Breast Cancer Clothing: Bras, Scarves, Accessories, and More
Women with breast cancer today have a mind-boggling array of options, from wigs and scarves to specialty bras and swimsuits.
From the Top Down
For women undergoing chemotherapy, hair loss can be extremely traumatic.
Having the right head covering -- a great-fitting wig, a comfortable scarf that
you know how to tie, or a stylish hat -- can help you feel a little more
"you" and a little less "cancer patient."
Most of the time, says Kelly, women are looking for a wig that will closely
resemble their own hair. "They don't want to draw attention to the change,
especially in the workplace," she says.
Wigs come in several types: synthetic, 100% human hair, or a blend. True
European virgin hair wigs can cost $2,000 or more, while you can buy a
synthetic wig for less than $100. Most insurers will pay for a prescribed
"cranial prosthesis," but probably not for the priciest of the
How can you decide what kind of wig is right for you? Each style has
advantages and disadvantages, in addition to price. "Synthetic wigs are
wash-and-wear, and very easy to maintain," says Kelly. "On the other
hand, you don't get the movement that you would with real human hair. Usually,
if someone's very visible and is very concerned with people detecting that
they're wearing a wig, they'll go with human hair, understanding that the
maintenance and cost are a little more than with synthetic."
In addition to wigs, you can also buy several styles of "hat hair."
Those are hairpieces that don't cover the whole scalp, but are designed to be
worn under a hat, giving you bangs or a ponytail to frame your face. "These
too have become a lot more sophisticated," says Kelly. "The hair may be
on a headband, so you can switch it with different hats. We're strongly focused
on having the patient not look like a cancer patient, so these styles make more
of a fashion statement."
Many women end up wearing their wigs out in public, but relaxing in a hat or
scarf (or no head covering at all) at home. "Hats can be a big
accessory," says McLeod. "You can wear formal, dressy, velvet ones with
pins, or wear a baseball cap all day, all summer long. We have everything from
solid turbans to ready-wear caps with a short bandanna attached." Most hats
for women undergoing chemotherapy are soft, to be gentle on sensitive bare
skin, and have drawstrings inside to resize and accommodate wearing with or
without a wig.
"I lived in my scarves," says Rubien, a four-year breast cancer
survivor herself. There are long scarves you can wrap up, standard squares you
can tie in a triangle, and even ready-mades that pop on your head and adjust
with a cord. Worried that your scarf will slide off your bald head? Most cancer
boutiques sell light "sleep caps" or padded "scarf filler" caps
that keep even slippery silk scarves in place.