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The 12 Wardrobe Essentials That Got Me Through Breast-Cancer Treatment

Photo: Courtesy Retailers

One of the more complicated parts of going through breast-cancer treatment is that it can feel like your body is constantly shape-shifting. It changes and fluctuates (weight gain/loss from chemo, new breast size from mastectomy/reconstruction procedures) in a way that can feel destabilizing and make getting up in the morning feel like even more of a chore — and that’s not even taking into account the daily effort of putting on clothes.

As a breast-cancer survivor who has undergone rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, a mastectomy, and DIEP flap reconstruction (where your breasts are rebuilt using your own tissue), I can say that fashion was certainly not a top concern of mine, nor of most patients I met. Still, I’ve found there are key pieces of clothing that can make what you’re going through just a bit easier, and help boost your confidence during a trying time. Prior to being diagnosed, getting dressed was a fun way to express myself, but during my cancer journey it often upset me — because every time something didn’t fit, I was reminded of what I was going through. For a while, I lived in sweats and barely touched most of the clothes in my closet. But then I slowly began to learn the tips and tricks of dressing my new body, and invested in some key basics that I believe every breast-cancer patient should have in their arsenal. Read on for the all the clothes that helped me navigate a difficult time for me and my body.

A shirtdress

If I could only recommend one article of clothing for someone going through breast-cancer treatment, it is a shirtdress. It checks so many boxes: It’s a button-down (essential for post-surgery when you can’t lift your arms above your head), adjustable (buy one that runs a bit large and you can just adapt the size using a belt), and also provides easy access for administering infusion or changing in and out of hospital gowns. Everlane is one of my go-to resources for shirtdresses, because it has a huge selection, all of which are great quality. The silhouette on this one is flattering, clean, and with the belt removed, it hangs very comfortably post-surgery (I actually wore it to and from the hospital for my last operation).

A button-down shirt

I cannot stress enough that, when you are a breast-cancer patient, button-downs are your friend. Especially after having breast surgery, because there will be a period of at least a few weeks when you cannot raise your arms above your head to pull on a shirt. I’m a big fan of Madewell’s chambray and black-denim button-downs, which are both comfortable and stylish. If you’re purchasing a shirt for post-op recovery, I’d keep an eye out for boyfriend or oversize cuts like this — they are going to be much more comfortable around the chest area, and leave room for things like bandages and drains.

A pair of leggings

When it comes to bottoms, leggings are the MVP during breast-cancer treatment: They can take you everywhere from lounging at home, to chemo infusions, to your first post-surgery workout. A good pair can make all the difference, and I like the leggings from Girlfriend Collective because they are not only insanely comfortable, but they are also made from recycled materials. I have multiple pairs in different colors — that’s how much I love them.