This is not our story to tell. We could try to come up with the perfect intro that alludes to some larger epiphany reminiscent of Brene Brown or The Queer Eye guys, but we do not. This story does not need that anyway.
We will give some background on how it came to be. When Ellen first moved to Austin from Los Angeles over 15 years ago, she ended up hosting a “Parenting for Music Families” class at the Gibson showroom she was managing. While not a musician herself, she was a single mother with a day job in the industry (which included the same long nights and weekends). Nanette was a single mom with a musician for an ex-husband and juggling it all when he was on the road. Needless to say, they bonded.
Flash forward to 2020. Nanette is a breast cancer survivor who is part of a growing trend of women who have joined the Going Flat Movement. For a myriad of reasons, these women make the choice to stay flat after a mastectomy. And while more women are choosing this option from the beginning, other women like Nanette had implants removed years into their journey of recovery. Here is more from Nanette herself:
Hello. I’m Nanette (obvs). I have lived in Austin for 32 years. I moved here for the music scene in college and never left. I’m a realtor which I love so much because it enables me to be immersed in Austin’s culture daily. I’m a single mom to two amazing adult kids and yoga is my lifesaver. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and I went underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. The type of reconstruction I chose was silicone implants. I also went through 4 months of chemo. I am grateful and lucky to be healthy since then.
In October of 2019, I had explant surgery to remove the implants and had what is known as flat closure. I chose to do this for a variety of reasons: It was coming up on 10 years since having implants put in, which is when it is suggested they get replaced. I had been reading a lot about the different types of implants, and although I was not experiencing any symptoms or signs of any complications, the concept of replacing these foreign items in my body with more foreign items became increasingly uncomfortable. The fact that my initial silicone implants were never physically comfortable, even after 10 years and the idea that I would have to repeat this process every decade seemed absurd. On top of that, I was never attached to how they looked, so remaining flat after removal felt like the healthiest most freeing choice for me.
I have a lot of survivor friends who chose no reconstruction from the beginning. I was always in awe of their confidence and grace but thought I could never do it. In recent years, the conversation about implant illness has become more popular as not just survivors are having explant surgery. I became aware of the breast cancer explant community and found many inspiring role models including one of my best friends, who took the plunge to remove implants and go flat. But while I was confident in my decision to go flat, my biggest fears were that I would regret it or not really be ok with how I looked. And I was scared about what people would think of me.
I think the flat movement is based on the concepts of body acceptance and an awareness that the choice to go flat from the beginning saves the risk and ordeal of multiple surgeries. The “movement” part of it is to open the dialog and make it an actual choice when a woman is talking to her doctors. Currently, it is not offered as an option. It is either overt or implied that reconstruction is the only way to feel “whole” or like a woman. While it is understandable to want your breasts back, especially initially, the dialog about choosing to stay flat after mastectomy should be included as a normal part of the conversation, as well as a complete presentation of ALL viable treatment options. You can read more about how people are working to change this at https://www.flatclosurenow.org/
I do feel much freer in my body. I feel more like myself, more open, and liberated both physically and mentally. That being said, getting dressed can be challenging and I do feel self-conscious at times. It was hard to accept at first because it brought back up the same feelings of mourning and physical pain from the first surgery. It was like I had to go through losing my breasts, making peace with my scars, and coming to terms with physical and mental changes for a second time. When I would catch a glimpse in the mirror for the first few months, it would shock me.
As far as dressing, at first, I was more focused on finding clothes that completely distracted from the flat. I gravitated toward pieces that had some kind of busy pattern, ruffle, or shape that camouflaged my chest area. As I got more comfortable to be more obvious, there was still the neckline dilemma to deal with. That means things tended to fall too low or fit too baggy because there was nothing there to take up the slack. Lastly, if you are not 100% slender and boyish, it can be harder to cover up your midsection. Again, with nothing to take up the slack, a flat chest accentuates your middle section. Finding things that fit in both the neck and chest area that don’t highlight my middle can be a challenge.
When it came to working with Elizabeth, I was hoping for inspiration and the creativity to step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to elevate my style a little bit to dare to be fashionable and classy. And I wanted to feel good about myself. I certainly got all that. I was also hoping for styling tips to master layering, and she was great at that too! The best takeaway however was to really feel good in something. To take note of that “ahhhhh” feeling you get when you first look at yourself and really like what you see. Once you achieved that feeling, then add those unique touches to REALLY make an outfit ME.
What I want other women to know is that truly any decision you make for yourself and your body is OK and you should not feel pressured into making a decision that does not feel right. If you do choose flat, just know that beauty and femininity and sexiness are not defined by breasts or anything external. Look for flat role models on Instagram. Follow the hashtag #flatfashion or reach out to me for any support you may need.
This post is dedicated to my best friend and flat inspiration Vanessa who passed away last month at age 40.
Now, we feel comfortable talking all things fashion and styling friends and even strangers all day long. But when it came to dressing Nanette, we did not want to leave anything up to chance (as Ellen said, “this is above our paygrade.”). This was not, “help me get ready for a date,” This was deeply important. That is when we decided to call our other good friend, Elizabeth of Elizabeth Elias Consulting. Jennifer has known Elizabeth for many years and seeing her take photos and put herself out there as she grows her stylist empire helped give us the push we needed to finally start our blog. She also started a #loveyourself movement, so we knew she was the perfect person to help Nanette dress her new body and fill her with positivity, support, and encouragement all day:
I was SO honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with A Fashionating Life, especially on such a special project. If I am being honest, I do not have a lot of experience with breast cancer and the multiple surgeries and procedures that support the healing of the patient. However, I do have someone very close to me that recently experience her own journey with breast cancer. It has opened my eyes and heart tremendously. So, when Ellen reached out to team up on this project, it was an immediate YES for me.
Nanette was such a dream to work with from the beginning! While I did not have exact experience with shopping for women after removing their implants, I am a professional wardrobe consultant and feel confident in dressing ALL SHAPES and SIZES. I was up for the challenge on such a worthy cause. Nanette was very articulate in sharing her individual style, body shape, and needs. She was also incredibly open and honest about her body. I think this is important to point out as this is such an emotional journey and I imagine part of the healing process too. We met at the fabulous Estilo to shop and style Nanette. We focused on flattering pieces for Nanette’s “new body,” but also pieces that worked for her lifestyle.
Nanette is a busy woman balancing her role as a mom, her real estate career, her yoga practice, and her social life. We were able to find pieces that were polished yet casual to fit within her life of wearing many hats and found ways to add the rocker vibe she loves so much, even in the most feminine pieces. My mission with every client is to help them feel more CONFIDENT through their wardrobe. I feel like we accomplished this goal together and elevated Nanette’s image as a breast cancer survivor.
We were so honored to share Nanette’s story in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. We hope you found this piece inspiring and empowering to live life on your own terms. And while our deepest hope is that you never need this information, we are also proud to do our part to spread the word on such an important movement. Women need to be given all the information available to make the best, most informed decisions for their bodies, health, and life.
Photography by http://Breezyritter.com