millie lingerie

every woman deserves beautiful lingerie

A little bit of fairy dust

It’s been a little warm today, hasn’t it? With the heat comes an extra challenge for women, like me, who’ve had surgery following breast cancer, in choosing the right bra and breast form. Read on and see if any of this seems familiar?

Like many of you, I decided to wear something different today because of the heat, and when I got dressed, chose to wear one of my favourite cotton dresses now that I can confidently zip it up again (last year I was too swollen after my surgery, common for most women after surgery).

The Anita bra (Tonya in cream) that I was wearing, though fairly innocuous, came up way too high for the sweetheart neckline… a fail. Plan B, Anita bra no.2. (Versailles in black), had the added bonus of being softer for this weather, but no, the same problem, though not quite as high up admittedly. Another fail. Didn’t really have a plan C.

In time-honoured tradition, a shared ritual of women across the globe, the rummage in the lingerie drawer begins, expecting that Tinkerbell has been in there and sprinkled some fairy dust over the bras that don’t fit or feel comfortable. We do this a lot when we get dressed, it becomes a bit of a habit. Nope, she’s stuck in a movie somewhere, not in my drawer today. 

But wait, I remember I have an, as yet, unworn Amoena sticky-on breast form, (Amoena Contact), “Feels like you,” it boldly claims. Does it? I wonder. How many women wear these and do they get along with them? It’s been in my drawer for quite some time now, and I haven’t fancied the idea of actually sticking something to myself. Well, if you want to wear this dress woman, you might have to!

So, I take it out of the box and with it, an M&S non wired bra ‘normal’ bra. After a little fiddling, it’s in place. The bra looks quite good, if a little tight, and there I am, dressed and ready to go. I feel deeply self-conscious about the fact that I wearing something that’s actually stuck to me, especially in this heat. Vanity over function? Hmmm, we’ve all been there.

I head off to my meeting, I feel intact and the breast form appears to be staying in place. I admit, I was in dread of it rolling about and making an unwanted appearance above said sweetheart neckline, (like the time my Gossard Wonderbra dropped a piece of booster padding in the pub), but to my pleasant surprise, it’s stayed put.

The meeting goes well, and so I decide to give the breast form and myself a test. I walk into John Lewis and head into the lingerie department. There’s a sale on, lots of lovely, pretty, colourful bras at 50% off. I don’t get too excited, I’ve been here before, and I’m not too optimistic.

The usual outcome when we try on wired bras in the year following surgery, is that our hopes of finding comfort and feminine style, are easily dashed.

Today I’m feeling lucky though, so despite the heat in the fitting rooms, in I go.

I chose bras in my pre-surgery band size, as I am still slightly in denial that I should really be wearing a 36C not a 34D (am I the only one to take in the wrong size?). I’ve been exercising and my daughter’s tell me that I’m looking ‘more like me again’. 34D it is then, ever the optimist. I’ve chosen a bright, summery coral and a striped bra.

Standing in the coral bra, the first thing that strikes me as I look at myself in the mirror is how narrow the straps are, and that the bra actually dips at the front to reveal a modest amount of cleavage; if Angelina Jolie can pull off a cleavage, so can I! Said breast form is holding in place (though it did drop out when I wriggled into the bra) and I don’t look too bad at all, in fact, I look pretty damn good all things considered.

Next, I ask one of the lovely John Lewis ladies to come and check the fit (yes, that makes me one of the 20% minority that’s correctly fitted) and she adjusts the straps and checks that the band and wires are in the right place and not too tight, then pronounces it’s the right size and is a good fit. Eureka!

I can’t quite believe it, I’m used to disappointment, and I tell her that it feels tight and stiff. She empathises with my situation, that having worn very soft bars for over a year now any wired bra would probably feel a little restricting, but remains confident that the bra is perfect for me should I wish to indulge.

I purchased the bra, John Lewis Amelia Balcony Bra, Flamingo a bargain at £12.50, sounds exciting doesn’t it? I’ve left it downstairs in the bag waiting for a rinse, and then tomorrow I might wear it. I’m nervous though. I’ve had the comfort and security of super soft and slightly granny looking bras for the past year, something awful might happen mightn’t it?! I’ll let you know…

I’d love to hear your stories of fairy dust and triumphant moments in bra fitting, post-surgical or otherwise, we’re all women first. Please leave me a comment and I’ll share.

are you happy with your bra choices?

tears in the changing rooms

I’ve bought pink ones, white ones, nursing ones, cheeky purple ones, in fact, almost every kind of bra I’ve ever wanted from the UK’s favourite bra shop. They sell £m’s each year to us all and are working smart and hard to design bras for women who’ve had breast surgery, yet still the experience of trying to buy one six weeks after my surgery reduced me to tears.

