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Dressing With an Ostomy

Dressing With an Ostomy
Christine Kijek, RN, BSN, WON

Figuring out what to wear with a new ostomy can be a challenge. A big factor is stoma placement. For stomas below the waistline, dressing is a little less of a challenge. A stoma above the waistline requires more attention.   

Initially, after surgery, your belly will be distended and tender. Most are wearing loose, lounging-type clothes for the first few weeks. As the swelling resolves, you will likely find you have lost a little weight. The average weight loss with major surgery is about 10 lbs. Your body is working overtime and utilizing calories for healing. After 3-4 weeks, you will settle and gain the weight back.   

Don’t discard clothing in your closet right away. Give yourself time to heal and feel comfortable with your new ostomy. You may find many clothes you have can be modified to work with your ostomy.  


This is the number one concern of every ostomate. Remember, looking down at your abdomen, you will see the ostomy pouch bulge, but those looking at you see things from a very different angle. Here are a few tips:  

  • Wearing dark colors will help conceal the pouch bulge. Dark clothing is slimming  
  • Patterns will make the pouch less noticeable, like camouflage   
  • Loose shirts or T-shirts do not fit snugly on the belly   
  • High-waisted slacks/pants/shorts/skirts draw attention to above the stoma 
  • Pleated trousers/slacks offer more room for the pouch to fill. 
  • Empty the pouch as needed (when 1/3 to ½ full). If wearing tight-fitting clothing, empty more frequently 
  • A-line dresses or dresses that fit on top but flare at the waist are a good option 
  • Wear flowy, longer blouses/tops  
  • Ostomy-specific swimwear - these have pockets inside to support your pouch  

Undergarments for Ostomates

  • What you choose to wear underneath your clothes can help minimize the pouch and offer support. As the pouch fills, the weight can cause pulling, giving a feeling of insecurity.
  • The pocket on the inside supports the weight of a filling pouch
  • One size smaller keeps the pouch tight to your body, allowing you to wear tighter-fitting clothing (for that special occasion.)
  • This is a great choice for those with an ostomy in the upper abdomen
    • Underwear- made specifically for ostomates  
  • These have a pocket inside to hold the pouch, offering support and minimizing the bulge.  
    • Both men's and women's underwear are available from a few companies  
    • Best for those with stomas below the waistline  
    • Stealth Belt- a great choice for men and women  
    • It can be used for stomas above the waistline or below  
    • A stealth belt offers a side wear pouch support or vertical support  
    • Spanx/maternity bands/high-waisted underwear or bandeaus are not made specifically for ostomies but can be used for support or slimming purposes 

Ostomy Protection  

Protective garments are available for those at risk of injuring the stoma or having parastomal hernias.   

  • Stoma guard  
  • Used for covering and protecting the stoma from injury  
    • It also offers a layer between the stoma and the waistband of your slacks or belt line. Your pants can sit at the level of the stoma without interrupting the flow of output 
    • You can wear a shirt tucked into your pants, allowing the pouch to be partially covered under the pants  
  • Ostomy Armor  
  • Stoma Dome  
  • Ostomy Wraps  
    • This garment is for both men and women 
    • Again, it supports the weight of the pouch as it fills while minimizing the bulge of the pouch. 
    • It can be worn if your stoma sits below the waist, allowing coverage if wearing low-rise pants. 
    • Works great if your stoma is above the waist and there is concern the pouch will hang below your shirt  
    • Available in black, white, tan, gray  
  • Stealth belt  
    • Also, unisex   
    • Available for vertical (down) wear of the pouch or horizontal (side) wear of the pouch.  
    • Perfect for low or mid-rise pants 

Clothing for Men  

  • High waisted trousers  
    • Intended to keep the pouch below the waistline  
  • Pleated trousers  
    • Offers more room below the beltline for a pouch while filling  
  • Casual clothing
  • Loose fitting pants/shorts/sweats
    • Untucked shirts  
    • Less worry about concealing the pouch
  • Sweaters in the cooler months offer more concealment  
  • Jeans  
    • Don’t wear tight-fitting jeans  
    • Consider stretch denim  
    • I am Denim jeans- made in the UK, great for ostomates and post-op abdomens  
    • Built-in support for the upper abdomen  
    • Perfect jeans for the stoma in the upper abdomen  
  • Formal wear  
    • Look for high-waisted slacks  
    • Pleated trousers  
    • Elastic waist slacks/expandable waist  
    • Consider suspenders rather than a belt   
    • Suit jackets offer concealment  
    • If you are fitted for a suit, be sure the tailor understands your needs.  
    • If your stoma is above the waist, use a stoma guard  

Clothing for Women 


  • Consider ostomy-specific underwear for stomas below the waist. They have a pocket for supporting the pouch.
    • Many options and colors  
    • High-waisted  
    • Does not restrict flow or output  
    • Briefs, boy shorts, thongs, lacey or everyday wear  
    • Suggestions for men's wear apply to the ladies as well 

Let's talk about dresses!   

  • Slim fitting  
  • Look for rouching or gathering at the midsection. This will help conceal the pouch. 
  • Spanx  
  • Stoma guard  
  • Flowy casual dresses  
  • Can be fitted in the upper section but flowy from the waist down  
  • Consider patterns rather than solid colors  
  • Accessorize with a flowy vest or jacket  
  • Consider maternity dresses (you may need to hem the front)  
  • Jumpers are loose fitting, great for winter months  
  • You can wear leggings underneath   


  • Again, flowy  
  • Consider wearing a tight-fitting tank or camisole underneath  
  • For those with a stoma above the waist, consider Spanx or a wrap  
  • Midriff tops (those that show the ABD), Great for those with stomas below the waist.  
  • Consider high-waisted pants  


  • If you like low rise waist, use a wrap or stealth belt  
  • Consider a pouch cover  
  • Elastic waist  
  • Leggings are great for support  
  • Maternity pants  


  • Long bold necklaces bring the eye up  
  • Long scarves are worn to hang in the middle of the abdomen  
  • Jackets/vests   
  • Avoid belts around the waist  

Dressing with an ostomy is something ostomates must learn. You can be stylish and unique in what you wear and how you use your wardrobe without spending a lot of money.  

Ultimately, it is about what works for you and keeps you comfortable.   

Sources of Information: Vegan Ostomy


Author Profile: Christine Kijek, Registered Colorectal Nurse

Christine Kijek

Christine Kijek is a colorectal nurse at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, CT. She has a wealth of knowledge in this field as well as personal experience. HPFY is thrilled that she has been an active participant in the Ostomy Support Group. She has experience working as a coordinator for cancer patients, post-operative care, and home health care for disabled children and adults. And guess what! Christine is also the recipient of the Nurse Exemplar Award. Christine lives in Bethel, CT with her husband Ed. Her children are married and live nearby. She has 4 grandchildren and is known as GiGi. Christine enjoys riding motorcycles and spends many hours gardening. She can often be found onboard a Carnival Cruise ship lounging by the pool.



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HPFY Christine Kijek, RN, BSN, WON

Christine Kijek, RN, BSN, WON

LinkedIn Profile Christine Kijek is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. She has completed courses for wound and ostomy specialty and has 20 years of experience. She has ...

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