While I’ve never been a fashionista and couldn’t care less about is on the runways each season, I do take pride in my appearance. I work from home and still wear makeup daily because it makes me feel good. My fashion style has always been about what I like and not what other people think. But, adding in needing bladder comfort throws a wrench in the clothes I can pick.
I have spent years trying to figure out the best way to dress for my bladder, especially during a flare. While sweatpants or loose yoga pants are comfortable, they aren’t all that great for times I need to look nice. Then came the flare that lasted for two years thanks to some added pressure from prolapse. I was able to wear loose jeans on good days previously. I had yoga pants to wear otherwise. But, suddenly I had no “good” days.
I’d like to say I embraced letting go of jeans with a happy spirit. I’d like to say I had a party to celebrate a good-bye to denim, but the truth is, I felt awful about it. I didn’t find jeans all that comfortable, but they made me feel like I was trying. And being forced to not wear them didn’t seem nearly as celebratory as choosing to not wear them.
I also didn’t want to always be dressy. My options seemed to be yoga pants or nice dresses without an in-between. I was either super casual or dressy. I lost my middle ground. I moped for a while — months, actually! I remember going to a parent/teacher conference for my daughter with a teacher who was very fashionable and feeling like a bum sitting there in my yoga pants and long-sleeved t-shirt. I wanted to explain that I had to dress that way because my entire pelvic region felt like it had a 20-pound weight sitting on it. I was nearly in tears about the whole thing later and knew it was time to stop moping and figure out plan B.
Combined with years of experience dressing for my IC bladder, I realized I didn’t have to feel hopeless and mopey about what I couldn’t wear (I had the same realization years ago about diet!). Instead I could choose to embrace what I could wear and use this as a chance to try new things. I’m glad I did!
For a few years, leggings were all the rage and I was too unsure to get on board. I’m chubby. I was in my late 30s at the time. While my young elementary school aged daughter wore leggings exclusively, I didn’t think to buy them for myself — until I did. I know some people say leggings aren’t pants. Don’t listen to them. Try leggings if you haven’t. Knowing how to wear them helps.
They pair best with a long shirt or dress. (If you are shopping online, try searching for a “tunic.”) I look for things that come at least to my mid-thigh for wearing leggings, but it is completely your preference. If you live in a colder climate like I do, consider getting fleece-lined leggings as well. They feel like a soft, gentle hug for your legs and really do keep you warm on cold days.
The best part is leggings are all made of stretchy material, so they shouldn’t be in the pelvis. Leggings tend to come in a broad range of sizes because they are so stretchy. Go for whatever size is closest to what you usually wear. For my first pairs, I went to the store and tried them on before buying them.
I also have found that price doesn’t matter. When I was first trying leggings, there was a popular brand various friends of mine would have parties to sell. The leggings came in wild prints and were pricey around $30. I haven’t spent more than $10 on a pair of leggings. They often come in two-packs, and I only buy black and gray because then I can match them much better. (I do have a pair for Halloween that are covered in pumpkins, because I got them on clearance!) You can definitely find fun patterns, but if you’re a legging novice, I suggest starting with a pair or two in a basic solid to ease your way into them. And don’t break your budget to get them either online or in person!
The final issue I had with leggings was what footwear to wear. In wearing tunics or dresses with leggings, they were dressier outfits, so my standard sneakers wouldn’t cut it. Thanks to advice from friends, I figured out two options for footwear: flats and boots. The flats work for warmer days and the boots are good for cooler ones.
Leggings really can be dressed up or down. I have worn them with some of my dressier dresses for work meetings and church, but I’ve also worn them with long sweaters for school meetings or dinner out with friends. I see other women wearing them with even more casual shirts and sneakers as well. Leggings can be quite versatile!
Skirts, dresses and loose dress pants
Skirts and dresses seem like a no-brainer when it comes to clothes that are loose in the pelvis. One of the things I worked to find were casual dresses and skirts I would feel comfortable wearing on a normal day. Usually I reserved skirts and dresses were reserved for more dressy occasions. But in embracing leggings, I realized I could make dresses more casual with leggings. And then I learned that I could go even more casual than that in the summer. I found some cotton skirts that worked with sandals. Again, for me, a solid color was the way to go that I could then match with a variety of different tops. I bought a black skirt in a couple of different lengths, including one maxi length skirt.
I learned that cotton T-shirt style dresses are quite comfortable on my pelvis and are ideal are on hot days. They made me feel better than wearing my standard athletic pants, capris or shorts. Even just adding one skirt to your wardrobe that you can pair with different things can give you an oomph in your step when you need it during flares.
Another option when you need something dressy for work or another occasion is a nice dress pant that is loose. I have a couple of pairs of dress pants with an elastic waist that are loose fitted and feel just as nice as pajama pants! Paired with a nice blouse or dressy sweater and heels or boots, I can both look nice and keep my pelvis comfortable.
Though my last baby was born almost seven years ago, I still have maternity pants in my closet. I have a pair of jeans and a pair of black dress pants that both are the low rise belly style. I have worn them both at different times during flares when I needed something more than sweatpants or yoga pants. In fact, I once had a UTI, but had to go to a big meeting for work an hour away; I wore my black maternity pants with a sweater in order to get through the day. Nobody around me had a clue I was a non-pregnant woman wearing maternity pants!
The nice thing with maternity pants is that they do have the stretchy panel in the pelvic area and they are also made just a bit looser than your average pants. They really do work well for bladder and pelvic comfort. As long as you don’t wear a shirt that needs to be tucked in with them, they fit just as well as regular pants. In buying maternity pants, look for bands that say they go under the belly (just a few inches wide) and buy them in your usual pant size.
Yoga pants tend to be my standby even more than sweatpants, because they don’t make me as hot and they look nicer than sweatpants. But not all yoga pants are made the same. Some are incredibly tight fitting and have tight elastic waist bands, which aren’t comfortable for your bladder. Definitely try them on before buying (or buy online from a retailer offering free returns). Look for pants with a secure elastic waist but not a tight one. Make sure they also aren’t tight in the pelvis.
While yoga pants seem casual — and they certainly can be — you can also dress them up more than you might think. I’ve paired them with a nice sweater and solid black tennis shoes and worn them to church. I have a friend who does the same except with flats and wears them to work where she has to be dressed up. Again with yoga pants, I usually pick black because they do match everything and can be dressed up a bit.
I saved the best for last. About two years ago, I discovered jeans that are comfortable. While I knew stretchy jeans existed, I didn’t know you could buy pull-on jeans made to feel like athletic wear. I tried them on at the store and for the first time in years, I felt comfortable in jeans. Pull-on jeans are stretchy enough that they don’t even button and zip. You just pull them on like yoga pants, because that’s how they feel and fit. You can find them from high-priced retailers, but you can also find them at big box superstores. They really are comfortable in the pelvis.
The first time I wore jeans again, I teared up. It was a good feeling to be able to have another option (and have pants with pockets again!). Pull-on jeans are a great option for jeans for IC patients, but they aren’t all made alike. Definitely try them on and see if they are comfortable for you. You may need a slightly larger size. Also be aware, though, that since they are stretchy, they do have some give to them as you wear them throughout the day, so don’t go too large and end up with your pants falling down by lunchtime.