Enjoying Fashion After My Stoma Surgery

Billie At Beach

When people learn I have an ostomy bag they’re usually surprised and say, “Oh my goodness, you can’t even tell!” but as an ostomate I am often asked questions about how I dress and if I’ve changed my fashion choices since having a stoma.

Immediately after stoma surgery my body was bruised and battered, swollen and sore

I had to get used to the new plumbing and this new bag attached to my stomach, along with trying to walk unassisted again and just getting back to being a normal 21 year old. I was 5 stone when I came out of surgery, but due to the surgical swelling I only fit into size 12 joggers! Once the swelling went down I went from the Michelin Man to a skeleton in a matter of weeks, the joggers were falling off me and I was back to shopping in the kid’s section.

I thought I’d never wear ‘normal’ clothes again but that soon passed

I thought I’d be swapping my dresses and skirts for maternity jeans and Bridget Jones-esque clothes! But as the months have gone on I’ve worked out what I can and can’t wear. It used to annoy me when people would say, “oh my goodness, you can’t even tell!” but now it gives me a glimmer of confidence… I feel empowered that the outside world can’t tell.

Here are a few of my top tips for dressing with a bag:

  • Take your time: When I came out of surgery I threw the type of temper tantrums you’d expect from a 2-year-old, about the clothes I wanted to wear. I didn’t want to have to buy ‘special’ clothes to suit my bag and was upset when I had to stick to baggy jumpers and pyjamas for the first month or so. But what I forgot (and what I now see in hindsight) is it’s important to let your body get over the shock of surgery. Lay around in those comfy clothes and try to relax because in the long run it will help.
  • Don’t throw anything away: You’ll be surprised what you can wear with a bag. Don’t give your old clothes away until you’re 100% sure.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you not to wear something: I’m now 9 months post-surgery and I don’t compromise my fashion choices because of my bag. I wear fitted dresses and skirts, and I always wear my gym kit with pride - I don’t tailor my fashion to suit my bag, my bag will fit with what I want to wear!
  • High waisted is your new best friend! I find that high waisted bottoms always work better with my bag. I have high waisted jeans, skirts and shorts - all of which keep my bag secure and discreet.
  • It’s all about confidence: If you want to wear a bodycon dress or a pencil skirt, then do it! If you feel more confident in loose fitted trousers and an oversized jumper then stick to that… our fashion reflects our identity and you shouldn’t change your identity for anything or anyone!

“I don’t tailor my fashion to suit my bag, my bag will fit with what I want to wear!” – Billie Anderson

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by Billie Anderson

Billie Anderson

About the author

My name is Billie Anderson, I'm in my twenties and study history at Portsmouth. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2017 and after a year of very aggressive drug therapy, I became an ostomate. To help raise IBD and stoma awareness I started a blog https://trustyourgut.blog and an Instagram account @billieandersonx.

This is my attempt to make my very unconventional stomach, conventional. I hope to show the world that you can love yourself - with your insides on the outside.