Fashion for a Cause

Indian swimwear designers have crafted a mastectomy blouse for women with breast cancer.

It was more than a decade ago that Simran Singh (name changed) underwent a "breast-removal operation", clinically referred to as mastectomy, in Chandigarh. A cancer survivor, Singh fought off the disease bravely but rues how "things were never the same." Once a smart dresser, the former school teacher lost confidence in her appearance and substituted first baby socks and later, a cotton-filled pouch for her missing breast. "There was hardly any option available here and I just accepted the discomfort," says Singh. That was before a cousin from Canada sent her a parcel of special innerwear for mastectomy patients.

Finding clothes, especially innerwear that fits well, can be a challenge for most Indian women such as Singh who have undergone the procedure. This is unlike in the West where brands dedicated to "mastectomy fashion" offer a range of options in casual wear, sportswear, sleepwear and even formal wear. So it comes as a pleasant surprise that India's leading luxury swimwear designers Shivan Bhatiya and Narresh Kukreja, better known as Shivan & Narresh, decided to use their craft for a cause.

The designers have rolled out a "Mastectomy Blouse for All" which comes with an in-built prosthetic breast which is also comfortable to wear. The blouse, incidentally, is a prelude to the mastectomy swimwear service that the brand is currently developing. "As a proud Indian intimate brand, we were aware of the most innate reasons why women in India feel less confident about their bodies and suffer from low self-esteem. The "Mastectomy Blouse for All" was our tool to give back a cosmetic solution to the cause as we felt that it was necessary when dealing with society, which can often be insensitive with a frivolous outlook towards beauty," says Bhatiya.

The blouse, explain the designers, has been cut and constructed around the Indian body shape using bodice blocks developed by the label to give the right fit to Indian women, who so far wear garments cut to European or American sizes. "We have spent six years researching and understanding the Indian body type. This skill of the correct cut, contour and construction is what we wanted to donate in this cause so that every woman has a right to wear a blouse with an inbuilt prosthetic breast that fits right," adds Kukreja.

The "Mastectomy Blouse for All" initiative — it was formally announced in Delhi on Monday, and the designers donated a "Mastectomy Blouse" to the Women's Cancer Initiative, Tata Memorial Hospital — aims to be an essential for all women who have undergone breast removal surgery, through collaborative distribution channels. The blouse, the designers hope, will be made available in villages, towns and cities across India through collaborations with NGOs and corporates working towards the cause. "The idea of the blouse is that it should be freely accessible to all women by becoming a part of a post-mastectomy relief kit. We are open to everyone who could help us in our endeavour in making a difference in the way life unfolds for breast cancer survivors," sums up Bhatiya.

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