Adventures in Binding

1 Aug

Note: If you’re interested in binding and haven’t read anything on it, I recommend Hudson’s Guide and this article from TransGuys as basic primers. They both describe binding options and where to buy or find binders.

Binding is something I’ve been thinking about, I guess, for around a year. Until now I’ve held off on it because I’m already pretty indecisive about buying clothes, and because I have a few assorted worries about it. I haven’t worn the binder much but since in my search for one I realized there are extremely few reviews from bigger people in the plus size range, I want to chronicle it in case someone needs the resource.

The reasons I held back were that I worry maybe excessively about hurting my ribs after all the reading I’ve done. Also, it’s hot where I live, and I don’t imagine heat making binding easier. It’s averaging 94 Fahrenheit (34.4 Celsius) during most of the day right now, about to crank up a few degrees this week, and typically it doesn’t cool down until October. Sometimes it’s still hot by Halloween. A couple of years ago I wore shorts on Christmas. You get the picture.

After a lot of discussion with Girlfriend (and being talked out of a last-minute reversal on the decision of getting one), I ordered a binder off Underworks a week or so ago. It took a lot of review-reading and deliberating but I settled on a 988 XL in white. A coupon saved me a few dollars (I Googled ‘Underworks coupon’). ETA: It cost $38.24 with shipping and the coupon, promo code under10, saved me $3.50.

Under the cut: description of the binder and its effects, and also some brief description of my size, which probably not everyone wants to read about.

[Image description: Photo of a white man from the shoulders down, wearing a 988 model binder. White. It mostly looks like a tank top. It’s sleeveless. He’s also wearing some kind of tight white short that may have a packing pocket in it.]

988 website description: Inside a regular looking cotton spandex tank top are double reinforced powernet panels of 30% Spandex and 70% Nylon. But these panels are only present on the chest and the upper back leaving your mid-section with minimal compression and very relaxed. This is the perfect solution for one looking for very strong chest binding without discomfort of tummy compression. Made in the U.S.A.

The main reason I chose the 988 was because I didn’t want a full-torso binding effect. I was too worried about the possible damage I could incur from wearing that (probably an over-worry, because tons of people wear other models), I didn’t want something that restrictive. The shape of things from the bust down isn’t something I feel as dysphoric about, so I thought I could skip it.

Also, I’ve read enough reviews that I think the white and black are somewhat different fabrics and have different feels, but I figured white would be less visible under clothing and it isn’t uncomfortable to the touch now that it’s here. I don’t think I could wear it as a tank top by itself because you can tell there’s extra material under the top, and also the cotton/spandex part on the bottom half clings, but I don’t know if the same would go for the black version. I don’t plan on wearing it by itself, either.

I’ve only worn it for one day, but I wore it for about seven and a half hours. I’m fortunate enough to fall towards the middle of a size range* (though on the smaller side of middle), which means it wasn’t hard to pick a size. That also meant it was snug but not too tight. I didn’t feel uncomfortable or in pain, though my breath was slightly restricted. And I was very aware of how my heart felt — but as you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m particularly worrisome over this.

That day I didn’t exactly test a full range of motion, as I was just hanging out with a friend, but I was able to bend over to pick things up, and flop around on her bed attempting to get comfortable enough to quiz her from a book while she took notes at her desk. I could also go up and down stairs in the regular course of moving around her house.

It did take some wrangling to get into. I did some interesting funky-chicken like movements with my elbows. Stepping into it was much easier than putting it over my head, and was recommended by a lot of reviews.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to change into it anywhere near a mirror, so by the time I was in it my brother had overtaken the bathroom and I had nowhere to examine myself except a hallway mirror. Also, I didn’t think about looking at myself in a bra first for comparison purposes.

I can tell you that neither my mother nor my best friend said anything about me looking different, but they weren’t expecting it, either. The binder didn’t leave me flat-chested but did make me smaller. I’d guess I looked, in a shirt that wasn’t snug, something like a B or C cup? I wear a DDD so I don’t exactly know.

One thing I had read about was the “uniboob” effect. I did think that the binder did that to me — but I also thought that you couldn’t really tell that if you were looking at me from the outside. Yes, I could tell looking straight down, but no one else is going to be physically capable of achieving that perspective. In a shirt that’s not too snug, and also not cut for women, I don’t think it’ll be an issue.

And that’s another thing, the weirdest thing was definitely how my shirt fit me from the bustline down. Of course, the binder just pushes things around, it doesn’t actually flatten. I don’t know how to describe it, but it felt like my weight was more along my torso than my chest. So my shirts were touching my stomach, which they normally never do, since my chest usually pushes my shirts out. I don’t know if that made my shirts fit badly or not since I haven’t had shirts fit like that since before fifth grade. It’ll probably freak me out after surgery. “What do you mean, my shirt can touch my stomach? I don’t understand!”

Consequently, I can’t actually figure out if I like it or not. I guess I’ll see.

