My Fashion Tips for Ostomates
High waisted leggings
High waisted leggings are one of my favourite types of clothing at the moment that give me the most confidence. I usually find that because leggings have a secure, elasticated fit that I do not need to worry about wearing a stoma waistband underneath them. Personally, although some people wear both and have no issues, I find that if I pile on too many tight layers on top of my stoma bag, it increases the likelihood of my bag leaking by quite an amount so I try to keep tighter layers restricted to one or two at the most. As with most clothes, if unsure, I would recommend to try leggings on before you buy to see how well they accommodate your bag and, if you can, go for the size that is a bit on the looser side but obviously still fits you well. This is the good thing about leggings having elasticated waists. Here are some photos of me wearing high waisted leggings.
Including myself, a lot of people with stoma bags are very doubtful about wearing crop tops because of the likelihood of their scar and/or bags showing. Wearing crop tops is something you can get around, as well in a way that means your whole stomach does not need to be on show. I am currently combining crop tops with high waisted leggings and I am quite comfortable with this look, just not super confident yet as a little bit of my scar sticks out. Obviously its more obvious to me, as I know I have it (if that makes sense) but to people I have asked like my family, they say that they can’t tell unless I point it out and that I look great :) Also with wearing crop tops and high waisted leggings, a tip I would give is to put on a fresh bag before getting dressed to minimise the chances of any ballooning under the garments from air trapped in the bag, as when bags are fresh, their filters work best for me for at least 9/10 hours.
One of the top fashion tips I find works for me being a woman with an ileostomy is floaty tops/dresses.
They are fantastic to keep your ostomy bag really discreet and nobody can tell you have one when looking at you from wearing a floaty top or dress. My favourite tops I own are the floaty tops with an elasticated band just under the bust, so this does not interfere with my ostomy bag but also gives my body a bit of shape and keeps in with fashion.
You can find tops like this at many High Street/Fashion Stores such as New Look, Primark, Topshop and H & M as well as fashion sites online for reasonable prices.
I have been talking to a few female ostomates recently who have recently had ostomy surgery and feel disheartened and want to know how they can wear clothes that are still flattering and show their tummies off, for example, but without making their ostomy bag or scar too obvious. Personally, from those I have spoken to, I get the impression that most female ostomates appear more worried about people seeing their ostomy bag than their tummy scar. It can be quite a major hit to anyone’s confidence who has had the surgery suddenly thinking that the clothes they may have chosen to wear before such as bikinis or crop tops can no longer be worn. Of course, some ostomates may not consider this as a problem and may wear these clothes still regardless, but I know it is not that easy for a lot of ostomates quite understandably. This is when I came up with the idea of a sort of half-way house idea. Cut-out tops/dresses/swimwear can be great for still feeling sexy and tastefully showing your body off without having to fully hideaway. I drew these to give female ostomates some ideas of cut-out styles available.
High-Waisted Shorts & Trousers
I find that high-waisted bottoms can prove to be quite comfortable with a stoma, especially when wearing a stoma support band too from many ostomy related companies. I like high-waisted shorts, especially on nights out. I find that they make me feel very secure and more confident as they keep my ostomy bag discreet, with a waistband or support vest underneath. I like to wear high-waisted clothing as I find that the top of the garment sits a good way above where my stoma is situated, so there is no danger of the top of the garment digging in to my stoma. An example of an outfit with high-waisted shorts I recently wore on a night out is pictured to the right. This is my friend Meg & I before we went on a night out. I met Meg because of my ostomy as she has a temporary ileostomy and we met via a support group online and currently run our own. This outfit leads me on to my next tip for wearing clothes with a stoma. There are some more up to dates photos below, too, of me in high-waisted garments, just to give you some ideas. High waisted garments are some of my favourite items of clothing that I own.
