You Want to Bind, But You Need Some Help

feature image from gc2b

Q:”Hello! I’ve recently started exploring a more androgynous look for myself, and part of that for me is trying to make my boobs disappear as much as possible. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the size of my chest, but didn’t know how to put words to that, or that there were ways to feel more comfortable with it, until I started figuring out my sexuality and reading more about other queer people. Right now, I wear sports bras as often as possible, but am interested in getting a binder, just to see how it feels. Do you have any recommendations for a binder that isn’t too expensive, but will give me a chance to test the waters? Thanks in advance!”


A: Hello to you friend!! Getting a binder is an exciting experience in a person’s life, and there are so many out there that it can be confusing where you should start! Well, I have suggestions.

First, read up. We’ve published a few other articles on binding and how to begin that process right here on autostraddle dot com! Check out this piece Ali wrote about the gc2b (which is my personal favorite). Sonny Oram from Qwear wrote a super helpful 101 overview which offers tips for what to think about when shopping around.

It’s important to also be thinking about sizing while you’re researching. gc2b has binders that go up to a 5XL and Shapeshifters, another company I like, only does custom sizes, so it’ll be made to fit whatever measurements you put it. I mention this because I currently own like three binders that are too small because I refused to measure myself. Getting that personal made me feel dysphoric, so I avoided it, but if it won’t cause you too much internal stress, really try to do it. Or at least order a size bigger than you think you’ll need. There were a few days after I got my first binder when after wearing it for three or four hours my fingers went numb. Please dear reader and friend, do not make the same mistakes as me.

Shapeshifters gives you tons of tips for measuring yourself!

Once you’ve done your research, think about what you’re looking for in a binder. For a basic everyday wear sort of deal, I really love the gc2b nude collection. They have a brown that is really close to my skin that is great for wearing under anything crewneck. Depending on your chest size, think about if you want a full or half binder. I have a larger chest so I tend to go for the full binder because otherwise I get weird sweat spots in the middle of my shirt and kinda feel like my nipples are hanging out? But I’ve got both, because sometimes i want to bind and wear a crop top, so think about what you’re going to wear over it.

On the other hand, maybe you want something a little more decorative or custom. Shapeshifters is a company I found out about on Tumblr, and they’re great for customized binders. You can get racerback straps, make them thinner, add a zipper or velcro. Shapeshifters will even add length onto the bottom if you need it. They also work really closely with you to make sure you’re sized well, so I’ve never had a problem with straps digging into my shoulders, even though they’re thinner. They’ve also got the most amazing fabric options, like cats in space, glitter, and a color called “unicorn barf.” These are the binders I reach for when I don’t want to wear a shirt over them. They even will custom make a binder dress, which honestly is the epitome of my femme goals.

The binding dress from Shapeshifters!!

All of these binders are between $30 and $50 which is about the same a low- to mid-cost bra. Start with one binder and wear it a few days a week for a few hours at a time to get used to it (hang it up and spray it with a fabric spray between wears, wash it every two to three wears). If you’re on the smaller chest side, you might find that a sports bra works for you and offers you more opportunities to wear different clothing, but I know that for me, they’ve completely changed the way clothes fit me and I’m obsessed. I realized I didn’t like the way clothes fit me because of my chest, not because of the clothes, and now I’m able to dress in a way that feels more authentic and comfortable. Hopefully, it’ll do the same for you too!


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Alaina is a 20-something working on a PhD in Performance as Public Practice. They are a mom to three cats, they listen to a lot of NPR and musicals, and they spend a lot of time on Pinterest lusting over studio apartments. They are actively trying to build A Brand on twitter @alainamonts. One day, they will be First Lady of the United States.

Alaina has written 136 articles for us.

33 Comments

  1. so i got a binder recently, and i think it’s maybe a little roomy in the chest because i haven’t really seen anyone else ask the question of: what do you do with the boobs? like. am i supposed to be doing something specific with them? the only advice i’ve really seen on the subject was about separating the chest to avoid like, flat mono-boob, but tbh it just came out the sides of the binder for me so idk.