I have no pictures right now and don’t know if I’ll take any, but if I do I’ll write up another post. And I may get Girlfriend to give her impression of me in and out of the binder, since she’s about to visit and I don’t plan on wearing it every day.

*From all the reviews I read about Underworks products, it seems that ordering up a size if you’re on a border is the best way to go at first. You can exchange it for a smaller size if you feel it doesn’t bind enough, but going smaller than you need carries a big risk of damaging your body, so you don’t want to try that first.

17 Responses to “Adventures in Binding”

  1. Tracy August 1, 2011 at 11:33 AM #

    I know EXACTLY how you feel. I’m also bigger and have really large breasts and the binder I have (also from underworks, but the shorter one) just kind of reduces their size and most definitely gives me the uniboob, which at times makes me even more self-conscious. Having your shirt touch your stomach kinda freaks me out and it’s been something I’ve become more and more nervous about as my surgery consult comes closer. Now instead of my breasts being my focal point, my stomach will be…not sure which is worse lol! But I totally get what you’re saying about it all. Just know you’re not alone :-)

    • ace eccentric August 1, 2011 at 12:37 PM #

      Yeah, I was almost more self-conscious in the binder at first because I was extra aware of how different I was than in a bra. But nobody seemed to notice, so when I wear it I’ll keep wearing big shirts and maybe I’ll get used to it over time. There are so few binder reviews for people wearing large and bigger that I’ll try to keep writing about it (since my surgery is so far off I may end up buying additional binders at some point). I almost got the binder you have but I’m a little under 5’3” and thought it might be a weird length on me. Which reminds me I should measure the length of the 988 at some point since I could never find numbers for lengths.

      It is very strange to think that my shirts will regularly touch my stomach with binding and surgery. I mean, of course I’ve seen how flat-chested people wear their shirts, but somehow I never wondered how that would actually feel, lol.

      I plan to submit to ChestBinders on WordPress when I’ve worn the 988 more because from reading reviews it is easy to feel alone … all the reviews seem to be from people a lot smaller than us. But it is good to know that there are others out there :) Also, I saw on your blog you’re having a surgery consult soon, I hope it goes well!

      • Tracy August 1, 2011 at 2:09 PM #

        What’s the url for ChestBinders? I would definitely submit a review as well. I’m almost 5’8″ so I definitely had a tricky time when it came to picking one out. I had heard that the longer one tends to roll up on taller-ish people, so I opted to go with the short one. It totally was tough finding reviews for pretty much anything for bigger people, even surgery. Most of the pics I look at are of super slim and cut ftm’s, and that’s not quite me lol. Do you have surgery scheduled, or you just know it won’t be for awhile? And thanks, I’ll be sure to post an update when it finally happens (time moves sooo slowly, it seems) :-)

        • ace eccentric August 1, 2011 at 2:29 PM #

 is the site. It would be pretty useful if I was near those sizes (although, there still was some useful information in it). I wish the Underworks site provided more information on length. I hadn’t heard that it rolled up more for taller people but that’s good to know. I found two reviews for bigger people on YouTube but I didn’t bookmark them.

          I don’t have surgery scheduled yet (wish I did). I’m still in grad school and know I can’t do it until after I graduate, which is probably December 2012 (unless I get a job and have to cut back on classes). Then it’ll probably be at least a year to save up, so the earliest I can see it happening is 2014. I added you on Google Reader so I’ll see your updates :) I hope something happens to make time seem faster.

  2. maddox August 1, 2011 at 2:21 PM #

    a) Somebody asked me on tumblr about binders for bigger chests, and there is a great review of them that I linked to. Tumblr search sucks, but this person posted it: Ask them.

    b) Underworks is a great first option, because it’s cheap to try out ($40 vs $80 or $100 for others), and I’ve heard it’s one of the best for bigger chests. They do run on the small side, so round up rather than down.

    c) For me, nobody noticed when I wore a binder (or even that I’ve had surgery) but that’s because nobody pays attention to that area. You just somehow look different. If you feel better and feel like you look better, that’s all that matters.

    d) Nobody looks like the super slim models on the pictures. And we all have different body shapes – my super shortness and wide torso meant I had to keep guessing at the size. And you’ll never look or be or feel flat enough. Layer or try out different kinds of t-shirts. And go back to c).

    • ace eccentric August 1, 2011 at 2:45 PM #

      a) Thank you! I will look through there or ask them if they still have the link on hand.

      b) I did look on other sites, and although some said they came in sizes that would fit me, there was no way to actually order my size. Probably I would have to contact them and make a special order. Which I might consider in the future if I start binding with any regularity. Probably I’ll just try out more from Underworks. For most of their models I fall in the middle of a size range.

      c) When I wear a bra and any shirt that is not very baggy, I get leered at constantly, so I’m unfortunately used to people staring there… but then again, I don’t really care if those creeps think I’ve got a bad bra on or something. It’s good to know that other people really don’t pay attention to that area though.

      d) I did wish that they had length measurements just because I was trying to figure out where the tri-top would hit me, but I bought the 988 figuring (as per the ideas from your review) I could cut the extra fabric if it was too long. I think one of my main problems is that I own very little clothing, whoops. I donated/threw out half my closet recently and I rarely shop. But during Girlfriend’s visit we’ll be going shopping for “shirts that fit the binder.”