Why? I was invited to a ball; “should I stay in or should I go?” I asked myself, it was my first outing. It would mean getting dressed properly and finding a way to look like me again. I tried on most of the dresses in my wardrobe; too tight, too low cut, too anything other than how I was feeling (is that me in the mirror, really?). I was left with, well, erm, nothing to wear, no really, nothing! I couldn’t get anything to fit as I was still swollen all around my chest and I’d eaten cake every day since my operation, (purely medicinal and rude not to when someone has baked for you), so I called a friend.

She appeared with her arms full of fabulousness. Karen Millen it was, red, braver than I was feeling, but it fitted beautifully and it gave me confidence, on the outside at least. Now I needed a bra; the soft sports bra I’d been wearing for the past 6 weeks wouldn’t do. I had no shape whatsoever. It was time to go shopping.

I arrived at the fitting area in aforementioned bra shop and explained my plight. It was a bit like being Cinderella, though I had a dress, just not the right upholstery to go with it. The first lady who approached virtually interviewed me, at least that’s how it felt, and advised that I couldn’t be fitted so soon after my operation. She, like me, prior to my surgery, didn’t know how times and procedures have changed; I was medically glued back together, free of dressings and any risk of infection, but for a brief moment I felt like an untouchable as she said I was a ‘risk’ and I should come back a few weeks later.

The tears began to well. “I need a bra!” Someone heard me, and a hand was placed on my arm and it steered to me towards the changing room. Half an hour later I was sorted. I went to the ball, happy, though tucked up in bed well before midnight. Within weeks though, the bra was uncomfortable and redundant, it hadn’t been designed for the likes of me, and was misshapen, the clever padding which had protected my new contour had all but collapsed. It was the first time I really thought, ‘there has to be a better way to do this’.

A few months later I returned. By now, all signs of swelling were gone and I was looking quite depleted on my left side (that’s another story). I went to the fitting rooms again, but this time after half an hour, an arimidex flush, and generally feeling defeated, I did cry. It was when I’d paid for bras for my two girls who’d shopped with me (they’d been awash with choice, prettiness and colour), and walked away from the till, that the tears came. I walked out into the street waiting for the air to cool my red face. Again I thought, there must be a better way.

I have since found and become friends with an experienced bra fitter, a woman like me who had a teary moment trying to find a bra and turned her frustration into a business venture. I met her at a Lingerie Evening organised by Breast Cancer Care in Barnsley (more later) and bought four bras from her. What a night that was. Great fun. It really shouldn’t have been so hard though, or taken so long, to find a bra I was happy with. And I’m still not done yet. I want something that fits my needs, my style, and my shape. I’ve not found it yet. I’m still making do.

I’d like to invite you to join me, and together work to find ways of making it easier, more accessible, and just as much fun as it should be, to buy a bra that makes us feel feminine, comfortable and secure. I’ve already found women who see things the way I do; Elisabeth Dale writing in the Huffington Post, I couldn’t agree more!

Every woman deserves beautiful lingerie, me included!

Let’s start at the very beginning….

Today I’ve been very inspired by a talented young woman who won a tennis match. She steamed out of the blocks, looked to be setting the cruise control, then she nearly blew it. But she is a fighter, and she came back, strong and triumphant. She had courage, I admire courage, I applaud you Miss Lisicki.

My point? Like Miss Lisicki I have had my highs and lows, and now I am looking forward to more fulfilling times as I begin my very personal journey into starting up my own business in an industry in which I have stacks of consumer experience, but have a lot to find out about its inner workings.

I passionately believe that I, like thousands of women who have been through breast cancer, have the same right to get dressed in the morning and feel fabulous.

It’s the same desire that I’ve always had to get dressed feeling confident, being able to choose the right lingerie for the day ahead, but this past year it’s been a little too much of a challenge to find a lovely bra that fits, and it’s been much harder than it should have been (many stories to come on this theme, hopefully yours too).

So I am resolved to do something about it, and as I go I will share my thoughts and develop ideas with you along the way, and ask you to join in with me, have a formative voice in developing a new brand of lingerie from the ground up.

So for now at least things may look a little Heath Robinson while it all begins to take shape, but bear with me because one thing is for sure, it’s going to be quite a journey. Please join me.

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