Clothing tips for ostomy: What to buy and how to dress?

Sep 29, 2018 9:39 pm

My surgery for rectal cancer is scheduled for October 9, and I will emerge from surgery with an ostomy. Naturally, I have a lot of questions and my learning curve will be very steep. But, my immediate question is about clothing to wear with an ostomy. I would like to go shopping before the surgery if possible, but I'm not sure about what to buy. My typical work attire is khakis and a button-down shirt, but I am self-employed and have a lot of latitude in my wardrobe. Do I buy clothes that fit me now, or a size larger to accommodate the ostomy? Also, are there any other supplies or helpful hints that you could provide for me? Any help is greatly appreciated.

Sep 30, 2018 12:35 am

I was a young buck when I had my surgery, so I already wore loose-fitting baggy clothes back when that was cool. I had jeans, but I didn't wear any button-up pants for quite some time post-op, as I preferred the elastic waist flexibility of track pants or sweats. I wasn't in the workforce, so it wasn't much of an issue. Over the years, I grew more accustomed to wearing a normal wardrobe - jeans, khakis, or suits, whatever. I wear a formal uniform for work now, and I just recently had another abdominal surgery presenting a similar concern. However, this time I took a more aggressive approach to getting back to normal. The first few weeks, I was as naked as possible just so there was no unnecessary friction. But within, I think, about a month or two, I was back to my normal clothing. So, to answer your question, if you don't have any loose-fitting clothes or a robe, I'd get some for the period of time post-op. But after that, it's up to you to decide what you're more socially comfortable in. I wear contemporary slim-fitting clothes, and the general public doesn't look at me differently. Others are more comfortable in loose-fitting clothes physically anyways, let alone the added benefit of it hiding your ostomy a bit better.

That's all I've got for now. Carl - stay positive through the process! You've got endless support on here if you have any further questions.


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Sep 30, 2018 12:57 am

I find that a loose waist is better. I am small and I still feel better without the constriction of button pants now. I have done some online searching and have found pants that are no different than what I wore before. Except they offer a loose waist. Maybe try Amazon and search for the type of pants you wear. But also search for them with a drawstring waist or something.

Sep 30, 2018 2:34 am

Good luck with your surgery, Carl. There is a little bit of a learning curve for a new ostomate.... This forum is a wonderful tool for newbies. When I first returned to work after surgery, I wore bib overalls - not very fashionable, but actually very practical. I wouldn't rush going back to work if at all possible, especially if you have a physical labor type job. MMsh

Sep 30, 2018 7:49 am

Helo Carl. I would not rush out to buy any additions to your present wardrobe, because you may not know what you need until the event is well underway. I used to wear suits at work all the time and found them (or most other trousers) very uncomfortable when I had a stoma. So, I switched to boiler-suits. These are nowhere near as 'smart' in appearance but are much smarter in comfort. I used to joke about the fact that they made me look as if I was actually doing some work (like a plumber etc.) as opposed to sitting behind a desk, chatting and pushing a pen. I now have a whole collection of these 'onesies' for most occasions. However, there are times when my wife simply refuses to go out with me dressed like a 'workman', so I have to wear proper trousers. On these occasions I hold them up with good, old fashioned braces and no belt. It does mean that I had to buy trousers with a waistline to fit someone a good deal bigger than me, but then I have only bought just the one pair, which I hardly ever wear,  so it wasn't that expensive. I quite enjoy looking like someone who has a proper job  and it is interesting to witness other people's reactions to my dresscode when I'm out and about. At Heathrow airport,  I was approached by several people asking directions and for information, presumably assuming that I was an official at the airport. Often people ask me questions in shops and on the street, thinking that I am some kind of official representative of authority. Interestingly, I rarely ever got that when I was actually part of the 'authrority', wearing a smart suit.   Dressing up is all a matter of personal choice and I would now rather be comfortable than I would like to try to please others by my appearance.

I hope you find your own preferences in much the same way.

Best wishes


Words of Encouragement from Ostomy Advocates I Hollister
Past Member
Sep 30, 2018 7:03 pm

We all have our own views, but for me, I think it's better to have a stoma sited high up. Then, you can wear anything. With the stoma being sited lower down, waistbands/belts on trousers can halve the amount of space in the bag, so it needs emptying more often.

