How Thrifting Helped Me Reclaim My Body

February 03, 2021

Guest blog by Tracy of Going Flat

In 2007, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 37. I had a mastectomy on my right side, 4 months of chemotherapy, and 30-days of radiation. I then had a prophylactic mastectomy to remove my left breast, and expanders inserted to prepare for my reconstruction with implants. After nearly 5 years of having my implants (they were painful and making me sick), I decided to “go flat”.

My choice after my surgery was to stay flat — I don’t wear breast prosthesis, preferring to go “au naturelle”. But this choice created a whole set of challenges for dressing.

What would I wear? Would I have to change my clothing choices to adapt to my flat chest? Did it matter if people noticed that I was flat? Would I be frustrated by the prevalence of women’s clothing made for “curves”?

I was an avid thrifter before my diagnosis. As a teenage punk rocker, second-hand clothes were my uniform. As an art school student, and subsequent “poor starving artist”, I could only afford clothes on a thrifty budget. And as a creative soul with a job in the arts, I felt that the unique finds of the thrift store gave me credibility and stepped up my wardrobe to just the right level of quirky.

So, as I faced this next phase of my life — my post-cancer life — I embraced thrifting even more. I was able to experiment with my wardrobe and really find things that worked for my new body. Sometimes I only wore things a few times before I took them back to be recycled and loved again by someone new. And, most importantly, my local Salvation Army Thrift Store was comfortable — it was a place I knew well. A place I could return to again and again and know that I wouldn’t be judged or stared at (even if the perception of people staring at my new body was only in my mind).

As I moved through my post-cancer journey, and through my thrifting life, I decided to give back to my community by combining my love of thrift and my cancer experience. I started a project called Going Flat, that offers curated, gently used clothing, thrifty wardrobe styling and personal shopping services. This project caters to women who have undergone mastectomy surgery and have chosen to remain flat, offering them styling sessions at no charge, as well as customized personal shopping. I also sell to and offer styling services to “non-flatties” who want to support my project. All wardrobe styling services and products are currently offered virtually to adapt to our present pandemic reality. It’s a great way to get wardrobe advice, and be stylish — without spending a lot!

I also recently completed my first online Going Flat 2020 Runway Fashion Show, featuring beautiful, stylish and FIERCE flatties. I invite everyone to watch it. 

My mission is to help guide women on their post-mastectomy journey to finding their new fashion voice through thrifting, as I did.

The Salvation Army Thrift Stores in Vancouver and New Westminster continue to be my go-to shopping destinations for my own wardrobe, and for personal shopping for my wardrobe styling clients.

Find me on Instagram and Facebook @goingflat, on my website at goingflat.com, and on YouTube at Going Flat Fashions.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Tracy Guest Blog Image

Pictured from left to right:

Tracy in floral H&M summer dress, from The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Vancouver 12th and Main

Tracy in yellow and black “op art” dress, from The Salvation Army Thrift Store, New Westminster

Tracy in off the shoulder summer top, from The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Vancouver 12th and Main.