Chest Binders: Everything You Need to Know About Binding

Someone lying down wearing a chest binder

By Charlie Lewis - August 2023

Chest binders are used by people of all sexes and gender identities for reasons relating to gender dysphoria/euphoria, body image, and overall comfort. With so much misinformation out there, including vastly different examples of binding within pop culture, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive guide to chest binding. This guide aims to help you find the right chest binder and includes guidance on using it for all sizes and genders. It also highlights personal examples from an experienced binder users.

Note to the readers: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This article is also not sponsored any chest binding brand/manufacturer.

What Is a Chest Binder? 

A chest binder refers to a garment for binding one’s chest. Sometimes referred to as “compression vests” or “compression garments.” Chest binders, often known as just “binders” are typically made with stretchy material that lies against your skin, and a panel of a more constrictive fabric that uses compression to redistribute tissue and flatten the chest. If properly constructed, well-fitting, and worn according to the manufacturer’s (and your doctor’s) recommendations, these are satisfying option to change your silhouette and induce gender euphoria. 

What is Chest Binding?

Chest binding is the practice of flattening and re-distributing breast tissue to achieve the appearance of a flat chest. This is accomplished using constrictive materials, such as spandex or other forms of fabric/textiles. Historically, binding has been present in many societies worldwide. Garments such as corsets, wrapping, and chest plates have been used to flatten the chest. While we can learn from these historical examples, many traditional binding methods are not a safe way to achieve a flatter chest. They can constrict breathing and cause musculoskeletal and skin damage. This includes binding with ace bandages/medical wrapping.

Who Needs/Uses a Chest Binder?

Different people use a chest binder for different reasons. Overall, people with breasts who experience gender dysphoria are the most common users of chest binders. However, many people use binders beyond those who are non binary, FTM, or transmasculine.  

Trans men and non binary people use binders to achieve the appearance of a flat or “masculine” chest, most often to combat dysphoria from not having a flat chest, and to feel gender euphoria by having their body align with their identity. Some use binders for reasons of safety when it makes sense to be less “visibly” trans for protective reasons.

Women, both trans and cis, use binders for cosplay, body/gender expression, drag, fitting into certain clothing, or other situations related to safety, where having visible breasts might not be desired. Drag kings of all genders use binders to put together their drag looks and to present more masculine.

Cisgender men who have a large amount of breast tissue, a condition called gynecomastia, use binders. Some of the first binders on the market, from Underworks, were created for and marketed toward cis men with gynecomastia.

Matt is a trans male artist from Poland. I spoke to him about his experience with dysphoria and the personal and societal reasons he chooses to use chest binders.

“It's not as much my personal dysphoria driven. It's more the social dysphoria, the social perception of people. That’s pretty much the only reason for me. And yet, the clothes have to fit perfectly. In fashion, the fit has gotta be right.”

Different Types of Chest Binders

Tank style

This binder style includes a panel for compression across your chest and a long, usually stretchy, section around your back and midsection. This can make it easier to keep the lines of your silhouette smooth, as the bottom can be tucked into a hemline and easily hidden. It also makes it easier to tug on and off, because there is more material to grab.

Half tank

This style is essentially identical to the full tank, but with far less material to cover the belly or below the ribs. This can be more comfortable on hot days, and easier to move in for things like sports. However, it can be more obvious that you are wearing a binder, as tight clothing will show the bottom line of the garment.


This type of binder usually comes in the same size as a half-tank but features an x-shaped back design, rather than one strap over each shoulder. This can be less comfortable to wear for long periods, but it can be easier to hide without straps poking out, and some users may feel more supported by the design. 


These binders come in all of the styles previously listed and consist of a garment that is applied by pulling over your head (or up from around your legs) and has no other fastening system. These binders provide some of the most even compression, as the compression isn’t interrupted by a zipper or other fastening system. This does make them slightly trickier to get on by yourself, but after a few practice rounds pulling it on and off most will get the hang of it.

Zip-up/Front close

This kind of binder is put on by inserting your arms and zipping up in the center of the chest. Binders with centered zippers have less flattening ability as they will not have full compression across the chest. It also might be easier to spot depending on the size/prevalence of the zipper. Similarly, some binders will use hook and clasp connectors in the center in place of a zipper, this kind might be less visible through clothing.

Do not purchase binders with hooks or zippers on one side, instead of in the center, as they will not give you even compression. Alex spoke to me about the long-term effects of wearing binders with side closures when he began binding,

“When I run my hands down my ribs it’s like one side is bigger than the other. You can feel the grooves in my ribs from that unequal compression”


Strapless binders are a single piece of fabric with a panel in the front which do not use straps. Though you may find yourself needing to adjust them more frequently, they are good options for outfits where having a binder showing is less ideal. Ensure the proper fit, as too tight could have negative consequences to health, but too loose could lead to the binder falling off without straps to hold it up.

