself, set them aside for the dressmaker, or just put them in the bin!

Then, try on everything that’s left and check yourself out in a mirror (hopefully a full length one). You’ll need to pinch the bust in to see how the rest of it looks on you, and make sure you check the back, as some types of construction rely on the boobs to pull it into place.

It might help to imagine someone else in the mirror. Or to just look at the garment, and not at you. Check to see:

  • Does the colour still work for you?
  • Are they still right for your lifestyle or general clothing preferences? If not, you might as well get rid of what you can now to make it easier later.
  • Have you identified any weirdness you haven’t noticed before (e.g., does the neckline sit weirdly and uncomfortably)? Do the armholes gape? Does the back look weird without the boobs holding the front out.
  • Check whether the shoulder seams fall on your shoulder points (where the bones come together). Once your skeleton has reached its full growth, these points won’t change, so if the seams aren’t right, it could mean you’ve gained or lost weight unrelated to the mastectomy or the drugs.
  • Is the construction simple enough to alter?

When you’re done, you’ll have a pile of clothes you know without a doubt are not for you anymore (unless you decide to get prostheses after all). You can add these to the charity shop bag.

Plus you might have nothing, or a very small small pile of clothes to go back in the wardrobe. In my case, not even the infamous red tunic I’m always talking about survived the cull.


Post-mastectomy, reviewing your clothes is confronting.

It doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are, and how well you think you’ve adjusted to life post-mastectomy. When you see the effect it’s had on your clothes, and the way they hang against your body, you understand the way you think about yourself has to change.

All the lovely clothes, you’ve spent so much money on, and the time you’ve spent taking care of them, don’t have a place in your life anymore.

It’s the end of an era.

You start to imagine how your life is going to change, and you can’t always imagine, or think reasonably about where that’s going to go. Or at least, that was the case for me.

Make the time to cry, to grieve for all you’ve lost.

If you need to, pack your keep clothes, and store them in the bottom of your wardrobe until you can bring yourself to work out what to do with them. Pencil in a date for three to six months time and come back to it.

But as you pack, take notes on what’s there, just in case you come across a fabulous replacement for your black linen round necked, back fastening, elbow length sleeved shirt that works for you right now in your post-mastectomy state.

Write the Wardrobe Plan

We’ve reviewed and we’ve grieved, and now it’s time to move on.

1-2 Budget

Take another look at the number you wrote down earlier, and bearing in mind you don’t have to buy everything all at once, see how it feels. Is it realistic? Do you need more or less to buy the clothes you thought you needed?

2-2 Appropriate

No change.

But, it might be a good opportunity to reassess the places you go, and the activities you undertake to determine whether the balance of clothes in your wardrobe needs addressing post-mastectomy.

3-2 Style

This is where it starts getting tricky – do you want to hide your sudden flat chested status, or do you want to flaunt it?

To an extent, this depends on how radical the difference is, as well as how confident you feel. Not to mention the type and dosage of drugs you’re taking and for how long.

And while you may feel self-conscious initially, that’s not to say that in six months, a year, or five years’ time you won’t feel very differently.

Either way, you might find it useful to watch YouTube videos of flat or small chested fashion for ideas. The wonderful thing is, you’ll begin to see you’re not the only one who’s grappling with the lack of boobage.

Some of them (e.g., Jasmine Le), talk about what they like about being small chested as well as how they dress.

But in the meantime, think about what you need to help you keep going instead of collapsing in a heap on your wardrobe floor (beside your boxes of clothes). Clothes that:

Styling Flat Chests

Clearly, the old “rules” don’t apply when you’ve got a new body (holds true for transplants too), so some research is needed.

Information about dressing flat chested for the long term (as opposed to the first few weeks post-mastectomy) are few and far between, though Lisa Lurie takes a good stab at it, even if that’s complicated by fruit based body shapes.

For the most part, general advice from and for flat chested women consists of:

  • Diguising/distracting with textural details such as smocking, ruffles, ruching, draping, cowl necks, pockets, pleats, longer necklaces, bold prints, large and puff sleeves as well as oversize front details such as bows.
  • Flaunting with plunging neck lines, slips and lingerie tops.
  • Living with it and wearing fitted dresses, A-line, fit and flare, off the shoulder, empire waists, halter necks, strapless, t-shirt and sweater dresses.

4.2 Needs

Check your earlier needs, see if anything’s changed.

In the meantime you may have noticed other garments you need, so add them to your list and you’ve more or less got a plan.

You can read all of mine on my wardobe planning page, though given my mastectomy was in September 2023, the first of the post-mastectomy plan/reviews won’t be there until Marchish 2024.

Second Wardrobe Review

Now it’s time to check the “what in the cat’s fuzz do with this now” boxes and take another look at the clothes inside them. If you need to refresh your memory, try them on again and see if your thoughts have changed – dispose of accordingly.

The cat’s fuzz box comes in three parts:

  1. Alter.
  2. Replace.
  3. Go wild and get something new and freaky!

By now you’ll have an idea of what can be altered, what must be replaced, and what the clothes you need.

It’s still going to be hard. What with the drugs, the hormones, and everything you’ve just been through, your emotions are going to be all over the place (see the grief section above).

Alterations and replacements might also need to wait until your body has settled. Your surgeon or breast care nurse will be able to give you some advice on this.

