Jess’ ULTIMATE BATHING SUIT WITH A BAG [and also without since I like to consider myself quite fashionably accurate] GUIDE - Uncover Ostomy
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Jess’ ULTIMATE BATHING SUIT WITH A BAG [and also without since I like to consider myself quite fashionably accurate] GUIDE

The sun is shining, the heat is sweltering, and it’s the season where I have a healthy tanned glow and not my usual pale-with-green-undertone sickly looking hue!


Can you tell I’m ecstatic?

It’s time to whip out my favourite types of clothing; the summer dresses, the shorts, the tshirts, the flip flops, and of course the BATHING SUITS!

Yes. I said it.

Bathing Suits

I know, I know; the two words that most, if not all, ostomates dread.

Those two words often spark fear, anxiety, and thoughts such as:

“Is it possible to wear a nice bathing suit with this thing I have?”


“Everyone will see my scars!”


“How do I wear a tight piece of stretchy fabric over my midsection without everyone seeing the GIGANTIC bag I have attached to my stomach?”

Not to mention all the nagging questions of how to deal with a wet bag after being in the water…

To that I say: Yes it is, so what, and I WILL TEACH YOU!

Welcome to Jess’ ULTIMATE BATHING SUIT WITH A BAG [and also without since I like to consider myself quite fashionably accurate] GUIDE

[insert Myspace type photo here because it was the only way to, at the time, get a picture of the newest bathing suit to my collection. Also, please excuse the narcissism! Seeing is better than reading when it comes to this stuff!]

As you can see, I have conquered the mountain that is ostomy+bathing suit after years of experimenting and trying new things. Now, I am here to help you too.

I’m going to start off simple, and ease your minds into the wonders of the bathing suit, by starting off with men.

Men always have it easy.

As long as you, the man with the ostomy, [or without] do not have some strange attachment to the idea of wearing a speedo, I assure you, your bathing suit options are simple. [Even if you don’t have a bag, please don’t wear speedos]. Depending on the height of the ostomy on your midsection, there are 3 options:

For the men with low ostomies:

  • Wearing a short/boardshort type bathing suit high and just above your ostomy.
    • If your bag is low enough, or not too high that the trunks make you look like Urkle, this should be easy.

For men with mid height ostomies:

  • Wearing boxer shorts high enough to cover your bag and swim shorts on top.
    • In recent years, I’ve seen a strange amount of men wear boxers underneath their bathing suit shorts. Though I’ve never been able to figure out why any guy would need to wear cotton boxers underneath their made-for-water shorts, it’s a lucky break for guys with an ostomy.

For men with high ostomies:

  • Tshirt/Tank top on top of bathing suit shorts
    • Who said wearing a tshirt with bathing suit shorts was out? I didn’t. So wear one!

Simple enough? I think so. Men, you can skip down to the “protip” section of this blog. The rest is for the ladies.

My suggestions, as follows, are not only tips based on the potential ostomy location, but also based on body size. Let’s be honest here, no matter how small and low your bag is, if your body shape is a little larger than others, you may not want to wear a bikini. I’ve separated the categories into smaller and bigger women [you may place yourself in one of these categories] as well as low and medium or high ostomies. My suggestions are as follows.

Smaller women who feel comfortable in tight bathing suits but have their ostomies placed mid to high on their midsection, I suggest:

  • A full piece bathing suit.
    • I know, not ideal if you’ve got the body and you want to show it off but have the bag. Lucky for you, there are some pretty sexy full piece bathing suits out there known as the Cutouts! They are full pieces with special sections cut out to get rid of the boring old full piece style
  • Tankinis
    • I suggest these because they separate the fabric of the bathing suit so that the top is not directly against the skin and the bag.

Having the bag so high up on the body makes wearing a full piece bathing suit easy, since the bag wont stick out the bottom of the suit.

For bigger women with their ostomies mid to high on their midsection I suggest:

  • Full piece bathing suits with a sarong
    • It’s always more flattering for a larger woman to wear a full piece bathing suit with a sarong. There are tons of bathing suit shops that actually sell sarongs made out of the same fabric as the bathing suit so that it can be worn in the water. Not only will this pairing flatter the body, but it will also cover the bag!
  • Tankinis
    • For larger women, I would suggest these types of bathing suits but with tops that are loose and hang far off the body. This will not only hide the bag, but will slim down the body in general.

