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Mastectomy swimwear doesn't get much love. There are a few companies that sell it, like Land's End, Anita, and Amoena, but when I created a shopping challenge for myself to find a mastectomy suit I might be excited to wear, I failed. Or maybe, more to the point, the market failed me.
Actually, let me back up, if only to expose how my own assumptions about mastectomy and fashion aligned with the market's limited offerings. I feel a little guilty admitting that I was expecting truly horrible swimwear, so I was a teeny bit surprised that any attention had been paid to mastectomy fashion at all. There were a few one-pieces with some splashes of color that weren't so bad. I found a bikini or two that seemed sporty enough and not embarrassing.
But "not terrible" should not be the fashion benchmark for mastectomy clothes. A woman loses a breast to cancer. Does she have to lose her style too?
The mastectomy swim market is mumsy and conservative. I didn't see any cutouts or strappy suits, or attempts to offer on-trend styles, and very few two-pieces. The overall impression is that the market offers options for a woman to normalize her body, cover herself, and discourage attention. The main feature of mastectomy swimwear is the hidden pocket that holds a breast form in place. One company writes, "[our] pocketed swimwear gives you the confidence to show off your figure again." Another suit is described as "comfortable and supportive, this swimsuit has moulded cups and discreet, hidden pockets for prosthesis."
This marketing suggests that a woman who has undergone a mastectomy must want to keep her missing breast a secret and that she can have body confidence only when she can disguise her body.
But what if she wants to celebrate her new body?
This is the radical thought behind a new swimwear collection, Monokini 2.0. The project is the brainchild of Finnish designer Elinia Halttunen (PhD), the self-proclaimed "woman with one tit." A group of Finnish designers have come together to design whimsical, gorgeous swimsuits for women who have undergone a mastectomy and who don't choose to have reconstructive surgery. Monokini 2.0 "re-examines popular culture's narrow view of a woman's ideal appearance. We strive to expand what is accepted and considered beautiful."
Mert Otsamo, the designer of the "Katja" suit, writes, "I do not want to hide, I do not want to stop swimming, I do not want to undergo extensive plastic surgery operations, and I do not want to be forced to use the uncomfortable prosthesis on the beach. I want to feel as free and active as I did before my cancer, and Monokini 2.0 gives me a chance to do exactly that."
Monokini 2.0 gives women a chance to show their bodies as they are, without having to form themselves to a social notion of what their bodies should look like. Also, they are such cool designs. Drawing on the handwriting of various designers gives the collection a breadth of spirit and aesthetic that is as diverse as the women it is designed for.
The "Elina" is geometric and sporty, the "Virve" has a pinup vibe, and the "Reetta" looks like it grew in an enchanted, one-breasted forest. Each piece is more incredible than the last.
Monokini 2.0 is now fundraising through a Kickstarter campaign in order to bring three of their designs to market. They aim for these styles to be ready for purchase for Summer 2015.
Please let us know your own experiences and thoughts about mastectomy swimwear. What do you think of Monokini 2.0?