PUBLISHED ON: 27 June 2015

Choosing swimwear after breast surgery can be daunting. Kelly Short who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 aged 31 and later took part in Channel 4’s How to Look Good Naked shares her tips.

kelly short, beach, swimwear

My body confidence was completely shattered after my mastectomy. I had previously enjoyed holidays with friends or visits to spas with my girlfriends. But after my mastectomy I couldn’t imagine wanting anyone to see me in a swimsuit. When Gok Wan gave me a gorgeous bikini the moment was truly life-changing. And now I know what to look for in a swimsuit I’m keen to hit the beach whenever I can!

1. Pocketed swimwear

Pocketed swimwear with a built-in pocket for holding a prosthesis is available from specialist retailers such as Amoena, Anita and some department stores. I always choose a pocketed one-piece swimsuit for fitness swimming. The choice is increasing and there are some fab styles.

For the beach I prefer non-specialist swimwear for more fashion forward styles. Some retailers such as Rigby and Peller and specialist online retailers such as About the Girl can add a pocket for you or you could consider getting the needle and cotton out yourself. I’ve even bought swimwear with removable pads and used the opening for the pads as a pocket for my prosthesis.

2. Prostheses for swimming

You can buy specifically designed prostheses for swimming. These tend to be lighter weight so they don’t drag down your swimsuit when you’re in the water. I like to use a ‘beanie’ from About the Girl. They’re filled with micro-beans that don’t absorb water like a normal ‘softie’. They’re also easier to squeeze through smaller openings such as those in swimsuits not specifically designed for surgery prostheses but with pockets for removable pads.

3. Bandeau bikinis

The bikini Gok gave me was a bandeau bikini which he had pocketed. The shape means the top has good high coverage across the bust but shows contours beneath the breasts giving a great sexy shape. Since then I’ve bought Seafolly bandeau bikinis from About the Girl who pocket them with matching fabric.

4. Moulded cups

Moulded cups are great to disguise discrepancies between the breasts. If you’ve had a mastectomy they also mean it’s not obvious that you only have one nipple when the suit gets wet.

5. Low cut one-piece swimsuits

These can work for smaller-breasted women who’ve had surgery. I’ve worn a pocketed Miraclesuit which had a very narrow but deep V neck offering good coverage of the breasts. It was a style that I never imagined would work after a mastectomy but it looked fabulous. As it was also a control swimsuit it offered great support keeping everything well and truly in place.

6. Mix-and-match bikinis

These are are a great option when you want a top with more coverage but don’t want belly button-hugging bottoms. I’ve even bought a top from one store and bottoms from another. This is particularly easy when choosing black but remember tops and bottoms don’t always have to match.

7. Halternecks

Halternecks are great as you can tie the straps around the neck as tight as you like to ensure it’s secure. I find that if I choose one with wide straps it also covers my radiotherapy burn and scarring just under my arm.

8. Ruching frills and patterns

These are great to distract from any differences in size and shape between the breasts.

9. Cover-ups

Cover-ups such as kaftans are great to wear over a swimsuit or bikini. I like to wear one with wide sleeves that disguises the difference in my arms as my left arm is swollen from lymphoedema. They are also useful to provide a little extra cover from the sun for skin which may be extra sensitive after chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

My top tips

Try lots of different styles – not just specially designed post-surgery styles – to find out what works for you.

Do the jump and the wiggle test to make sure everything stays in place before you hit the beach!

Content reviewed August 2016; next planned review 2018