Deciding what to wear with an ostomy can be frustrating, especially right after surgery when you’re trying to figure out if you have to buy a whole new wardrobe or if the one you already own will work, maybe with some modifications. It’s also a challenge after surgery because your abdomen is still pretty tender so some clothes that might be comfortable once you’re healed won’t be comfortable right away.
Don’t get rid of your clothes right after surgery unless it’s for a non-ostomy reason. Give yourself ample time to heal and get more used to having an ostomy before you start to purge your clothes. Here are some basic clothing tips to get your started, but ultimately it’s going to be a trial and error experiment to find out what’s most comfortable for you.
One of the most common initial concerns about having an ostomy is that other people will be able to see it. Have no fear, there are plenty of tricks to keep it disguised!
Dark is slimming. Wearing a dark wardrobe, at least around your abdomen, can slim your pouch bulge. This doesn’t mean you can only wear dark colors though, if you like to be bright or wear white, do it!
Patterns are camouflage. Wearing patterned shirts is a great way to distract the eye.
Empty as needed. If you let your pouch get super full all the time you’ll probably have more of a bulge than if you try to empty when it’s less full. Frequency depends on a lot of things including how much output you have and what style of clothes you’re wearing. If you’re wearing a pencil dress, you might want to empty a little more frequently than if you’re wearing a flowy shirt because the dress will show the bulge much more quickly.
Loose shirts and fit and flare dresses. You can absolutely wear tight clothes with an ostomy and keep it disguised, but you might find a new found appreciate for looser clothes. A great compromise is the fit and flare style of dresses, tight on top and flowy from the waist down.
Wraps. Wraps do double duty. Not only do they keep your pouch slim to your body allowing you to get away with wearing all your cutest tighter outfits, they also offer support.
An empty pouch is a light pouch. A full pouch can feel heavy. As your pouch fills you may notice that it feels like it’s pulling your skin with it’s weight.
Wearing an undergarment or belt is a great way to give yourself some extra support and confidence. Here are some options for undergarments and belts that you can look into. Some of them are ostomy-specific while others are just normal clothing items that work great with an ostomy.
Ostomy Specific Wraps and Underwear
There are a few different companies that make wraps and underwear for ostomates. Each company has their own style but the concept is the same; an elastic/stretchy/compressing garment to wrap around your waist keeping your ostomy pouch supported and slimmed.
Wraps and Undergarments – Not Made for Ostomies
Maternity bands, Spanx, and other high-waisted underwear and exercise shorts are all great options that accomplish the same goals as the ostomy-specific wraps and underwear. They are stretchy, slimming, come in many different styles to meet your needs, and are easily found at everyday retail clothing stores like Target.
You don’t have to wear high-waisted underwear or a wrap to get support if you’re wearing a pair of high-waisted pants or shorts. Luckily, high-waisted bottoms are back in style so it’s relatively easy to find them at every price-point.
Guards and belts! Depending on the product, guards and belts can offer support, helping to prevent hernias, and protect your ostomy from impact. Some of the guards and belts are also helpful for fashion. For example, the stealth belt is great for allowing you to more comfortably wear low or mid-rise pants because it keeps your pouch at a horizontal angle rather than a vertical one. There are other guards that cover your stoma offering a layer of protection so your pants can sit at your stoma line without irritating it.
As you can tell, there are a number of options you can take advantage of when putting together your wardrobe of things you can wear with an ostomy. One thing to remember is that the view from your perspective is much different from the view of someone looking at you. It ALWAYS looks like more of a bulge when you’re looking down at it.
Want more guidance on what to wear with an ostomy?
Here’s a blog post I did with some tips for dressing in the winter (it’s geared toward females).
I tag other blog posts I do whenever there’s photos of me so you can see what I’ve been wearing. You can view all those posts here.
My instagram feed has photos of my outfits whenever I can convince someone to take a picture of me or manage to take a not-totally-awkward-angle selfie.
There’s a Facebook support group called Osto-MY Fashion. Ladies only, but it’s a great resource for seeing what other people wear and bragging about your own cute outfits.