An ostomy is a surgery that creates an opening in the abdomen - a stoma - in order to treat problems with the digestive or urinary system. Patients who undergo the procedure are referred to as an ostomate. Immediately after surgery, loose and comfortable clothing is the best option, but as they recover, a patient may start thinking about how their usual clothes might work with their ostomy bag. Some people find that only small adjustments to their pre-surgery wardrobe are needed; the important thing is for the individual to find what they are confident in.
There are a variety of resources online providing advice to stoma patients about how to dress for comfort and confidence. Some examples are these fashion tips by The Big Stoma Bucket List, and the comprehensive clothing guides by VeganOstomy which cover clothing options for a variety of needs, with both a men's clothingand women's clothing section. There are also a number of specialist brands that produce personalised clothing for Ostomates.
This brand produces swimwear, underwear and ostomy wraps for both men and women. They aim to create products that serve a stylistic and functional purpose, with the confidence of the wearer in mind. Ostomy wraps support and conceal an ostomy appliance. The company supplies wraps that are suitable for clients with any stoma location, and for both casual and active use, plus specialised wraps for underwater activities. Their underwear and swimwear ranges are fitted with a standard inner pocket to support the ostomy bag and fit it snug against the body, increasing the wearer's comfort.
Founded in 2017 by Victoria Jenkins, Unhidden launched a collection earlier this year designed especially for people with Disabilities. The aim of the collection is to be adaptive and comfortable as well as stylish. One item in the collection, the Double Layer Dress, is designed with Ostomates in mind. The dress provides access to a stoma via an opening with a zip, without removing the dress or lifting it up. Another ostomy-friendly option from Unhidden is adaptive twill trousers, which have an elasticated back waist band, many invisible zips and an adjustable front wrap to allow for fluctuations in tummy size.
As a company, Unhidden is admirable for its transparency about the price breakdown of each product. When purchasing from Unhidden, this also supports Jenkins' ambition to train people who are disabled or have chronic health conditions to sew adaptive alterations into clothing under a future, not-for-profit arm of the company.
I Am Denim
This company produce high quality denim jeans, shorts and joggers for both men and women, especially designed for those who are pregnant or have had abdominal surgery such as a stoma. They offer a range of 'tummy friendly' jean options which use particularly, soft stretchy denim and reach slightly above the waist, covering the abdomen which gives the wearer extra security and confidence.
Based in Glasgow, this company is known primarily for underwear but has also branched out into swimwear, sportswear and loungewear, as well as a children's range. Vanilla Blush underwear contains an inside layer that discretely holds the ostomy bag in place, keeping the wearer comfortable even when the bag is full. Because the ostomy appliance is not in contact with the skin there is less irritation. Aside from the absolutely stunning selection of designs available, a very useful thing about this brand is that they provide sizing recommendations for individual products on their website, helping customers know what to order if they are between sizes.
Specialising in unique, beautiful and high quality products for ostomates, Aura Clothing was founded by Angelina Truman who has had an ileostomy since she was 13 years old. Their swimwear range all contain a built in internal pocket which serves to conceal and support an ostomy bag and keep it away from the skin. Similarly, their range of jeans and leggings have a luxury fabric 'core inner layer' which helps keep a stoma bag in place without being restrictive.
The future of ostomy fashion
These are just a few options available to stoma patients who want clothing tailored more closely to their needs. The market for adaptive clothing is growing significantly and ostomy fashion is becoming increasingly relevant over time. Specialised items often cost more to make and buy than regular high street clothing, but will hopefully become more affordable as the companies that make them become more mainstream.