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.