Sep 30, 2018 11:45 pm

As a woman living in leggings, I may be of little help. But if I wear pants, I wear them low on my hips, kind of like some men do. Then I wear a longer shirt with a little bagginess to cover up the ostomy bag in all directions. Best of luck! I'm just 18 days into having an ostomy, so welcome to the newbie club. My surgery removed the entire colon and most of my rectum (they left a dr in to go back and remove later) due to colon and rectal cancer. So I understand your journey.

Oct 03, 2018 6:59 pm

You should go in and have a meeting with an ostomy nurse and she should evaluate how you wear your clothes and then recommend and mark a site for your ostomy. Once you are healed, you should be able to wear what you wear now. While you are waiting for that, get online and Google all your questions. I am sure there are plenty of answers out there. There were for me. Going on 5 years post-surgery.

Oct 03, 2018 7:02 pm

I'm a month out from my surgery. I did a lot of reading and research on items to make my life better.

I'm also self-employed. Snap-on Tools dealer. So my day is non-stop movement and lots of walking and lifting.

I found Stealth Belt online. It truly makes it easier to get around and I'm wearing the same clothes I always have. I'm still not working, but I have been wearing the belt every day for the last week. I wear my bag horizontally so it doesn't go into my pants. I wear a 2-piece appliance so it's able to rotate.

I'm so impressed I ordered 2 more. I'm even venturing out and don't feel so self-conscious.

Hope this helps.

Oct 03, 2018 7:16 pm

Hi Carl, I would wait to see if your clothes fit. The ostomy bag shouldn't stick out too much. Get the bags with filters so they don't puff out. As a woman, my attitude is a little different as I mainly wear pants with stretchy waists and tunics or long shirts that camouflage the bag. And I'm very self-conscious about it.

You may want some comfy baggy things for the first few weeks as you recover.


Oct 04, 2018 12:52 pm

Good morning, Carl ... Everyone has given some great advice and I hope I do not repeat too much of what has already been said. To me, the biggest impact on what I wear is the location of my stoma. That will probably impact you, also. I do not wear a lot of things with belts but do have some dress slacks that have the double button and zip up the front with a wide waistband. I wear those comfortably because of the placement of my stoma. (Mine is below my waist and just to the right of my belly button). So I would just make sure I had some comfortable stretch workout type pants and comfy T-shirts and concentrate on recuperating and getting back to living a full life!

Take care and please let us know how you are doing!


Oct 04, 2018 10:16 pm

Hi Paula,

Thanks for your input, every bit of information is greatly appreciated. I'm meeting with the Ostomy nurse tomorrow to mark the stoma placement.

Oct 04, 2018 10:23 pm

Thanks for the great info. I'm in the vending business, so I am also on the go all day. Loading product in and out of the van, filling machines, nonstop lifting and movement.

Oct 05, 2018 1:35 am

Carl... Hope the WOCN is able to get a good placement of your stoma. It will take a little while before you are back at work full steam, but I am sure you will do fine. Please keep us informed!

Oct 06, 2018 5:19 am

Hi Carl,

Have a look at this site. They sell belts to cover your stoma from injury, like seat belts, dogs, and clothing. It depends on how high, low, or right on your waistline the stoma is located. I bought clothes that were bigger initially because I assumed I would need more space to be comfortable and, of course, not knowing how big or where it would be located. My stoma is exactly on my waistline, and I only use the stoma gear when I need to wear dress pants or jeans. Otherwise, I found that drawstring or elastic waist pants/sweats are the best because I can set the waistline high or low depending on what I am doing. As well, my stoma has changed shape as time goes by, so I find baggy shirts or tees are best. Best of luck on your new chapter.

Oct 17, 2018 9:33 pm

Hey Carl, I'm Joey. I have had my colostomy bag since March of this year. It is a lot to learn, but you will survive. It's just a new way of doing something. I'll always be here to help. The mechanics of the bag are great and easy. The mental part was my hurdle. I contacted a flesh-eating disease during a surgery for a fissure tear.