Your guide to plus-size binding

Binding while fat can be a challenge. Here’s what worked for me

When I first realized I was non-binary a little over a year ago, I didn’t think I had chest dysphoria—until I started dressing more masc. Every time I donned a muscle shirt or fitted button-down it gave me incredible gender euphoria. But it also made me really aware of my chest. That awareness became a discomfort that eventually turned into dysphoria. 

About six months after I came out, I started the frustrating quest to find chest-binding techniques that worked for my fat body and 44G breasts. Only a few binder brands make plus-sizes. Even among the minuscule plus-size offerings, finding a binder that fits well at the ribs and chest while still being tight enough to flatten the chest is tough. And binders are sold pretty much exclusively online, so you have to purchase based on measurements without knowing whether or not the garment will fit. 

I spent countless hours researching and hundreds of dollars on binders, compression tops and sports bras before I found what works for me. I also spent a lot of time crying when yet another garment didn’t fit me or conceal my chest. 

 Eventually, I did find some options that work—and I’ve compiled a list of them here. Whether you’re looking to conceal your chest with maximum compression or to find a comfy binder to wear around the house, these options might be the solutions you’ve been searching for.

For when you need a lot of coverage and compression:

All of the Underworks half binders and binder tanks I’ve tried fit me as comfortably as a binder can—and flatten my chest as much as possible. On the days when my chest dysphoria is distressing, my Underworks binders save the day. 

When I need my chest to look as naturally masculine as possible, I throw on a low-impact sports bra to separate my breasts (to avoid the dreaded uniboob), and wear the Cotton Concealer Compression Muscle Shirt over that. Typically, wearing a sports bra under a binder isn’t advised. Binders are very tight, which can restrict how much your rib cage can expand. Over the long term, this can lead to breathing problems or rib injuries. Adding the extra compression of a sports bra under a binder increases the constriction, which increases the risk of injury. But the Cotton Concealer Compression Muscle Shirt isn’t as skin-tight as most binders—it’s more like shapewear. With a sports bra underneath, I can still move freely, breathe deeply and it doesn’t pinch or chafe my skin like some other binders or compression shirts. Even after several hours in the Cotton Concealer Compression Muscle Shirt, I’m still comfortable, regardless of what the day or night has in store for me.

 

When I’m headed out for a few hours or less, I grab my Tri-top half binder. The fabric is a bit stiff and itchy and the binder rolls up if I have to sit down a lot. So, for me, it’s not comfortable enough for all-day wear. But it provides excellent compression and it gives my chest a fairly natural, masculine look, so it’s perfect for shorter outings. 

The Cotton Lined Power Chest Binder is a full tank binder that provides similar compression to the Tri-top. Because it’s a full tank, it doesn’t roll up and it provides all over compression—chest, belly and hips. This is the one I grab on days when I’m extra sensitive about how my clothes feel on my body. This tank is tighter and more restrictive than the Cotton Concealer Compression Muscle Shirt, so I usually don’t wear it for the entire day. But it is more comfortable than the half-binder for longer wear. 

All the Underworks full tanks are made for a cis male torso, though, so they’re pretty long on a short king like me. I can’t wear the tanks under tight pants or shorts because the seam shows through, but with looser bottoms they’re just fine. It’s also worth noting that you’ll get hot and sweaty wearing any of these if it’s even only somewhat warm outside. 

For when you need less compression and more breathability: 

On the days when dysphoria is semi-tolerable, I grab the Underworks Cotton Concealer Compression Muscle Shirt I previously mentioned—just without a sports bra underneath. Even without the extra layer, this full tank binder provides a decent amount of compression and holds my chest in place. The best part, though, is that it doesn’t feel like wearing a bra. Sometimes, knowing that I’m wearing a “women’s undergarment,” makes me feel icky. So, not wearing a bra but still getting some compression is perfection. 