You might heal quickly and easily and be back to “normal” in less than three months, or (like me) you may have complications that put you at the year or longer end of the spectrum.

The best you might be able to do is buy some new jeans (for happiness’ sake) and a couple of fun t-shirts just to be going on with.


Most of your woven clothes now have dropped waists and wonky hems because you’ve got no boobs. And some seams, darts and pleats are easier to alter than others.

For example, in an existing garment, princess seams (which divide a garment into panels), are simple to alter – you “just” increase or decrease the size of the panel at the relevant place. Which makes them a quick and cheap alteration.

Bust darts, not so much. You need to take the sleeves off the garment, take a wedge out of the garment, reposition and sew the dart line, then adjust the sleeves to compensate and sew them back on. If you can’t do that yourself it will be an expensive trip to the dressmaker.

In general, up or downsizing garments requires taking them apart to alter the pieces before putting them back together again. You’d have to ask the dressmaker to make it inside out so any faded fabric isn’t visible. And if you can find a dressmaker to do that, it will cost a fortune, because it’s fiddly and takes a lot of time.

Looking at your clothes, do you think your alterations are simple enough to be cheap? Or are they difficult enough to cost as much, if not more, than replacements?

If they seem relatively simple, or you really love the garments take them to a dressmaker to see how much they’ll charge. If the cost seems reasonable (or at least than a replacement), leave them there and hopefully you can bulk up your wardrobe back up quickly, easily, and most importantly economically.

If it seems too much money, donate the actual garment to charity, and add the idea of it to your replacement list.

In my case, I have two shirts that will be simple and cheap to alter. But, the bulk of my clothes alterations are complicated by the fact I dropped a dress size last year. And that means $$$$$.

I still love a fitted silhouette…


The likelihood of being able to replace one of your existing garments with a flat chested replica is small, but if you note the neck, collar and sleeve details you may be able to find something similar (the aforementioned round necked, back fastening, elbow length sleeved shirt).


Sometimes it can help to think of outfits rather than clothes. You can see some worked outfit examples here.


As it can take as much as a year, and sometimes more, before your scars and swelling settle down, you may need some kind of compression undergarment.

Your breast care nurse or scar therapist can help you pick something that’s right for you, but if you don’t have access to one of those, something with fuller straps and a higher arm hole to make sure the scar is well covered.

Not to say that you can’t or won’t need to go bare now and again, because almost all forms of chest compression assume you’ll have an implant or prosthesis (or actual boobs) and will tend to force the swelling into a boob shape requiring lymphatic drainage to clear. (You can do this yourself, but many massage and physiotherapists are trained in lymphatic drainage).


The good news is that one to two thirds of your wardrobe (again drug dependent) will still be fine!

Drug induced body changes are theoretically temporary, but we all know once you’ve put the weight on, it’s very hard to get it off again. Not quite so hard to put it back on.

Having said that, your skirts and pants should be fine – it’s just the tops and dresses you need to think about. T-shirts, knitwear, and other woven clothes can most likely be ignored until your chest settles (baggy works fine and might be prefereable), but your structured, woven clothes need to be assessed.


Similarly shoes will be mostly fine, but drug dependent, you might find your feet swell. Most likely temporary, possibly managable in the short term by loosening your sneaker laces.


No change.


The drugs may have effects on both your hair and your skin, which could be permanent or temporary. You may find your usual products irritate your skin, make your hair thin out, or you just don’t like the smell anymore.

Your doctor or pharmacist can give you information about what side effects to expect and potentially how to manage them. But your hairdresser and beautician can also help as they’re often hands on with other other people dealing with the same or similar issues.

You might also like to consult a dietician or look up some information about what to eat to support your hair and skin at this time.

Go Play Shopping!

If you’ve avoided the shops for a while, it’s time to go to the local mall, and see how some of the advice for small or flat chested women looks on you.

Even if you don’t plan to buy the exact garment you’re looking at, it’s worth trying most of the disguise/flaunt/live list just to get a general idea of what the lines and patterns look like on you.

Are you comfortable with tiny or no straps when you’ve got no boobs to flash? Or do you find more lacework or broidery anglais appealing. Do you feel self-conscious about the lack and prefer camoflage patterns or textural details?

Take a few photos to check with your besties, or look back once the exhaustion lifts.

Shopping for Real

Once you’ve had a play shop, adjust your list and go get it!

Wrap Up

Having a mastectomy is a massive change in the way you look and feel.

You’re pretty much learning how to dress yourself from scratch again, and it’s going to feel like life and death decisions. You’re going to make mistakes and buy things you regret.

But just like everything else in life, you’ll grow and change, and what works for now won’t work forever.

So, take it easy on yourself.

Pace yourself – you don’t have to create a whole new wardrobe all at once. Do some research, buy something, and see how it makes you feel post-mastectomy.

Good luck!

Photo of woman sitting on a rock watching a lake by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

For more, see my wardrobe planning page.

Signature Wardrobe Planning

Buying clothes seems easy, but getting matching ones that fit you and your lifestyle and share washing instructions is more difficult.

Signature Wardrobe Planning shares a plan for buying the right clothes at the right price for the right life. So you always have something to wear that makes you look and feel confident.

Discover the four-step system for developing your wardrobe plan. Buy now:

Signature Wardrobe Planning cover shows a woman holding up an evening gown.


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