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Ostomy Fashion – is the cost justified?

Ostomy fashion is becoming more and more relevant as time goes on. Both ladies and gentlemen are hunting for the perfect pair of jeans, or something to hold and support their ostomy. This can be difficult to find on the high street, unless you’re a lady and don’t mind wearing maternity clothing to help support and disguise the ostomy. Men unfortunately don’t have this option, so they may struggle to find the right clothing to be comfortable with their ostomy.

Is the cost justified?

I believe due to it being a specialist garment and knowing some of the owners personally, that the cost is justified to a certain degree.

I like to think of myself as fashionable and I often don’t struggle with clothing and normally source it from normal high street stores and feel comfortable with what I wear. I struggle with dresses and skirts as they hang funny over my stoma and you can just see it sitting there under the dress or skirt. I am lucky that I have a steady income into the household and can afford to pay for luxuries, such as ostomy knickers to help with my clothing choices.

Unfortunately, I still can’t get the NHS stoma knickers on prescription, so buying these is considered a necessity. High street shopping is like drilling teeth. I only wear normal knickers to bed and apart from the odd bikini for holidays, I really do struggle buying clothes to accommodate the stoma. There has been many a time when I’ve been incredibly frustrated, close to tears and abandoned shopping because I don’t like the view I see in the mirror. To put this into perspective for you, minus the clothing, my tummy is a pretty solid and bloated mess due to scar tissue, Crohn’s and the ostomy on my left-hand side. It’s always looking swollen and it frustrates me. It has given me back some freedom, but has compromised the way I dress and my mental view of what I see in the mirror. Back goes the outfit, or I stand there and complain, as all I can see is the waist band from my ostomy knickers or support belt showing through the outfit. So, is there a solution to this or should I continue arguing with myself every time I need new clothes?

Ostomy Garments

Ostomy clothing can be considered a niche market, but if you put this figure into perspective there are 26,400 people facing ostomy surgery every year. The total figure for UK alone over 10 years would equate to roughly 264,000 people living with an ostomy. So, the need for ostomy clothing would be relatively high, but it is something that many people are doing alone as a business venture, due to their own struggles with finding clothing to accommodate their stoma and their own struggles with finding clothing to fit. Just in case you wondered where these figures came from:

Ileostomy surgery per year – Over 9000 – NHS figures (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ileostomy/)

Urostomy surgery per year – 11000 – UA figures (https://urostomyassociation.org.uk/)

Colostomy surgery per year – 6400 – Colostomy Association UK (http://www.colostomyuk.org/information/about-to-have-a-colostomy/)

I purchase ostomy clothing and sometimes have to justify the cost, as they are rather expensive, yet I wouldn’t think twice over paying £60 for a Super Dry hoody or jeans, as that’s my preferred choice. I contacted the owner of each UK-based ostomy garment company as to why they make their products and why the cost may be slightly higher than normal high street clothing. May I also add that each of these ladies is like us and has an ostomy. They have branched out to make clothing or underwear as they also struggled to find clothes or underwear to accommodate their stomas.

Aura Clothing – Angelina

‘The main reason why ostomy products are more expensive than high street products is due to the fact that they are specialised. As they aren’t standard products, means that all the specifications have to be made specifically. You have to prototype every style in every size and colour and in every material to ensure that the manufacturer can meet the quality requirements. We also have prototypes from several different manufacturers to ensure that we have more than one reliable source. As well as that, manufacturers charge a higher price for smaller quantities, especially when the product isn’t a factory standard. Aura Clothing is also made from the highest quality materials which then also adds to the cost of the final product. Aura Clothing is worth the money because it is made specifically for ostomates. Every detail has gone into the final product and has been designed and developed for those individuals in mind.’

I Am Denim – Sophie

‘So, for me when I created the jeans, I wanted my customer to have the best in quality. Jeans that would last a lifetime. Having them made in the U.K. also meant jobs for local people that are paid a decent wage and has enriched communities. I Am Denim jeans are sewn by experts that have been in business for over 150 years. It also means I can oversee every step of the process that goes into making my designs become a reality, to ensure the customer receives the jeans they deserve.”

Jasmine Stacey – Jasmine Stacey Collection

‘Each brief is handmade with the sole purpose to improve an ostomate’s confidence and begin their journey of self-love after surgery. I have always taken pride in producing the garments in the U.K. with seamstresses who I would call my friends. Keeping the embedded ethos within the brand is essential and this extends to the products. Close monitoring of the whole process from start to finish, means we produce the highest quality garments and ensure that each and every person is dealt with personally. The high streets all source and hold stock for biggest margins, but here at JSC we try to be competitive with price to allow our product to be accessible to all.’

Why I purchase the products

For me, taking the plunge and purchasing ostomy jeans came with a fair amount of soul searching, tallying my bank balance and staying out of MAC makeup. I can say the jeans are worth the money and are a complete game changer. I have yet to purchase Aura jeans, but the I Am Denim jeans are comfortable, don’t give me the back fat between bra and support belt and the little sleeve that covers the stoma allows for you to tuck in shirts, t-shirts or vest tops and no one would know they aren’t regular jeans.

I also have a steady supply of ostomy knickers. My preferred choice is JSC, but that’s because they sit low enough to not look like ostomy knickers and allow me to wear low-waisted jeans without impacting my stoma site. I also have the mesh ones, which allow my body to breathe and means I don’t feel like I am constricted by a large amount of spandex. As for swimming, I have a specialist stoma swimming costume from Vanilla blush as it has a mesh insert which holds the stoma flush to the skin and I don’t have to worry about the baseplate being compromised with moving about and excess water.

I hope that the companies that make ostomy garments become more mainstream, so that they are more affordable to those that can’t warrant the price. At the moment, they are a specialist product and looked at as a medical need rather than a fashion outlet, due to what they are made for.

Many thanks for reading,

Louise X

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