The Art of Chest Binding
by Alexia James
Let’s talk about the art of chest binding. Our team has gathered information from the internet and the personal experiences of transmen, nonbinary, transmasculine, gender fluid, and other gender-variant people to give you the best start possible. We are here to answer any questions, fight any worries you might have, and most importantly, help you safely be comfortable with being you.
Starting with the basics, binding is when you take a restrictive material and restrict your breasts so that your chest becomes flattened. Before we delve deeper into things some very important things are all about your safety and wellbeing.
– It should NEVER hurt
– Never get a smaller size
– Never push yourself
– Do NOT use ACE bandages
Do NOT use Duct Tape
Whew, that is out of the way. It is no laughing matter though. Those things listed are just the most important safety matters. You should never push yourself and it should never hurt. It’s about becoming you!
The binder is a device used to flatten a person’s chest. There are many different types of ways that you can safely bind. The easiest one to acquire, and one you might already have, is a sports bra. Not one of those cheap 5-pack sports bras, but a good one with high compression/support ratings. This will help compress a person’s chest. Sometimes one is not enough so you can double up on sports bras.
There is a binder called Tri-Tops that has a sports bra feel, as in it stops under the breasts while looking more like a crop top. Both of these options are good for flattening your chest. However, they still may feel bra-like and remind you of what you are trying to get away from. Well, there is good news. There is another option. The last type of binder is a full-length binder. This one goes all the way down your torso like a tank top. It is a tank top that gives you a snug hug. It may take trial and error to find the binder type and brand that you are most comfortable with.
More information, websites, and online resources on reputable places to find different binders, new and used are at the end of this article.
The most important thing to know about binders is you need to get the right size. This is very important and leads back up to some of those safety concerns. You should always get the appropriate size binder. Trusted websites have some good measuring tips and charts.
Some pretty serious problems can happen from a binder that is too small. First, there’s breathing. Not being able to draw in a breath is scary. The feeling of suffocation is not a good one. And, if your brain does not get enough oxygen you can pass out.
Wearing a binder that is too tight can also cause reddening and irritation to your skin where the edges are. That may not sound too terrible, but it can be very uncomfortable and people get more irritated when they are uncomfortable (take a look at people stuck in a stuffy hot room). But, more importantly, that irritation can create open sores which are just a whole different world of problems.
A too-tight binder can also cause rib bruising, cracking, or even breaking and could lead to fluid build-up and things like pneumonia.
Being you doesn’t have to be painful. Hurting yourself, in the long run, will just cause you more frustrations, anxiety, and pain. We are our own worst critic. It’s hard to love yourself when you are depressed, anxious, and hurting.
Putting on a Binder
Alright, alright, enough with the scary warning label stuff. It is all about being able to help you love yourself so let’s move on to what’s next after you get your binder.
First, don’t get too excited, rip the package open and have your arms flailing as you try to get into your new binder. It’s OK that you are very excited. But, believe it or not, there is a trick to getting into that binder…. You have to flip it inside out! Okay, it’s a little more in-depth, but that is the premise. You turn it inside out and upside down. You then step into the binder and pull it up from the bottom until you reach your belt line are. Now use the straps and pull it up inverting it. Lastly, slide your arms through the holes, and BAM the chest binder is in place.
1. Flip it upside down and inside out
2. Step into your binder. Then pull it up. Stopping about the beltline area
3. Use the sleeve and pull the top part of the binder up (Flipping it so it is not inside out)
4. Put your arms into your sleeves
5. Adjust your chest
The binder should feel snug, but you should be able to take a deep breath. Take that deep breath as you feel more like you! But, if it hurts or you cannot take a full deep breath in, then your binder is too small.
Remember it should never hurt! If you start to hurt or are having difficulties breathing take it off. Take a break. Leave it off for an hour. If you are in a place where that may not be comfortably possible then try a long break in the bathroom and just take it off for a few minutes and take some slow deep breaths. You never want the binder to cause you injury.
Know from the start that you might not be able to wear the binder for long in the beginning as it takes time to get used to. Eventually, you will be able to wear them for much longer. The maximum amount of time you should wear a binder is about eight hours and NEVER sleep with your binder on. Some recommend finding time in your schedule where you are comfortable taking binder breaks for one or two days per week during downtime. Try to stretch your upper body daily and if you can, exercise to prevent muscles from weakening or shrinking. Some recommend not wearing them to the gym or wearing one size larger if you do.
Did you know that you can swim in your binder? But, it’s not waterproof, like a swimsuit. Make sure once you are done swimming you allow time for your binder to dry. This might mean you have to remove your binder for up to 12 hours. If you don’t let it fully dry out it could cause skin irritation and no one wants that. Think about when your shoes get wet and your feet get itchy later. You feel miserable. Remember, you are doing this to feel like who you are and to be safe and happy. Not to be unsafe and miserable.
Binder hygiene is important to maintain your health when wearing regularly. Washing well and in the right frequency can help prevent bacteria from building up in the fabric that is tightly against the skin often. You may receive instructions on the care of your binder from the manufacturing company. Some recommend storing a dirty binder separate from your typical dirty laundry pile or bin, washing by hand with cold water, and air drying.
Once the binder is on you must move on to clothing. You may need to adjust some elements of your wardrobe so you have more coverage if you do not want the binder to show (i.e. fewer lower cut necklines or tank tops). A major help to the binder is layers. You can layer your clothing to help conceal any areas that might cause your discomfort. Some choose to not wear tight or form-fitting clothing. Loose and baggy with layers may be the way to go.
That about sums up binders. Remember that it shouldn’t hurt. Don’t push yourself. Measure yourself and get the correct size. Now go off and safely and happily be yourself!
Finding The Right Binder
As mentioned above, picking out the right binder is very important. While most people think of Wal-Mart Online and Amazon first, many websites sell them new and used. There are also a lot of transmen/nonbinary groups on Facebook and Reddit where you can sometimes find people giving away binders for various reasons.
Here are some links provided by transmen and nonbinary people to acquire binders (new & used) along with some other online resources.
Always check the websites sizing guides and measure yourself to make sure you get the appropriate size binder!
gc2b.co has been recommended by many people and they are trans owned.
underworks.com has garments for all types.
aidenaizumi.com/the-binder-project.html gives away two new gc2b binders every month.
thetransitionalmale.com/BBUB.html Big Brothers Used Binder Program.
pointofpride.org provides used binders as well as other trans resources.
Binders for Bros: A FTM Facebook group for getting and donating used binders.