Dressing with an Ostomy

Laura Cox, LPC
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
02/21/15  5:08 PM PST
Dressing with an Ostomy

Hi again. Laura Cox here, Shield HealthCare’s Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist. After I had my ostomy surgery, I thought it would be impossible to dress the way I wanted. I thought I was destined to wearing baggy T-shirts and sweatpants the rest of my life, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! Dressing with an ostomy can be easy if you know the right tricks!

Watch a video where I show examples of the below items:

In this article, I talk a lot about how to conceal an ostomy pouch using items underneath your clothes, but our OstomyLife Co-Moderator, Kelsey, has an article (with lots of pictures) about how to dress to draw the eye away from the pouch:

I’ve found ways to wear whatever I want. Here’s how I do it:

What’s Underneath

The secret is underneath.  Some products that help conceal from underneath are:

  • Spanx®

  • Spandex biker-like shorts

  • Bandeaus

  • A belly band (similar to what pregnant women wear)

  • An ostomy wrap or stealth belt

  • Underwear or briefs with a higher waist

These products help keep the ostomy bag close to your abdomen.  This way, even when your ostomy bag is filling up, it is very difficult to see. I find I can wear any type of clothing when I wear these products.

A note about Spanx®: if your belly is sensitive, distended or painful, opt out of the Spanx and go for a looser option like a belly band used for women who are pregnant or a bandeau (often sold as a stretchy tube top).

If your belly becomes tender while wearing Spanx or a wrap, take it off.

Also note that if you are wearing a tight wrap and have a loop ileostomy, if you allow your bag to get too full, the stool can be pushed back into your loop ileostomy and be discharged from your bottom. It is best to make sure you empty your ostomy bag when it is 1/3 to 1/2 full.

If you do not want to wear any of these under garments, or if you want to be extra sure that your stoma and bag are concealed, here are some clothing tips:


  • Dark colors conceal better than lighter colors

  • Patterns trick the eye and draw attention away from any bulges

  • Loose t-shirts hang away from your abdomen

  • Any sort of cinched waist that flows away from the body works very well (like A-line dresses and peplum tops, which are blouses with a lower half that is an overskirt)

  • High-waisted pants/shorts/skirts draw attention to above the  stoma (just make sure the waist line does not hit the stoma – it should be above or below the stoma)

  • Pleated trousers allow more room for the bag to fill

  • Bring a light jacket, loose sweatshirt, or scarf to put on if your bag starts to fill and become noticeable. This will cover up the area and you can continue to go about your day.

You can also check out some companies that make undergarments specifically for ostomates:

The above is mainly geared toward women — for tips for men, please see Vegan Ostomy’s video. You can also read my article where I answer a question sent in by a man who wants to conceal his pouch when he lifts his arms and his stomach is exposed.

Good luck and please let us know in the comments about other clothing tricks you have discovered!

For more information, see related everyday ostomy tip articles and ostomy resources here:

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1 comment

  1. All of these “How to Dress” articles are for women. I’m man with a new Ostomy, how do I dress. High waisted skirts and leggings really don’t fit my everyday wardrobe. Occasionally on the weekends but not for everyday (just kidding about the skirt and leggings).
    But I will be going back to work soon and still haven’t found clothes I’m totally comfortable in.

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