I also find that patterned clothing is a great way to ensure that no attention will be drawn to your ostomy bag underneath your clothes. I find I am more confident, if I am wearing tighter tops, to wear tops that are patterned instead of plain tighter tops, although you can get away with wearing tighter plain tops, especially with a support band/vest underneath. A lot of what you wear can often depend on how active your stoma is and how much volume of output you get throughout the day I think as to whether you will have to be battling the bag bulges! As you can see in the picture above and the pictures to the right, patterned tops/dresses are great to distract attention from a possible bag bulge, especially until you can get to a toilet to empty the air on occasions such as nights out.
Even lightly patterned tops can act as a distraction to make your ostomy bag more discreet.Obviously there are alternatives, such as wearing a bigger bag if you have more wind, emptying more often, using products which can help aid wind such as ostomy deodrants, gels and accessories and ensuring that you eat small and regularly throughout the day. Also, there are certain foods which are known to cause wind in particular, but everybody is different and will take their own times to find out what food makes them windy. Some people may never find a pattern and it may just be a case of trial and error. The tops in the picture in the top section (floaty clothes) that I am wearing are an example of patterned tops, as well as them being looser fit – a combination of both!
Patterned Garments for Men
Patterned shirts and t-shirts for men are also great for those who have an ostomy. Checked shirts for example, especially those which are a slightly looser fitting, are ideal to wear on occasions such as nights out. T-shirts with writing/attractive logos and styling on are also great to distract attention from an ostomy bag, especially with wearing an ostomy support belt/vest or a normal vest underneath. Striped tops are also another good style of top to wear with an ostomy.
Even though personally I prefer wearing vests designed for Stoma wear, normal vests can also help to disguise any bulges or little bumps sticking out from your ostomy bag. Looser vests tend to be better at this than tighter vests, but unless it gets to the point where the vest is skin tight and is very likely to affect the flow of your stoma output, both men and women can still wear vests such as body-shapers or vests for the gym. However, stoma support vests are especially designed so that they do not restrict the flow of stoma output but give you that confidence and discretion you feel you require, whilst being quite tight fitting and ‘hugging’ your body, like a body-shaper. I love the stoma support vest I wear, as it gives my body shape and hugs my curves I have got since my operation. It is also long enough to act as a 2-in-1 waistband/vest, so I can tuck it into my jeans for example, and ensure my stoma has added protection and security underneath my clothes without my waistband of my trousers interfering. This leads me on to my next heading; low-rise trousers/garments.
Low-Rise Trousers/’Hipster’ Waisted Garments
Low-Rise jeans and trousers typically sit a good 3 or 4 inches underneath where the navel is and can be worn by both men and women.
They are specifically designed and manufactured so that the garment sits lower down on or below the line of your hips and, because of the low-rise waist, you also tend to find that they have shorter zips than trousers that have the typical waist style.
Therefore, because of the positioning of a lot of stomas, low-rise jeans/trousers are a great alternative as they sit below (usually a few inches below) the stoma and your ostomy bag so you do not have to be afraid of the waistline catching the stoma or restricting it altogether and causing injury. When wearing these type of garments, your ostomy bag can just be tucked into your trousers on top of your underwear or tucked underneath your underwear too, depending on what you prefer.
Pictured to the right is the style of waist I usually go for, as well as high-waisters, my favourites. Not particularly low-rise, but this is how I wear most of my jeans. My stoma is positioned a good few cm above the waistline of these jeans, but I always try trouser garments on before I buy them as some waistlines can sit right on my stoma so are not suitable. I wear my ostomy bag tucked into my trousers usually but on top of my underwear with a shallow support waistband between my ostomy bag and trousers, but I figured this picture would help illustrate the positioning of my stoma and ostomy bag in relation to my jeans.
Some people swear by maternity jeans as they find that the extra slack on the waist etc is just what they need to feel comfortable and accommodate their stoma bag, especially, for example, if they have a peristomal hernia.
Always try on trousers before you buy! The same goes for all clothes, if you are unsure about how they will accommodate your ostomy bag!
It is worth spending the extra time trying them on to make sure they are comfortable to wear with your stoma and do not interfere with it, than getting home and realising they are too tight or sit on your stoma, for example.