Mastectomy 'monokini' swimwear helps breast cancer survivors feel beautiful

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    Mastectomy 'Monokini': Swimwear designed for breast cancer survivors

    A new fashion project aims to challenge the expectations of beauty, and show that women who have lost their breasts can still feel beautiful.

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    The mastectomy 'monokini' -

    "Monokini 2.0" is a social art project from a breast cancer survivor and a group of Finnish fashion designers, who want to challenge society's view of beauty. The collection is designed for and modeled by women who have gone through breast cancer, and aims to show "that you can be whole, beautiful and sexy even with just one breast or with no breasts at all," say the creators.

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
  • Mastectomy 'Monokini': Swimwear designed for breast cancer survivors

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    Sirpa -

    "On my long and sometimes tough journey with breast cancer, Monokini 2.0 project has been an amazing experience," writes this model and cancer survivor.

    "I hope that my picture will give strength, belief and courage to the women [going through] mastectomy: womanhood is not about all breasts (or not having them). I hope that within this project the discussion of these matters will become easier and more natural.”

    Swimsuit design by Tärähtäneet ämmät.

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
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    Kristiina -

    "I am so happy and proud that I can be part of this important and amazing project," says this survivor. "Thank you!"

    Swimsuit design by Outi Pyy.

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
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    Camilla -

    "When I heard about this project I knew I HAVE TO participate in it!" says this survivor. "The team really made me look good and were lots of fun to work with."

    Swimsuit design by Timo Rissanen.

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
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    Milsse -

    "Being part of this project has been very empowering and I thank you for that!" this woman said of her experience. "I hope that [through] these pictures everyone can find strength, courage and certitude to endorse her/himself. Everyone is perfect exactly as they are!"

    Swimsuit design by Tärähtäneet ämmät.

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
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    Virve -

    "It was an amazing experience to be part of a project as great as this," said this survivor. "I hope my participation gives strength and courage to my sisters in same situation. Living with one breast can be amazing!"

    Swimsuit design by Tyra Therman.

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
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    Reetta -

    "This is absolutely the most remarkable project that I've ever seen, heard, or been [a] part of; considering that there is no need to see women with mastectomy as sad [people]," this woman said. "It shows that project has achieved maybe even more that it originally was planned. Happy and proud to be part of it, a big thank you!"

    Swimsuit design by Vilma Riitijoki.

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
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    Marjaana -

    "Cancer has drilled holes to my bones and taken away my breast, that’s all. I don’t let it in my mind to steal all the precious things in me," said this survivor. "I've heard from many people 'you are so brave,' but with you, [this is the] first time, I really felt like it."

    Swimsuit design by Sasu Kauppi

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
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    Solja -

    The project's creators also want to "dig into the restrictive social taboo on what is considered appropriate — of exposing something that is not there," they say on their website. "Seeing an exposed breast is considered nakedness, but why is exposing no breast also considered nakedness?"

    Swimsuit design by Kaksitva.

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
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    Elina -

    "I do not want to hide, I do not want to stop swimming, I do not want to undergo extensive plastic surgery operations, and I do not want to be forced to use the uncomfortable prosthesis on the beach," says this survivor. "I want to feel as free and active as I did before my cancer, and Monokini 2.0 gives me a chance to do exactly that."

    Swimsuit design by Elina Halttunen.

    Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts

An array of swimsuits that reveal the scars left behind by mastectomy surgery is getting a flurry of attention online.

The striking designs, called Monokini 2.0, were the brainchild of Elina Halttunen, a breast cancer survivor who struggled to find swimwear that suited her after having a breast removed 10 years ago.

“The only time a miss my left breast is on the beach and at the swimming pool,” Halttunen told TODAY.com.“I did not want to modify my body to fit the swimming suits, nor wear the uncomfortable prosthesis, so it occurred to me that a simple solution to my problem would be to modify the swimming suits to fit my body.”

Katja Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
Breast cancer survivor Katja showed off one of the designs.

Halttunen made her own “monokini,” a sporty suit inspired by an orange peel in both color and fit. 

She reached out to Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metteri, a pair of Finnish artists who call themselves the Nutty Tarts ("ärähtäneet ämmät" in Finnish), because, she said she “thought that there might be others like me out there who needed monokinis too.”

“Nutty Tarts have been working with the questions of gender, sexuality and cultural norms through our art since year 2007,” Haikala told Today vie email. “We define ourselves as a feminist art duo who is not afraid of tackling difficult, almost taboo-like topics.”

Each article of clothing in the collection exposes one side of the chest.

Making of Monokini Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
Making of Monokini

Ten models, all breast cancer survivors, wear the designs in photos that are being exhibited in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and online.

Photos on the project’s website, www.monokini2.com, have generated a viral response, which Halttunen said she welcomes.

“I'm a bit overwhelmed but happy,” Halttunen said. “We obviously hit a nerve. This is one of those obvious ideas of which everybody thinks, ‘How come nobody has done this before?’ It exposes some restrictive norms.”

She doesn’t take issue with critics who say the suit makes them uncomfortable, including commenters without a breast who say they wouldn’t wear the suit.

“That's totally okay,” Halttunen said. “People should wear what they want.”

Halttunen models her bold orange suit in the exhibition, displaying both her muscular midriff and the bare side of her chest where a breast no longer resides.

Virve Kupiainen modeled a monokini for the project. Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
Virve Kupiainen modeled a monokini for the project.

A crowdfunding campaign will launch May 30, aiming to mass produce three of these swimsuits — Halttunen’s orange suit, a black and white one-piece by Tyra Therman, and a black suit sporting a pink tulip by Timo Rissanen.

The link to the Kickstarter campaign will then be available at the project’s website. Virve Kupiainen, who models Therman’s design, says on the website:

"It was an amazing experience to be part of a project as great as this. I hope my participation gives strength and courage to my sisters in [the] same situation. Living with one breast can be amazing!"

The Monokini team Pinja Valja / Project by Nutty Tarts
The Monokini team

The collection is called Monokini 2.0 in a nod to fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, who, in the '60s, created a swimsuit that exposed both breasts.

That design, like these, marked the changing culture and proposed new freedoms, just as Monokini 2.0 intends to do.

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