    • Hey! My understanding is that you should place the extra flesh down and out, so like… Down and towards your arms. I have to readjust, and do find that some flesh comes out the sides of the binder. While this look is no good when I am topless, it’s fine when hidden by a shirt. Hope that helps!

      I’ve heard that those with smaller chests can go for an up and out, but as I have no experience with that, I cannot say for sure it works.

    • In my experience, I put on my binder the old fashioned way they taught us to put on bras? Like bent over chest hanging just to make sure i get everything in there. and then I adjust from there–typically down and out. HOWEVER i just learned that pulling it straight over your head and just kinda trying to flatten your chest due to gravity/compression makes it more difficult to get top surgery later if that’s something you’re thinking about. I saw a graphic on twitter that I of course can’t find now that essentially was like the healthiest way is to have the fullest part of your chest in the center of the compression piece, not towards the bottom of it.

  2. hey ho! does anyone here have experience binding with a really large chest? I think I’ve heard from someone in the past that gc2b wasn’t really effective for the much larger sizes? I’m a 36HH and I don’t think I experience dysphoria, I just fucking hate my boobs, and it would be nice to have a sleeker silhouette under my high-neck shirts.

    • I think if you’re using it for a sleeker silhouette, it honestly might work. I’m not a HH, but I’ve got a larger chest than average and like the button gap on my button ups isn’t completely gone, but it’s like 75-80% less. Which is fine for me because I’ve got a fat belly anyway and if my chest was less flat than my belly I’d look pregnant which isn’t what I’m going for lol. So it’ll definitely make you look sleeker, it just won’t make your boobs completely go away, if that’s what you’re looking for.

    • shapeshifters sort of specializes in binding for large chests – as Alaina said, all their binders are custom made for each customer, but they started their company partially to fill what they perceived as a gap in safe, effective binding for folks with larger than C-cup chests (as well as, you know, custom fitted and fashionable binders for anyone!)

      check out their website & blog, they frequently answer people’s questions on Tumblr re: binding for various body shapes, sizes, health concerns, etc.

  3. Does anybody here have experience binding with asthma? I don’t own a binder yet but I would like to try it someday to see how I feel about it, I’m just worried about it affecting my ability to breathe. Would getting a binder slightly larger than my size work? Or is it best to just avoid it entirely in this case?

  4. OMG! Thanks for posting this! I have questions! Any and all advice is welcome.

    I’ve been thinking about binding for a while and have no idea where to start or even who to ask about this stuff.

    I’ve been a big girl all my life and I had gastric sleeve weight loss surgery this past year so I’ve lost a LOT of weight, but my bust is still considerably large. I’ve already got issues finding bras because a)I’m still losing weight and b) I’m having a hard time finding bras because my cup size is still so large but my band size is shrinking. Finding a 34 or 36 DDD is impossible or obscenely expensive. Also, K-Mart DDD and Lane Bryant DDD is NOT THE SAME.

    My main issue is WHAT DO I DO WITH THESE BOOBS? Am I supposed to wear a bra with the binder? They’re heavy, how are they supported? Are they supposed to just hang low? What do I do about underboob sweat? Will a longer binder also help with all the loose skin/sideboob situation I’ve got going on? I have a much smaller stomach now so any kind of restriction especially around my chest around mealtimes makes me nervous.

    Does anyone else have experience with this? HELP!!!

    • Generally you don’t wear a bra with a binder, although some people wear some kind of undershirt situation to help with sweat, or use baby powder or whatever. Basically the binder just squishes the boobs against you–in my moderately-endowed experience, there’s not a lot of “hanging” going on. The compression just holds things more or less in place. Usually I put my binder on, then stick my hand up underneath to position things to my satisfaction. I occasionally have to readjust during the day, but usually my chest stays put. I’m not sure how different that might be for you. I think the last time I bought a bra I was somewhere in the 32/34 D/DD range, but it’s been a while.

