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A Flower chest binder in Duelist's Garden modeled by DW

Custom Cuts: The Relaxed Fit

Chest binding, physical activity, and you.

Evening, shapeshifters! The votes are in, and first place by a narrow margin went to the Relaxed Fit.

Let’s start with why we made it.

Over the years many, many people have asked us about exercise while binding. To this day figure skaters, dancers, roller derby skaters, wrestlers, acrobats, archers, horseback riders, and circus professionals of all types ask, essentially, the same question:

Anonymous said to shapeshiftersinc: Hi! I just stumbled across your business and was wondering if you could wear one of your binders while exercising. I’m a figure skater and dance trapeze artist and I really dig how your binders are fashionable as well as functional. If possible I thought they might be cool as a costume piece. Let me know what you think about binding + skating/trapeze. Thank you ~

p-x said to shapeshiftersinc: Hi! I’m a nonbinary college student studying dance, and I bind for dysphoria related reasons. However, I havent been able to bind as frequently lately because of my schedule involving dance (im basically dancing every day). I’ve always heard that it isnt safe to exercise or dance in a binder, so im curious what your take on it would be!! Maybe my current binders (not purchased from shapeshifters) just dont fit well enough to be comfortable for dance? Thanks!

Anonymous said to shapeshiftersinc: Are you binders appropriate to work out in? I do roller derby and I really don’t want to wear a sports bra because they don’t bind as well I’m trying to pass as male in a traditionally all-female sport. Thanks!

Anonymous said to shapeshiftersinc: I know I probably shouldn't but I'm really uncomfortable with my chest during sex and I was wondering if there is any way to wear some sort of binder????

In short: can I live my life while binding? Can I be comfortable with my body, while I’m doing something physical that pushes my body? Can I exercise and be present in myself and not dissociate? Can you give me permission to live in ways that make me happy?

When I started binding, the rule was: never exercise with a binder on. Never. Anytime you’re at the gym, jogging, swimming, anything? Take that binder off.

Nobody I knew actually followed that rule. We all told it to each other, reminded each other, gave half-ashamed admissions when we broke it: yeah, I know I’m not supposed to, but I have to. That rule was part and parcel of the martyrdom of chest binding. Even on days when I wore my 2011-era binder and hauled a 40-lb backpack across the city and did not, for whatever reason, feel pain afterwards, I still felt guilt! For setting a bad example, for not following The Rules.

It’s past time to be practical. We all have to live our lives. Carry backpacks through school. Go to work. Move house. Roll a wheelchair. Breathe with asthma. Work at jobs with “must be able to lift 30-50lbs” in the description. Sing, LARP, commute by bike. We are navigating complicated and awesome and active lives. Here at Shapeshifters, we have always said that at the end of the day, you make the call on what’s best for your body and your life.

That said, our basic safety advisory remains the same: if it hurts, take it off. If you can’t breathe, take it off. During physical activity especially, it’s important to check in with yourself! Pause to stretch, take deep breaths, and ask: am I hurting and ignoring it? All safety guidelines for any kind of physical activity still apply while you’re binding. Living your life should not hurt.

That’s where the Relaxed Fit comes in.

I developed the first relaxed fit binder for myself to wear during yoga. It’s a quarter-size up within our fine-graded sizing system, which means it’s 1” greater in circumference. It never includes a stiff insert. This fit is a compromise: it doesn’t get me the kind of silhouette I want while wearing a button-down and a tie, but it holds everything still, and it lets me do a sustained 60-90 minutes of deep-breathing slow exercise without cramps or soreness. With a baggy T-shirt over it, I look the same as I do wearing my regular size.

Mine is an Incredibly Gay Viper.

(Image: The gay rainbow snek. I also put a side zipper in, because peeling off a sweaty binder is the worst.)

Customers who ordered a relaxed fit have reported back that it’s comfortable, sometimes to the point that they’ve forgotten they have it on. It’s been helpful for customers with asthma and EDS to bind without discomfort. Folks who swim in binders have given it good feedback, too.

As with all chest binders, it’s not a cure-all and it won’t work for everyone, but if you’re looking to bind and do some vigorous activities on the physical plane, I really recommend trying it out.

Here’s DW modeling a relaxed fit binder:

A Flower chest binder in Duelist's Garden modeled by DW
(Image: Model DW in a long relaxed-fit chest binder, in the Duelist’s Garden rose print.)

By contrast, in a standard fit with a stiff insert:

(Image: DW modeling a short Cleric’s Red lace binder.)

If you’d like your binder to be relaxed fit, check this box when you're ordering from any listing.

(Image: The Fine-Tuning section. Relaxed Fit is the first ticky-box.)

Finally, many of us (including me!) find that a zipper is really useful for a quick release when you need it. More on that over here, in our zipper guide.

(Image: A Voyage Home binder with a front zipper. Just the thing for an evening run.)

Do you have a relaxed fit binder? Do you want one? Is there a question about it I didn’t cover? Let me know in the comments!

*This post has been edited to fix image links and formatting.