Swim binders

Swim binders refer to any binder that is made to go in the water. Some binders are versatile and can be worn in and out of the water, while others are made specifically to be paired with swimsuits. Remember to pay attention to your comfort levels while swimming in a binder, and don’t push yourself too hard.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Using a Chest Binder 

Benefits of Using a Chest Binder

The largest reported benefit of wearing a binder is that of gender euphoria, and self-confidence, as well as alignment of body and self. Binders are very useful tools for those who experience gender dysphoria. When moving through the world, binders help people to be misgendered far less, helping you to feel seen as and affirmed in your gender by yourself and those around you.

Top surgery, which generally refers to the removal or reduction of breast tissue for those who are transmasculine or non-binary, is not accessible for everyone, due to financial status, lack of support, or access to healthcare. Some choose not to undergo surgery for personal reasons. Binders are a far more accessible way for those with dysphoria to present in the way they feel most comfortable, without surgery.

For some non-binary people, binders allow them to pick and choose how their body is shaped, to feel aligned with a more fluid presentation, sometimes having a flat chest and other times going without binding their breasts.

Matt spoke to me about how freeing it feels to wear a binder in his everyday life,

“The confidence is absolute— there’s nothing like it. I'm more secure in how I'm perceived. I don't feel like I have to hide anything. And I like looking good and feeling good like everybody does. Just the ease of existence, it is so different.”

 Matt also talked about his passion for historical fashion and the ways binders allow him to pursue that interest, including by combining historical garments such as stays (a pre-cursor to the corset) with more modern styles of binding,

“I saw there's a super cool creator, Marlowe, and they took a stays pattern and modified it so they could fit a masc-presenting silhouette. It looks amazing, the fashion and aesthetics.”

Risks of Using a Chest Binder

The biggest risk of wearing a binder is long-term musculoskeletal damage to the ribcage and surrounding muscles and tissues. This is often the result of improper binder use, or binding using improper tools. These safety guidelines will ensure you mitigate risk as much as possible when binding.

Never wear two binders at once or purposely go down in size to achieve more compression. This applies too much compression on your chest/ribs and can have serious consequences for your health. Though binders can sometimes be uncomfortable, never continue to bind if you’re in pain or cannot take full breaths.

Only wear binders for 8 hours at a time. For many who work in the public sphere, this is difficult, and they end up wearing them longer. It’s important to give yourself breaks as much as you can, as the risk of musculoskeletal damage goes up severely after 8 hours of continuous use.

Alex, the founder of Valid USA, a non-profit that focuses on supplying binders to trans youth, spoke about his feelings of safety when binding publicly.

“Sometimes it puts me in situations where I don't feel safe, such as if I was to change at a gym or if I was trying to go swimming, just wearing a binder. You're not supposed to work out in binders as much. So, I don't participate in as many physical activities as I'd like to.”

Even when binding properly and for the correct amount of time, long-term binding can affect your health, so it’s recommended you consult with your doctor if you’re thinking about binding, or already have experience. This will help you be aware of and mitigate your personal risk factors. For those with respiratory conditions like asthma, wearing a binder might be riskier than it is for others, for example.

Matt touched further on the long-term effects he has noticed after six years of regular chest-binding.

“I've noticed some slight tolls it has taken on my body. I do traditional printmaking at university, and we have some machines that require a lot of chest muscles action. I can feel it sometimes when I try to push something really hard. I was like, ‘Oh my rib, something happened in there.’

Hot to Put on a Chest Binder

Putting on a binder for the first time can be daunting. Here are some different ways of putting on a chest binder:

(ALT TEXT: A non-binary person with light skin and medium-length blonde hair pulls a skin-toned binder over their head. There is a light pink background and they are looking off-camera. Photo supplied by the author.)

The Overhead

The simplest way of putting on a binder is to pull it over your head like a tank top/sports bra. This can depend on the fit of the binder and how broad your shoulders/chest area is. If you hear tearing noises or feel like you’re dislocating your shoulder, stop immediately. Your binder might be too small and could cause damage.

The Flip-Trick

Turn your binder inside-out, and step into it like a pair of shorts. Pull it up to your hips if it’s a full tank style, or your waist if it’s a half-tank. Then flip it right-side-up, and put your arms through the holes.

Having Assistance

Another set of eyes/hands can be helpful. If you have someone you feel comfortable being topless in front of, they can aid in the application process. Stand with your arms up as they pull it over your head. Or they can spot you while you put it on yourself, letting you know if anything looks off once it’s on.