If I’m not doing anything too active and it’s too hot for a full tank binder, I grab my TomboyX Compression Top. It provides decent compression, but definitely not as much as I want. I’ve also found that my breasts shift a lot, giving me uni-boob within a few hours. And it definitely doesn’t hold anything in place well enough for exercise. So, my TomboyX Compression Top is reserved for lounging around the house or quick outings. 

For when you need to work out: 

  • Nike Swoosh Sports Bra (XS–3X), price varies based retailer 
  • Nike Victory Compression Bra Plus (XS–3X on), price varies based on retailer

I teach and practise yoga, Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and since it’s absolutely not safe to wear a binder while working out, finding a bra that I could use while exercising was essential. It wasn’t easy, though. No joke, I spent over $200 on sports bras trying to find one that gave me enough compression and coverage to ease my dysphoria and provide enough support for high-impact exercise. I tried Adidas, Wingslove, Glamorise, Yvette, Under Control and Avia sports bras before I found the Nike Swoosh and Victory Compression Bra Plus. 

Even though Nike carries sizes that fit my measurements, I wasn’t sure they wouldn’t fit me right because most major brands don’t put in the effort to make sure their plus-size clothes fit fat bodies. They just size up their regular sizes, which often doesn’t work for plus-size proportions. But I was pleasantly surprised. Just make sure you’re ordering the actual plus sizes, not the XL and XXL. 

For swimming:

TomboyX Swim Sport Top, (XS-6X), $95.00 USD

This summer, I decided to check out TomboyX’s Swim Sport Top. It’s super comfy, and the fabric is definitely sturdier than the Compression Top, which is what I wore swimming last year. But it’s not super supportive, and it doesn’t flatten me out much at all. It kind of feels like wearing a medium-support sports bra. 

On days when the dysphoria is tolerable, the TomboyX top will work. On bad days, I’ll probably swim in a tank top. 

Binders/binding techniques that didn’t work for me: 

The Half Binder by gc2b is a cheaper binder with decent reviews, so it was the first one I bought. I really wanted to love it, but it isn’t made for fat bodies or big chests. Though the binder fit and provided decent compression, once I moved my breast tissue into place, it spilled out through the arm holes. I discovered that wearing a sports bra under the binder mitigated a lot of the spillage, but once I realized that doing so could lead to breathing problems or even rib cage injuries, I knew that couldn’t be the solution. So, the gc2b Half Binder is unwearable for me. 

When I first read about TransTape I was sure that it would never work for large-chested fat folks. But after I found several tutorial videos made by fat folks who used it , I figured it couldn’t hurt to just try it out. Unfortunately, after several attempts to apply TransTape, I was left devastated and dysphoric, feeling like there was no way to manage my giant breasts. Though I managed to tape my chest down, it didn’t present anything near a masc silhouette. I’m not totally sure why TransTape works for others with larger chests, but my guess is that their breast tissue is, for lack of a better word, squishier than mine. My breasts are extremely heavy and solid, so they don’t flatten very well. 

TransTape might work better for you, but I’d advise first-time users to go in with realistic expectations.

Finding the right binder is a journey, but it’s worth it

My breasts are a constant reminder that my body doesn’t align with who I really am. On the worst of days, just seeing the shape of my chest can send me to a dark place. Even on the best of days, it gives me a nagging feeling that my body isn’t right. 

But when I put on my favourite shirts over one of my binders and look in the mirror, I finally see a body that resembles the one I want to have someday—a body without breasts. When I go out wearing a binder, I know that my breasts aren’t on display. The relief is truly sublime. 

My mental health has improved significantly since finding binders and bras that flatten my chest and give me a more masculine silhouette. Hopefully, this guide helps you find something that works for you—and lets you experience the same relief.

Robin Zabiegalski (they/them) is a freelance writer with several years of experience writing about health, wellness, relationships, sexual health, mental health and LGBTQIA+ issues for digital media. Their work has been published in The Establishment, Kinkly, The Tempest, Heavy.com, The Inquisitr and several other digital publications. When they're not writing, Robin can be found teaching or practicing yoga, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Muay Thai, hiking, playing Fortnite with their husband, or chasing their rambunctious kiddo.

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