  5. On the subject of binding, have any trans and/or non-binary folks here gotten chest reduction surgery for gender reasons? Or know anybody who has? Or know of any resources about it? I know so many folks who have gotten full top surgery for gender reasons, and know folks who have gotten breast reductions for physical health reasons, but I don’t personally know anybody who has gotten reduction surgery for gender reasons. I want to do this, and want to do it in part so that I can bind in the way that I want to. thanks ‘straddlers <3

  6. i recently found a brand called mydouble design that makes amazing binders! i have one from gc2b that’s serviceable but not that cute or comfortable. i got one from mydouble design that’s mesh with a zipper up the front, so it’s easier to get on and cute enough that i don’t mind if people see it. so now i can wear a binder with shirts that have big armpit holes!

    note: i have a pretty small chest (32b/c) so i can’t comment on how these binders work for larger people.

  7. Thank you for this. I’m cis-ish (still working it out) and it didn’t occur to me that binding was even an option until recently.

    I’ve always felt dysphoric about my breasts but could never really work it out, then I had a baby and spiralled into anxiety about breast feeding for a few weeks before we switched to formula and it made me feel a million times better about myself.

    I love my kid more than anything in the entire world but I’ve really struggled a lot with how my body has changed since then, including my breasts growing bigger.

    I really want to try binding but I’m still working up the courage and it’s a discussion I still haven’t had with my partner (she’ll be great about it, it’s just scary).

    So this post and all your comments have helped a lot and I’m going to try to have that conversation soon and buy one to see how I go with it (I can’t wear racer back sportbras because they give me really bad headaches).

    thank you!

  8. I have a GC2B half binder. I was disappointed when I first got it, because I guess I’d had unrealistic hopes of what it might achieve. If you’ve got a larger chest, it definitely won’t make you flat… but, as I had to have pointed out to me, larger guys don’t have flat chests either. I also got weird bulges at my armpits, which freaked me out a bit. I felt like I wasn’t doing it right. –All of this stuff is why I’m really glad to see more writing about binders, because they help us have realistic expectations and learn how to work with any issues.

    Once I reconciled myself to the reality, I actually liked it a lot. I don’t wear it often–but it comforts me to have it in the drawer. My discomfort with my breasts comes on occasionally, but when it does, it comes on strong, and wearing the binder makes me feel safer at those times. It feels like a hug, comforting. It makes me feel like I’m less visible to men, at those times when men frighten and horrify me, and it makes me feel more in control of my body, at those times when my flesh seems too vulnerable.

    For the most part, I’ve made my peace with cheap crop top bralettes from the supermarket. They hold my breasts enough to be comfortable (I’m 36E), but they don’t push them up and out like more structured bras. My boobs can just hang out and be more or less the shape they are. Most days, this makes them feel unobtrusive, comfortable and perfectly ok under my men’s button-downs and t-shirts, long as those aren’t too tight. It’s really pleasing to have different options, though: with a patriarchy like this, I like having plenty of tools at my disposal.

  9. I bought a GC2B binder after I stumbled across a review here, about a year and a half ago. I promptly freaked out and left it in my drawer, until Hallowe’en last year. I was making a costume of a dude in armour (Saber Rider!) and wanted a flat chest for the pattern making. So I put it on when I got home after work, and then just wore it all night. It was great, really comfortable.

    Then I didn’t wear it at all until like, two months ago? (More internal freaking out.) And now I’ve worn it every day, barring the week where I didn’t want to explain anything to my Grandmother.

    Seeing the fabric it was made out of, I figured I could sew something like that myself, and did. Now I just need to finish this years costume, so I can sew myself a few more (that are a little tighter).

    I’m pretty small chested, so there isn’t too much to bind. But I still feel better wearing it! I’ve also realised that maybe the reason I let my shoulders slouch as much as I did was because I didn’t want to pull fabric tight against my chest, unbound. Without that, I’m standing straighter! 😀

  10. From someone who has cycled through Underworks (aaaaah, bad not good), then GC2B, and then finally had my then-girlfriend get me a binder by Shapeshifters as a present… the splurge was absolutely worth it. My shapeshifters binder is the most wearable, comfortable and pretty piece of gear i own.

    Origami Customs also creates affordable custom binders!

    If anyone lives in the Montreal area and wants a binder at no or low-cost, I’m like the local gay activist for you, hmu!

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