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 human-hair styles.
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.