The Black Dahlia

Take a look at this image:

What do you see, apart from a lovely black bra? What don't you see?

This is a lovely client of mine in her mastectomy bra. Yes, that's right, it's a mastectomy bra! This basic black bra becomes something special with the addition of this gorgeous embroidered tulle on the upper and along the straps. This bra was designed to be ever so slightly higher in the upper cup to cover some areas that my client wanted covered.

She chose this embroidered tulle and I wanted to be sure to use it to its maximum potential as there wasn't a lot of it. Covering the upper cup was the obvious way to go, and extending it up the straps provided a lovely scalloped continuity to frame her chest area. It was a little fiddly, but I really like how the tulle on the upper sits where it joins the strap.

Making a mastectomy bra is not very different to making a regular bra. The only thing to remember is that you need to sew your pocket into the cup before adding your channeling. There are various styles of pocket that you can make - some allowing the prosthesis to be inserted from the underarm or the side. I am not a fan of these methods as it leaves an opening for a wayward prosthesis to escape from if the wearer is very active. I make them the Beverly Johnson way - like a little mini pillowcase, the fabric overlapping in the middle. Once the prosthesis is in here, it's going nowhere!

The next thing to remember is that the upper edge of your cup needs an elastic edge which can be turned under or folded over to capture the top edge of your pocket. If you are using picot elastic here, as in the Chantilly bra I showed you previously, this is relatively straightforward. However, in this case I wanted to showcase the lovely lacy edge which meant I had to change my order of construction and materials to ensure that everything would work. So, in this instance I added a strip of fold over elastic to the upper cup pieces right at the very beginning. Then I constructed the bra cup as normal. When it came time to sew the pocket into the neckline edge, I simply had to fold over the elastic onto the soft knit pocket and sew it into place. You can't see the stitching on the tulle, it's virtually invisible.

Then it was time to make the prosthesis, a pair in 38B. As the prosthesis is made using the bra pattern, the fit is perfect. As in the Chantilly, layers of cut and sew foam are stacked and the interal cavity weighted. Once the back is securely attached, they fit snugly into their soft knit pockets.

Once the bra was completed it sat in the parlour for several days, waiting for its new owner to come and collect it. During this time, there was a party at the Weaver house where it was much admired and many of the ladies there were immensely surprised that it was a mastectomy bra.

I am so grateful to my lovely client for having the grace and courage to let me photograph her in it, and for showing that a mastectomy bra can be beautiful and fit wonderfully.

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