For women like me, whom I would categorize as having a low ostomy and a smaller body, I have a bunch of different options.

  • The full piece cutout
    • Same as mentioned above, though I am able to wear bathing suits with side cutouts
  • The bikini with shorts
    • Boy shorts are the first type of bikini bottom that I experimented with when I first started wearing bathing suits post ostomy. I found a pair of boy shorts that were plain and thin, but sat quite high on the hips, and then found a pair of boy shorts that were a little too low. I combined the two and found that the high part of the first pair covered the bag, while the low part of the second pair covered up the visibility of the bag. It was a bit of a mission to find both pieces, but if you are diligent, you can find bottoms to combine like I have. I always wear black, just because it’s an easy colour to mix and match tops with and it hides the bag relatively well based on the double layers. It’s best to combine these bottoms with a simple halter style bikini top, because it counteracts the shortening of the torso by the high boyshorts.
    • The boy short length will also hide the bottom clip of an open ended bag.
    • I broke my own bikini top rule in this photo, oops!
  • The bikini with high waisted bottoms
    • This is only a recent discovery of mine, but I found a store that sells high waisted bikini bottoms. They sit fairly high above my hips and hide my bag perfectly. Some women may want to wear a close ended bag with this bathing suit because a clip can stick out the bottom of the bathing suit because it fits around the groin like any other bathing suit. I just stick with the clip and roll it into itself once or twice to fold it into the bathing suit. Make sure there are patterns on the bottoms to hide the bag.
    • I pair this with a bra like top or tube top bathing suit to give more shape to my body as in the pictures above or here:
  • The Tankini
    • I don’t actually wear tankinis, but if you really hate showing off scars, these are good for that. The bottoms, as with the above bathing suit bottoms, may show a bit of the bottom of an open ended bag with a clip, so a closed bag might be better. [I suck it up and stick to my open ended and clip and fold it into itself]

For bigger women with lower ostomies I suggest:

  • Full piece bathing suits with swimming shorts
    • The functionality of a full piece is the same as mentioned above for those with medium-high ostomies. The added shorts not only compliment the body, but will catch the bottom of the bag if it happens to peak out of the bottom of the bathing suit. I actually have a pair of short shorts that are made of a bathing suit like fabric that I sometimes wear with a full piece when swimming.

Phew, that was a lot of information!

With all those style suggestions out of the way, I want to tie all of this together for it to make some semblance of sense with Jess’ helpful PROTIPS for bag swimming in general! Hopefully, the bathing suit options above, paired with these tips below, will result in an enjoyable and easy summer with your bag!

  1. Embrace patterns, they are your friend [as long as they match]. Patterns will hide any indication that there is something underneath the fabric because the fabric’s busyness hides the bags creases.
  2. Don’t get in the water unless you’re wearing a freshly changed ostomy. It just saves a lot of worry and potential not-so-nice situations.
  3. Your scars: GET OVER IT. Who cares? They are a part of who you are and a part of the reason you’re still alive today. Show them off proudly. [I know I only have like two small visible ones so I can’t really say much, but I can say that I am DAMN proud of the little caterpillar like scar tissue on my abdomen]
  4. Tshirts/Tank tops are never the most ideal solution, but throwing on a cotton top will always cover up the bag, no matter what the bathing suit is!
  5. As I mentioned above, putting on close ended bags [instead of open ended for drainage] is sometimes useful. You don’t get the clip showing next to the tight bathing suit fabric and it wont slip out of the bottom of the suit. Be warned though; if you haven’t used a closed ended bag before, you may want to practice a bit… In my experience, though, I am fine keeping my open ended bag and curved clip on underneath my suit.
  6. Bring a change of supplies. If you’re secretly a fish and spend hours in the water, you’ll definitely need to change the whole bag after a while. Or, if you’re like me, and hate the feeling of being wet, for the times I do go into the water, I like to just change the bag part of the ostomy so I’m not walking around with it wet in my bathing suit all day.
  7. If you’re REALLY uncomfortable with this whole thing, and feel like you need some extra bag hiding help, there are a few products out there [none I can name or endorse] that can be worn while swimming to hide the bag. You’ll have to Google those on your own though, sorrrry.
  8. If you like some of the bathing suits I’ve featured here, you can find a lot of them by Googling “tankini” or “cutout bathing suit” and for a lot of them, they are online shopping sites! Find the perfect bathing suit for you with a simple internet search.

