A Ladies’ Guide to Dressing with an Ostomy: Part 2

Read part one of this article here.

When it comes to dressing with an ostomy, it can feel overwhelming trying to find outfits that successfully hide and conceal a bag. At first, it may feel like you’re doomed to wear baggy, oversized clothes for the rest of your life in an attempt to hide your ostomy. This is not the case! Whether you loved wearing cute clothes before surgery or you couldn’t care less what you threw on in the morning, the good news is, either way, it’s still up to YOU. Having a stoma does not mean you have to lose your sense of self or your sense of style.

It’s so easy, especially in the beginning, to feel trapped by your bag. It can be hard to accept this new lifestyle and all of the changes that come along with it. One way to start regaining control of your life is to start dressing like yourself again. Of course, you’ll rely on sweats and comfy clothes when you’re first healing from surgery, but eventually, you will feel ready to start taking your life back. When you are ready, there are a ton of tricks that can be used to put together outfits that make you feel comfortable and confident. Keep an open mind and know that as time goes on, you will continue to discover what works best for you. As with anything IBD related, everyone’s experience is unique and the same is true for living with an ostomy. Through trial and error, you’ll eventually figure out what makes you the most comfortable.

Stay true to you!

Start with the basics and set the foundation of the outfit. After you’re comfortable with that, it’s time to build an outfit that makes you look and feel great! While it may take a while for you to regain your self-confidence and feel comfortable in your new body, you will eventually be able to dress like yourself again. I promise. Just because you now have a stoma does not mean you have to run out and buy an entirely new wardrobe. Odds are, you will be able to wear most of the same clothes you did before surgery, but with a few adjustments. Don’t hesitate to stay true to your style. Remember, your stoma does not define you.

There are plenty of ways to still be fashionable and stylish, without drawing attention to your bag!

To get you started, here are a few tried and true tips for concealing a bag.

  • Empty Bag: The best way to keep your bag from showing up uninvited is to keep it as empty as possible. As a general rule, always try to empty your bag when it’s about 1/3 full. How quickly your bag fills will largely depend on your stoma, diet and eating habits.
  • Dark Colors: Not only are dark clothes more slimming, they also help conceal bag bulges better than light colors. However, don’t let this stop you from wearing light colors if you like them!
  • Patterned Shirts: Patterns and designs are a great way to distract from a problem area. Because they are so busy, they keep the eye moving and camouflage any potential bag bulge.
  • Loose Fitting Shirts: Wear shirts that don’t hug your stomach. Flowy, ruffled, or peplum tops work well.
  • High-waisted Bottoms: Wear high-waisted pants, shorts, and skirts that come up over the stoma to help smooth the area and prevent the bag from ballooning in an obvious way. If wearing low-waisted bottoms or bottoms that sit right on your stoma, be careful not to wear them too tight or it can cause the bag to leak or balloon over the top of the pants.
  • Dresses: Loose-fitting, flowy dresses are comfortable and easily hide a bag. Fit and flare dresses, which are tighter on top and flare out from the waist down, are flattering and conceal bags very well. A-line dresses are also great for disguising a bag.
  • Layers: Wearing multiple layers of clothing helps add an extra level of coverage and padding. Try wearing a tank top underneath a shirt, a tight shirt under a loose shirt, or a sweater or vest over a shirt.
  • Accessorize: Always have something on hand, like a jacket, scarf, sweatshirt, or purse to cover yourself in case your bag is full, and you can’t get to a bathroom right away.

With so many ways to conceal an ostomy, don’t let the fear that someone may notice your bag stop you from dressing in a way that makes you comfortable and confident. Having a stoma does not sentence you to a life of ugly clothes!  Sure, it may take a few tries to figure out what works best for you, but keep at it. You’ll get it eventually. Remember, you are beautiful, even with a stoma!

Share your own tips for dressing with an ostomy in our forum on the topic!

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