  3. plaidfluff August 1, 2011 at 3:27 PM #

    For us MTN/MTF folks, know of any binders that do an okay job of reducing the gut and crotch?

    • ace eccentric August 1, 2011 at 3:57 PM #

      I haven’t looked specifically into this before, but I have read that people use compression shorts or bike shorts to change the shape of things below the waist. I’ve never had to shop for these before but I assume you could try them on at a sports store (or easily return them if you tried them on at home). Possibly combined with tucking that would help reduce the crotch? I don’t know a lot about tucking though so I’m not sure if that could be a health risk like binding the chest can be.

      I don’t know about binders for reducing the stomach, but you could look into “shapewear” and “body shapers.” There’s a lot of things designed for specific parts of the body: shorts that just cover the hips, or things designed to hide the stomach. I’ve seem some things designed to cover the stomach that also cover the crotch area (though I don’t know how well the fabric in the crotch would help reduce anything). I think that would be less of a health risk than girdles, which are basically corsets that stop before they reach the breasts, but you could also try those.

      For reviews and tips when I was shopping around was very helpful to me (scroll down to “Community Conversation”). I read and didn’t post, but everyone seemed pretty friendly.

      Hope that helps!

    • maddox August 1, 2011 at 7:02 PM #

      Yep, compression shorts is what I’d suggest – Underworks sells some, though I’ve never tried them. There are biker shorts, and triathlon-shorts, which are lighter than biker ones. Even a normal or brief-shorts type speedo might work. Or just regular Underarmour sport shorts which compress either way.

      For the “gut area” I’d also suggest Underarmour sports shirts which are sometimes tight and compressing but not as tight as a binder (because they’re for sports so they are actually very comfortable). If you’re small try the boy’s dept, which are a bit shorter and squarer, or the women’s which I find are very narrow and long and have that hip flare on the sides, depending on what you need.

  4. fluffy August 1, 2011 at 7:05 PM #

    I am definitely not small. :) Thanks for the pointers!

    • fluffy August 1, 2011 at 7:05 PM #

      Derp, was supposed to be a reply to maddox.

  5. Ily August 31, 2011 at 5:59 PM #

    This was an interesting read. I’ve thought about binding, although I feel that if I don’t change a bunch of other stuff about my usual appearance, I might be read as a flat-chested girl. It’s got me thinking…what do people look at when they read my gender? My chest, body, clothes, face, hair, voice? It’s hard to even know what *I* look at when I read other people’s. Is there any way to “unofficially” bind without hurting yourself? I tend to be hyper-aware of how clothes are feeling on my body, so I feel like I’d need to take some kind of test run before buying an actual binder…

    • ace eccentric August 31, 2011 at 6:20 PM #

      It would be nice if we could tell exactly what goes through people’s heads when they read us, wouldn’t it?

      For unofficial binding, I would not recommend an ace bandage — I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about it. I think the second-best method would be a tight sports bra, but that depends a lot on your size. If you’re larger, the tight sports bra probably won’t do much, but the same goes if you’ve got a pretty flat chest already. Hudson’s Guide gives some more advice.

      If you wanted to try it out just in the mirror (that is, just for a few minutes) I guess an ace bandage would be okay, but I’d recommend having someone else in the house in case you get it into a position where you can’t breathe and need help. I’ve read of people getting it too tight and having to frantically cut it off. I’ve also read a lot about bruising, breathing difficulty, and rib damage — so a lot of time with an ace bandage on is not the best way to go. (Plus, I’ve heard they’re difficult to keep in place anyway.)

      That said, with Underworks, they have a fairly decent returns policy. You’d be out shipping, but if you ordered a binder and decided you didn’t like it, you could return it after trying it on. That’s what I was planning to do if I didn’t like mine. (Also, I think you can exchange for another size/model without being charged the price again, unless there’s a difference between model prices. I’m not entirely sure about that though.)

      • Ily August 31, 2011 at 11:35 PM #

        I’ve heard bad things about ace bandages! Sports bras tend to give me a uniboob, but maybe I could try out a different one. I’m a C-cup, so not huge, but there still seems to be plenty to flatten out. ;) Thank you for the tips!

        • Ily August 31, 2011 at 11:37 PM #

          Ok, “not huge” was a poor choice of words :/

          • ace eccentric September 1, 2011 at 12:42 AM #

            No problem. :) I hope you find something that works for you!


  1. Adventures in Binding Pt. 2 « an asexual space - August 10, 2011

    […] was wearing the binder (Underworks’ 988 XL in white, and I first wrote about it here) but it didn’t completely flatten me out, of course, and then I was also carrying a purse. So […]

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