Genevieve Esgate
Genevieve Esgate
Julie Mazziotta
December 19, 2016 11:06 AM

Losing both breasts to cancer was already tough enough, but then Genevieve Esgate was faced with another problem — most of her wardrobe didn’t work with the scar tissue that remained on her chest.

Along with learning to accept her new, thankfully cancer-free, body, the Kingscliff, Australia-based teacher had to figure out how to dress herself again.

“It was a tough thing to see for the first time,” Esgate, 38, tells PEOPLE of seeing her chest post-mastectomy. “As I stared in the mirror, I couldn’t believe how different my body looked with both breasts gone. I was happy that it was done, but I knew that emotionally more than physically, I would need to give myself healing time to get used to these enormous body changes and what it meant for me as a woman.”

And then she tried to wear her old clothes.

“I was someone who loved fashion and loved wearing a range of clothing that is on trend and stylish. I found that I had very limited items in my current wardrobe,” she says. “This came as quite a surprise, as I actually thought it would be as simple as throwing back on my old clothes but it was actually much harder than I thought it was going to be.”

“Anything tight is a ‘no no’ without breasts as it hugs the scar area. Low things don’t work either, so I really had to rework my wardrobe and start over with my new body.”

Esgate says she tried searching for tips online, but everything on post-mastectomy dressing centered around an older demographic.

“All I could find were websites that had you putting the prosthesis in and the fashion was directed to more mature ladies. There was absolutely nothing out there to help the ladies who chose to stay flat and that really surprised me,” she says.

Instead, Esgate slowly figured out how to dress — and accept — her new body on her own.

“It took time to learn and it was certainly a lot of trial and error,” she says. “It’s also hard when you go to change rooms, as you want to be left alone more than anything. Now in a shop I am able to try on only about 20 percent of the clothes. I have just learnt along the way, trying different styles to see what works. I certainly don’t know everything or have all the answers, but I definitely have a much better idea than I had at the start.”

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With her new-found knowledge, Esgate wanted to help other post-mastectomy women, and started a fashion blog called Leave Me Breastless.

“I have had an amazing response, from women who connected with my emotional stories to other women who have gained the confidence to try some of the ideas I have suggested and come back to show me,” she says.

“I want to help other women believe that they don’t have to get breast reconstruction if they don’t want to, because there are other options open to them. It is still possible to be physically beautiful without breasts and clothing can have a huge impact on women believing this.”

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