***Added note! Since writing this, I've tested the new breast forms made of memory foam, called "First Form " 916 from the ABC (American Breast Care) company. They are advertised as being more comfortable than regular foam leisure forms after surgery and/or radiation and are being marketed for newly treated patients, but they are also available for those of us who continue to have scar-pain. They conform to the scars easily at the back, but can be a bit warm if worn in a tightly fitted garments such as a mastectomy bra.
They weigh more than microbead forms, about five times the weight (at approximately 5 ounces instead of the 1 ounce microbead forms, though still slightly less than half the weight of a silicone form), but they are comfortable, look great, fill in the upper chest and the underarm areas better, and work just fine inside this slip/camisole retrofit because they are so nicely shaped to start with. Being heavier, you'll find that you need to adjust your shoulder straps and put a stitch through them to hold them in place so you'll not have to adjust sliding straps all day, but they do work great and I'd give them my personal recommendation for anyone looking for comfort in a purchased foam form, to wear inside this slip/cami.
However, they are expensive, costing about $200 for a pair of them. If your insurance doesn't cover it, the next best thing for comfort is the microbead forms, in my opinion. Plus, you could make MANY pairs of microbead forms for that price. I have some doubts that memory foam (with only about six months life expectancy) will last as well as microbeads during frequent summer wear and washing, regular foam doesn't, and they take longer to dry. I'll continue to wear my microbead designs 90% of the time because I prefer the weight (and the cleanliness of frequently washed forms), but I'd positively feel very comfortable wearing the "First Form" memory foam breast forms in this slip/cami retrofit, even under the dressiest of clothing, rather than suffer through the weight of my silicone forms in a tight bra all day.
By the way, I do not get any 'freebies' from breast form or garment manufacturers to test, these are just my own opinions from using the latest things I've chosen that my local mastectomy fitter recommended, and that my insurance would cover in my own circumstances. If any of you manufacturer's think you have something better and want it tested, (hint hint!) let me know. But be forewarned, I don't recommend anything that doesn't work.
Once you’ve cleared the breast form, pin a
straight line from the upper edge to the bottom seam (near the armhole area). You will need to leave a large
stretchy pocket opening on your pattern, so you can insert and remove your breast forms. You’ll note that there is some extra fabric
loose in that area, don’t try to smooth it out. The back pocket will stretch later as you’re wearing it and
eliminate the extra fabric.
You'll see what I mean in the photo below. Just pin over the wrinkles in your straight line, so your pocket pattern will have a straight edge.
Add pins all around the edges until they’re about 1/4th to 1/2
an inch apart. When you’re finished, remove all of them, and remove the slip and
breast form. You’ll now have a clearly
defined dotted paper pattern to make the pocket, all lined out in small holes left by the
Connect the dots with a pen or pencil, making a solid line all around, smoothing out your lines when they are too uneven, and
cut out your paper pattern..
Take a piece of stretchy swimsuit fabric, shown below in the flesh color that I almost always use.
There’s a reason for that. I’m sure that by now you’ve noticed that if you
lean forward, your breast forms often pull your bra forward and people may
catch a glimpse BEHIND your breast forms from your neckline.
It’s handy to always make your pockets out of flesh color fabric so that
it’s much less noticeable.
After all, if
we used bright white fabric here to match the slip, it would reflect and make
the ‘lean forward’ issue much more obvious.
:^) On everything but black
slips, I generally use the flesh color swimsuit fabric. If you’re going to buy just one color of fabric,
it’s the color you’ll need more often.
Anyway, use a portion of fabric about 10” by 22” and fold it
in half. You won’t use it all, but
since you’ll probably have to buy a larger portion at the fabric store and cut
it up, I just chose that size as the largest you’ll likely need, no matter
your bra cup size.
Cut it out through both layers of fabric, and
you’ll now have two reversed pocket pieces that go in the correct directions.
Go to the armpit end, that will be used for the
pocket opening, and stretch it. The
direction that the fabric rolls in on itself, will go to the inside of the bra
cup area. Don’t worry, it won’t ravel or run like some fabrics. Just leave the rolled-in edge and don’t worry about hemming it.
Pin one pocket into a bra cup area, pinning from
the outside in, so that you can remove the pins easily while sewing.
Be sure to pinch up the excess fabric on the slip bra-cup and pin it out of the way, so you won't accidentally sew through it in the next step.
Set your sewing machine at a medium width zig-zag stitch (on my sewing machine, it’s about a 3) and a length of about 8 or 9 stitches per inch. Starting at one armpit edge, zig-zag all the way around the bra cup.
Sew in the other pocket the same way. Here is how it will now look on the inside:
Here's how it will look on the outside. The zig-zagged lines barely show at all.
Now the slip will need to be shortened. If you’re comfortable with it worn at
waistline level, go ahead and make it shorter than this. Personally, like mine to be long, because
I’ve fairly active. It’s comfortable to
wear the bottom of the camisole tucked inside the waistline of underwear and pant or skirt waistbands. This makes it even more secure-feeling when reaching, concerned
that without a bra band your breast forms may reach with you and end up
uneven. I’ve never noticed that
happening when left long and tucked in.
Now we'll move the hem lace up to your new length. It’s easiest to lay your scissors slightly
underneath the edge of the lace and snip it off all the way around, but you can
use a seam ripper if you’re patient. I’m not.
Using the same zig-zag stitch you used earlier to sew in
the pocket, stitch the lace onto the bottom of your camisole, overlapping it
about ¼” over the cut edge. You’ll probably have a little
left over because it’s smaller than the hem of the slip was, so just cut to measure, overlap
the ends of the lace about ¼ inch, then zig-zag down across both ends to secure
You may have seen my ‘breast-free’ COPY YOURSELF mannequin
around this website before. In the
photos below, the microbead breast forms have been inserted into the pockets,
and the slip put onto the mannequin for a final fitting. When you try yours on yourself, you’ll
probably need to take up the straps quite a lot, as this is now worn as a long
bra and will need to ride higher at the bustline than before.
It’s at this point that you may notice some
‘gaposis’ at the upper edge of the bra-cup area.
pinch the lace or fabric up at the center front until the gap is gone, and pin... notice how the gap dissappears?
Take the slip/camisole back to the sewing
machine and measure how much you took it up. In this case, it was about 5/8ths of an inch.
Take out your pin and pinch the same amount on
the inside now and pin it again, in the same way you had it pinned on the outside.
You’ll stitch down a small dart that will look
like a triangle, with the widest part at the upper edge, going down to nothing
down below. After stitching it, cut
away the little triangle. Zig-zagging from the outside, go over the seam to
flatten it down and secure it further.
Here’s how it will now look on the mannequin,
see how much better it fits at the top?
You're all done! One thing I might mention...some slips have that funny little dart on the bust area that leaves the point showing even after being stuffed with your microbead form. It usually goes away when it's on your own flexible body, but shows up on the stiff surface of a mannequin. Some slips have different darts that look better, but this is the only one I had handy to make the sample with while making these photos.
One final tip that might make your sewing projects easier: You may have wondered why there's a small blue line on the mannequin over to the left of the photo above. That's where my 'chemo port scar' is located on ME! When designing clothing, I like to keep collars and neckline edges above it.
That's why you also see the blue v-shaped neckline marks near it. If you use a mannequin, try marking out your own trouble spots on it with bits of artist's graphic design tape or something similar. It'll prevent you from doing a lot of sewing on a garment that you'll have to throw away later because it shows too much of your own medical history! :^)