So this concludes Jess’ ULTIMATE BATHING SUIT WITH A BAG [and also without since I like to consider myself quite fashionably accurate] GUIDE. I hope that you, ostomates [and bagless individuals alike] have taken the information I have shared and are ready to put together an amazing summer look!

I want to add on, as a disclaimer to this post, that I am a girl with only one ostomy, and one body shape. I speak from my own experience in that area, however, in the other areas, I speak from observing, research, fashion sense, and my own idea of ostomy functionality. The suggestions I’ve made are just that; suggestions.

That being said, I challenge you. If my suggestions don’t work for you, take it upon yourself to find something that does. Take your ostomy into your own hands. Embrace what you have and learn to live with your life saving medical appliance as I have.

If you have already done that, and I haven’t suggested something that you do when it comes to swimming and bathing suits, tweet at me [@JessGrossman], or comment here or on the Facebook page and share it with others!

Swimming is probably one of the most annoying and disheartening activities for an ostomate without guidance. I’ve provided the knowledge I have to act as a guide, and I hope the ostomy community can come together to share more knowledge to guide others.

Jessica Grossman
  • Tim @ CrohnsOnCampus
    Posted at 04:34h, 02 June

    Girls are so lucky with the one piece suits! The t-shirt while swimming is not a good look.

  • Heather
    Posted at 05:09h, 02 June

    Jess, once again, you've showered us with information to instill confidence! I have tried on my pre-surgery one-piece which I always loved, and to hell with the shape of the bag under, I will go for it! I also bought a tankini with a skirt bottom – this is awsome for hiding as well, as it's a double layer of fabric over the bag, can't tell anything's going on. I'm not a young woman like you – I'm over 50 – but I refuse to never wear a suit again! I too don't like the wet bag, but don't spend much time in the water anymore. As for the clip, I only used that type of pouch for the first few months with an ostomy. Now I do the velcro closure type, way less bulk and way more security at the bottom of the pouch – I've had a clip come off and end up in my pant leg before, but I've never had a velcro closure open up on me.

    Tim, I know it's tougher for you guys, for sure. Especially younger who wear their pants lower… hope you figure out something that works for you!

  • Katy
    Posted at 06:40h, 02 June

    My new favourite bathing suit that I bought post-surgery is a long tankini with a ruched top. The bunching of the fabric hides the bulk of the ostomy really well. I also like to wear something underneath the bottom, either another bottom or an underwear to keep everything secure. That's just my preference but I hope it helps!

  • Paul Bonar
    Posted at 07:59h, 02 June

    Hi Jess,

    This is my first time visiting your blog and it's the first ostomy blog that is interesting, I think having photos of you in a bathing suit may have something to do with that! lol. But seriously, it's easy to read, it's practical and it feels real! I read articles from ostomy magazines and ostomy charity groups etc, and they all have someone spouting on about how they changed their life around, which is a good thing, but they all have articles saying the same thing and after awhile I go, "Yawn! I'm bored now!" And I think to myself, when is someone going to write about something that will help me out in the practical day to day of living with an ostomy? But my prayers have been answered and here it is!
    Anyhow, I haven't been in a swimming pool since my ileostomy (July 1995) and I am going to a conference on the 10th of June to a hotel with a pool, so I will take your advice and I will let you know how I get on.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Mystique
    Posted at 16:26h, 02 June

    Hi Jess,

    I'm a new ostomate since March 2011. Thanks for posting about swimwear. I found some two-pieces from Anthropologie that might be of some interest to others.

    Here is an example of one:

  • DebSter
    Posted at 19:36h, 02 June

    I have a large central saucer sized scar…plus a dormant colostomy& active ileostomy….n i have a selection of rather cute Swim Dresses.they hide all my lumps n bumps,even when i have output….i notice in all your piccys you have a"perfectly"flat bag….were not all that lucky….x

  • Heather
    Posted at 20:52h, 07 June

    I love your blog. As someone with an ostomy, I appreciate anyone with this much honesty. Plus, I love this article and it reminds me that what I worry about in a swimsuit has never been my bag but everything else that I worried about before my surgery… cellulite, pale skin, flabby butt… I don't even think about the bag! 🙂 Thanks again, please let me know if you'd ever be interested in writing a guest post for my blog.