How to Adjust a Chest Binder

Once you put in the chest binder, adjust your tissue until you are comfortable. It should feel snug but not painful. Separating your breasts can help aid in the process of flattening, and will hold your tissue in place more easily.

Pay attention to your comfort levels. See if you can move your arms up and down if you can twist around, and if your binder stays in place through all of that without cutting off circulation or causing you pain.

Go slow, and take breaks as needed. Listen to the signals your body is sending you, and prepare for a range of emotional effects that come with binding, especially in public spaces.

How to Take Off a Chest Binder

Getting out of your binder is a lot like getting into it, but backward. Here are some tips on escaping the garment and ensuring your body is ready to keep binding.

Flip It Back

You can pull out your arms and flip the binder inside out, shimmying out of it and pulling it down your legs, until you can easily step out.

Head first

Grab it from the bottom, peeling it up and off until you can slip it over your head and remove your arms. If this is too tricky or leaves your shoulders aching, you can pull out one arm, put it inside your binder, and then pull it off from the side first.

Assistance May Be Necessary

Have your trusted helper return for the removal. You can put your arms up, and they can easily pull it over your head and off of your body.

Binding Aftercare 

When you’re done wearing your binder for the day, or are taking a break, it’s essential to care for your body. Moisturizing the skin which is constrained by your binder will keep it healthy. Massage the tissue and muscles which lay under your binder. Stretch your body, after being compressed for long periods it’s good to let your muscles and skeleton expand. Keep your binder clean to avoid excess sweating and potential infection.

Chest Binding Tips 

Binding can be an overwhelming experience physically and emotionally. The highs and lows of gender euphoria and dysphoria can cause unexpected reactions. Prepare for the emotional rollercoaster, take time and space to process your experience, which allows you to figure out what binding looks like for you.

After acquiring a well-fitting binder, try on tops/clothing to see which looks best with your binder. Some garments make it more obvious that you are wearing a binder. With the right fit, you can move through the world confidently while binding!

Matt shared his biggest tip for finding the right binder, and how to accessibly try out different options when it comes to style, size, or brand.

“Try to find someone who is a similar build as you. Find people who are similar to you in lifestyle. I am not an athletic person. Binding for exercising, those rules of binding are probably much different. Find help in your community....Also, so many people will give away their old stuff. Try things out. Because you’ve gotta know how your body works in this unconventional situation.”

Wash your binder often, especially if you’re perspiring heavily, such as when exercising, working, or spending time in the heat. So you are not opening yourself up to bacteria which could harm your skin or lead to infection and you feel fresh and confident wearing your binder without worrying about odor or stains/discoloration to the binder itself.

Chest Binder Buyer's Guide

Where to Buy a Chest Binder

Binders are sometimes carried at trans-friendly bra/lingerie stores, queer-friendly sex toy boutiques, and some inclusive second-hand shops. As it’s far less common to be able to find/buy a binder in person, most binders are purchased over the Internet.

Finding the correct sizing for your body can be tricky since you don’t often get the chance to try things on before purchase. To get a proper fit, measure your upper body, and compare it to the sizing chart on the manufacturer's website, this way you can reduce the likelihood of wearing an ill-fitting binder or having to return your order.

What to Look For

Look for trans-owned companies, brands that are inclusive of your size, and good reviews from other people with your body type. Brands whose advertisements include models with different body sizes will give you an idea of the binder’s fit. Check reviews before purchase to find out if the binders run small, large, or as expected.

Chest Binder Brands


GC2B is trans-owned, and sizing guidance is included. Exchanges will be free if they don’t get it right. GC2B gives back to the community, working with Valid USA and providing free or discounted binders. They are a top choice by many who identify as FTM, trans-masculine, or non-binary. Their binders run small, so size up, especially if you are plus-size or large-chested.


Flavnt has a lot to offer, including a wide range of skin-toned swim binder options. They offer their binders in sizes up to 4X. They also give back to the trans/LGBTQIA+ community and are also trans-owned.

Origami Customs

Origami Customs is especially good for plus-size binder needs. They will create a binder for you based on your measurements and offer a range of sizes. They are more budget-friendly than other size-inclusive and custom binder brands.


Amor focuses on creating sensory-friendly binders. This is an incredible option for those with specific sensory sensitivities. The company is based out of Australia but is currently shipping internationally.


There is a large world of binder options and uses. The most important parts of using a binder are that you are safe, comfortable, and feel affirmed in your gender and the shape of your body! A properly fitting binder is just the first step in an ongoing journey of discovering your style and wearing clothes that truly make you feel like yourself. Check out some of our other guides to see where to go next in your fashion quest.

Do you like this article? If you do, you may also be interested in: Trans Tape: The Ultimate Guide

Charlie Lewis (he/him/his) is a queer non-binary writer and filmmaker based out of Portland, OR.