I had charged my way through a bilateral mastectomy, the reconstruction process, chemo, fear, loss of self, and loss of confidence. I had the scars, both emotional and physical. I had the appearance of a woman in limbo between illness and health.
With Tamoxifen weight gain and sensitive, stiff implants, my wardrobe became my nightmare. As a woman, it sucked. As a fashion designer, it was devastating. I wanted to wear my button-down shirts, my sweetheart necklines and, most of all, my delicate, underwire bras. But, my God-given breasts had been replaced by my McDreamy-given breasts, and I felt as though I was 13 again - trying to figure out how to dress these foreign objects.
Some may think this sort of vanity is a selfish and silly emotion. I had come out of cancer with clear margins, a loving husband and a great job. I was luckier than most. I knew I wasn't supposed to be re-living the fashion angst experienced by a teenager, but I was. And getting angry with myself for feeling so stupid wasn't making things easier. Every morning, getting dressed for meetings or client lunches, became moments I so stressed over. I couldn’t sleep. Something had to give.
I told myself I could continue to try stuffing my square breasts into my formerly circular life, or I could just change my perspective. I said goodbye to button-downs, to shift dresses, to restricting waistbands. I packed up my unwearable, but beloved bras and donated them. I started embracing maxi dresses and pieces made from modal or jersey fabric. I thanked Diane von Furstenberg for making wrapped garments fashionable. I found myself wearing more skirts and fewer pants. I began playing with necklines and clothing without structure - and discovered my love for belting and long necklaces. I turned my eye toward bohemian and billowy cuts, knowing I could dress them up and create my own tailoring with the right accessories. I learned power comes from within, not pencil skirts and four-inch pumps.
And I started designing my own lingerie, AnaOno Intimates. The way I saw it, at the very least I could have my pretty underpinnings back and control whether or not I wore a sports bra forever. And the day the prototype for my first bra design came, I cried. I cried for everything I had been through, and for everything I was about to experience. Then I started scooping up any item that was open-backed or showed it off.
I knew I was on my way back to my former self. Not my normal. (NEVER my normal). Just my new trajectory; my new chapter.
And not only was the bra looking pretty darn good, but, for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was too.