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Clothing and swimwear

Read our tips on what clothes to wear after breast surgery, including post-surgery swimsuits, bikinis, and sleepwear – and how to cope with body changes.

1. Finding the right clothing and swimwear after breast cancer surgery

It’s not unusual to wonder what your appearance will be like after surgery or if your clothes will still look the same. With time, most women regain their confidence by knowing what works for them and what makes them feel more comfortable.

You may also want to look at our information on bras after surgery for breast cancer.

2. Where can I find swimwear to wear with a prosthesis?

High-street swimwear

If you want to wear a when swimming, you can often find suitable swimwear in high-street shops.

The top needs to be cut high enough over the breast area and under the arms to cover the prosthesis. It also needs to have some structure, which is usually provided by cups. If you choose to wear a bikini top, choose one that comes in bra cup sizes, has a full cup and a supportive underband.

You could adapt a high-street swimsuit that has cups by making your own pocket to hold a prosthesis in place. If you do this, you’ll probably need to wear a lightweight prosthesis or foam leisure prosthesis as other prostheses may be too heavy.

Post-surgery swimwear

You may prefer to wear pocketed post-surgery swimwear. This type of swimwear can be found in some high-street shops, large department stores or from specialist suppliers. They come in one-piece costumes, two-piece bikinis and tankinis. You can use a regular silicone prosthesis or a swim prosthesis in a post-surgery swimsuit.

You don’t need to pay VAT on post-surgery swimwear if you have had breast cancer surgery.

Made-to-measure swimwear is available from some companies. This allows you to choose the print and design for a swimsuit, tankini or bikini.

Swimming with a prosthesis

Although you can swim in a silicone or foam leisure prosthesis it’s important to rinse it well afterwards to avoid any possible damage from the chlorine or salt water.

You can also wear a swim prosthesis that doesn’t get damaged by salt water or chlorine.

3. Tips for strapless clothes or narrow straps with a prosthesis

Some strapless clothes and clothes with narrow straps are made of material that provides good support or have an extra support panel in the chest area. This may be enough to hold your prosthesis in place, so it looks and feels comfortable.

If there’s not enough support, you could try:

  • Using a safety pin to attach a ‘softie’ directly inside the garment
  • Wearing a strapless bra with your usual prosthesis (providing your usual prosthesis is not too heavy for a strapless bra)
  • Wearing a bra with transparent or decorative straps

4. Tips for low necklines and low backs with a prosthesis

Low necklines

If you want to wear a low neckline but still cover part of your chest area you can try:

  1. A camisole or vest top underneath a V-necked top so that it is visible across the ‘V’
  2. A camisole-style bra, available from some specialist suppliers, made with lace inserted between the cups that will cover the cleavage area
  3. A lightweight lacy or semi-transparent top worn over a low-necked item, to disguise the cleavage area while still allowing the clothing beneath to show through
  4. Using lingerie tape to attach clothing securely to the skin
  5. A tie-in fabric panel that covers the mid-chest, sometimes called a ‘modesty’ or ‘dignity’ panel

Low backs

You can buy bra extenders from specialist suppliers and some department stores. Instead of fastening at your back, these continue round your body and fasten lower down at the front to enable you to wear clothes with low backs.

You can also buy bras with straps that can be crossed at the back, designed to not show when wearing tops with cut-away shoulders.

You may want to try going without a bra (see below).

5. Not wearing a bra

If you prefer not to wear a bra, there are ways you can adjust your clothes to wear them with a prosthesis if you want to. Try things on first and see what works for you.

Some women:

  • Pin a softie into other underwear such as a vest top or camisole
  • Use a stick-on prosthesis with clothing that has good in-built support
  • Wear pocketed clothing, available online and from some specialist shops (these clothes are usually designed to be worn with a silicone prosthesis)

6. Sleepwear with a prosthesis

If it helps you feel more confident or comfortable, you may want to wear a prosthesis in bed. You could consider:

  • A ‘sleep bra’ or very soft, low-support bra with a softie
  • Pocketed nightwear, available online and from some specialist suppliers
  • A camisole or nightdress with a softie pinned in place

7. Further support

Everyone has different feelings about their body and how they look after breast surgery. It’s natural to have concerns. You may wonder how friends and family will react, or what people might say when you return to your everyday activities.

Some areas have support groups, in person and online, where you can talk to other women and find out what has worked for them. Your breast care nurse will also be able to tell you about local support.

You can also call our helpline below for information and support.

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Quality assurance

Last reviewed in December 2022. The next planned review begins in December 2024.

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