A Lady’s Guide to Dressing with an Ostomy: Part 1
Figuring out what to wear with an ostomy, especially in the beginning, can be frustrating, discouraging, and a little scary. It’s easy to feel like your bag will be visible to everyone, regardless of what you wear. The fear that everyone is going to see the bulge of your bag can make it seem like living a normal life is out of the question. Personally, I worried that I would never feel at home in my own skin, be able to wear cute clothes, or feel beautiful ever again. This insecurity is normal. You’ve undergone a major operation and it’s understandable to feel insecure in your new body. Whether your ostomy is temporary or permanent, it’s your new reality.
Rebuilding your confidence
One way to cope with this change is to learn how to be comfortable with it and to accept it. Be patient, as this could take some time. But, learning how to dress to conceal your ostomy will help rebuild your confidence and bring you one step closer to accepting your new lifestyle. Know that the inevitable insecurity will eventually fade as you get more accustom to life with an ostomy and as you get more comfortable dressing in a way that compliments your body.
In the beginning, you may be unsure whether you’re going to have to run out and buy a whole new wardrobe or if your old clothes will work with some minor alterations. My advice is to wait before you do any spring cleaning. Some of the clothes that you will eventually be able to wear again won’t be comfortable in the beginning. After surgery, your body will be tender and sore, and you will live in baggy, comfy sweats. While this will be your go-to attire while you’re healing and lounging around, you will be able to wear “normal” clothes again once you start to feel better. While some modifications will need to be made to your wardrobe, having an ostomy doesn’t mean you have to lose your sense of personal style. Even though your style may change a little bit, simply having a stoma does not condemn you to a life of ugly, oversized clothes. Rest assured that when you’re feeling better and you decide it’s time to start dressing “normally” again, there are plenty of tricks to help disguise your bag!
What’s under there?
First things first, arguably the most important part of dressing to hide an ostomy bag is the layer of clothes that most people will never see: the underwear. This layer of clothing, one not normally discussed, sets the foundation for the rest of the outfit by smoothing the bag and securing it against the body. For ostomates, slipping into underwear is a little more complicated than sliding on a thong and calling it a day. Instead of being worn simply for fashion or comfort, ostomy undies provide support, stability, and concealment. It is the necessary first step in creating an outfit that successfully disguises an ostomy. Lucky for us, there are tons of options!
While you may choose to continue wearing your old undies, there is also the option to order underwear specifically made for ostomates. Performing a google search will result in a few different options to choose from. What makes these different than regular underwear is that they are high-waisted and come with a pocket in the front that holds your bag. There are different styles and colors to choose from, including options for boy shorts, briefs, and thongs. High-waisted underwear is an excellent option, as it does not cut off the bag or restrict the flow of output. It also holds the bag firmly against your body, keeping it secure and smooth, even as it fills. Above all, discovering what works best for you comes down to experimentation. You will likely have to try a few different styles of undies before settling on what makes you most comfortable.
In addition to underwear, there are other undergarments that can be worn to further secure and conceal an ostomy bag! One slimming option is to wear a wrap over your underwear. As far as wraps go, there are specialty wraps made for ostomates, which have a pouch in the front to hold your bag. These wraps can be found with a google search. There are a variety of different styles, ranging from lace to cotton. These ostomy wraps are especially useful if you choose to continue wearing your old underwear. Simply put on undies as usual, let your bag hang outside of your underwear, then put the wrap over the underwear, and place bag in the pouch. This holds your bag securely against your body without restricting the flow. If you do not want to order a specialty wrap, you can wear a maternity wrap or belly band instead, which works just as well but does not have a pouch for your bag. These can be found at your local Target or Walmart.
Another option for additional security and concealment is the ostomy belt. Ostomy belts are worn around the waist like wraps, but instead of holding the bag horizontally against your body like a wrap, the bag is placed vertically inside an enclosed pouch. The belt holds the ostomy bag firmly against the body and helps to evenly distribute output, making a full bag even less noticeable. Belts can be custom made to fit your specific stoma and body, but there are generic ones available, as well. Similar to the ostomy belt is the stoma guard. This option, while not as slimming as the wrap or belt, can be extremely helpful if you have a stoma that is located on or near your belt line. Stoma guards, which have a plastic cover to go over your ostomy, provide an extra level of protection, especially when playing sports or wearing a seat belt. Because they can be a little bulky, the stoma guard may not be an ideal option for every outfit. If the idea of a wrap or belt doesn’t appeal to you, another option to help secure and conceal your ostomy is to wear Spanx or spandex shorts over your underwear.
When it comes right down to it, the underwear you choose to wear is the first step in successfully hiding your ostomy bag. Regardless of personal preferences, the goal is to secure the bag against your body in a way that prevents the bag from noticeably bulging and does not restrict the flow of output. Dressing with an ostomy can seem overwhelming at first, but eventually, you will find a system that works well for you. It might just take some time.
Read part 2 of the series for more tips on how to dress an ostomy!