Ostomy Fashion Tips

No One Has to Know about Your Ostomy Unless You Tell Them -- Really!

Woman Shopping
Do you need to buy all new clothes? Probably not! You can make your wardrobe work with your stoma. Image © Paper Boat Creative / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Many people think that an ostomy appliance is going to be noticeable under their clothes or rustle when they walk. When I underwent temporary ileostomy surgery, I was worried that my wardrobe would have to change drastically. The truth is that I didn't change a thing! When I'm around other people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), I often forget who has a stoma and who doesn't. Today there are many newer, more body-conscious appliances available to assure ostomates of a good fit as well as privacy.

Before Your Ostomy Surgery

An important first step in ensuring that an ostomy will not interfere with fashion or function is to talk with your surgeon and ET nurse about the placement of the stoma before the surgery. The stoma should be placed where it is the most comfortable for your lifestyle. For instance, the waistline is an inconvenient place for a stoma, as belts and pants may rub against it. You'll want to make your surgical team aware of where you like to wear your pants on your waist.

If ostomy surgery is done in an emergency situation, it may not be possible to consult with your medical team about stoma placement. In these cases, work closely with your ET nurse to find the most appropriate appliances and learn tips about getting a good seal. A challenging stoma could require some specialized solutions, but ET nurses are up to the task. Ostomy revision surgery could be a possibility for some, if the stoma placement is truly troublesome, but most people would like to avoid more surgery if possible.

Fashion Advice For Your Ostomy

Even with newer appliances and optimal ostomy placement, there are times when some fashion advice comes in handy -- such as formal events or a beach vacation. Use the suggestions below to keep looking great after ostomy surgery.

  • Get fitted properly: Ostomy appliances are not one size fits all! Get expert advice from an ET nurse or a hospital supply store about which appliance might be right for you. Take advantage of free samples that many companies offer to try new ostomy appliance products.
  • Closed or Mini-Pouches: Several companies make closed ostomy pouches that are rinsed out for re-use or thrown away once they're full. Also available from many ostomy care suppliers are drainable mini-pouches. These pouches are smaller than normal appliances and are handy for a variety of activities including travel, swimming, formal occasions or intimate moments.
  • Pantyhose: As long as you find it comfortable, you can wear pantyhose. In fact, pantyhose holds the appliance in place close to the body, which can be helpful at times. However, if the waistband cuts into your stoma or your appliance, you may want to consider thigh-highs, which have rubber grips in the top to hold them up.
  • Suspenders: For men who find a belt uncomfortable, suspenders are an option to keep those trousers held up in style.
  • Pleats: Pants and skirts with pleats in front can help to disguise the location of the appliance. They also have some "give" for those times when the bag starts to fill up.
  • Choosing Fabrics: Generally, thin fabrics such as silk and fine knits may have problems with show through. Wearing a loose slip underneath these thinner fabrics or covering the pouch with a fabric cover (you could even make them yourself) may help.
  • Swimwear: For men, boxer-style swimming trunks with a lining will work well. If you sew, or know someone who does, consider adding a pocket inside the trunks to hold the appliance in place. For women, a lined swimsuit with "boy shorts" bottoms, a ruffle or skirt around the waist, or a bright pattern will prevent show through.

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