Wearing clothes when suffering the pain of IBS can be extremely unpleasant.

Article by Sian

Clothes and IBS
In my late teens and early twenties I possessed a pair of very slim jeans. I wore them a great deal until they became almost white. It was not however, the style that I liked, so much as the fact they were stretch jeans.

I had not been diagnosed with IBS at that time, but I already knew that at times my stomach would bloat and wearing anything with a waistband, and jeans especially, became a penance.

The office dress code and IBS
In all of the jobs I have had, one had to dress smartly, a suit, or if not, skirt, or tailored trousers and blouse. Gradually it became impossible for me to follow the dress code. I might begin the day with a flat stomach, but after eating a sandwich at lunchtime, I would bloat and the waistband would dig into me. Trousers were even worse. And this is where I become extremely sorry for men who have to wear trousers all the time in office jobs. Men in jobs involving manual work often wear jeans, and these are just as constricting.

I began to look in various places for either dresses or suits that had elasticated waistbands as leggings do. I shopped mainly in catalogs or in second hand shops since there was simply a lot more chance of finding something. When I was younger, it seemed that only larger sized clothing used elastic, but I did find some outfits which were both smart and where the waist used elastic, not zip and buttons.

Smart and comfortable.
In one of my last full time jobs I was a receptionist, and I was expected to dress neatly and smartly. All of the female staff wore either suits or skirt and jackets, and while I did possess some tailored suits, I was no longer prepared to suffer the discomfort of abdominal pain and bloating exacerbated by a tight waistband. By that time, I had collected several outfits which were suits or skirts, all with elasticated waistbands, but good material and cut. they were mainly long and flowing, rather than tailored, perhaps something one might wear out at night rather than into the workplace, but they were formal, not scruffy or overly casual.

I was the target of certain remarks by such people as the Managers secretary, who was always dressed in office suits, but never by one of the management themselves.

I found it was possible to dress with comfort and still look smart.

If you are working with IBS, that is hard enough, at times I have been driven home curled up in agony. To zip and button yourself into clothes which will only make it worse when you bloat or experience an attack became something I simply was not prepared to endure. It was surely my work which took precedence to my clothes.

This did become a problem when I worked in a job where I was required to wear a uniform supplied by the company. I was extremely slim at the time, partly because I was afraid to eat anything on duty, and on my feet a great deal, but I frequently offered to work overtime, so might be there from 9.00 a.m. to 11.00 at night. I needed to eat something, and sometimes I would bloat, apart from feeling extremely sick. After a few weeks I found myself a couple of skirts which had partially elasticated waistband and were the same shade as the jacket. No-one noticed.

If your IBS-friendly work clothes are remarked on, should you tell your boss?
Although my looser clothes were remarked on, it was never by the management, which was either a silent endorsement that my outfits were smart enough for the office, or meant that my superiors simply did not notice. However, when my IBS was diagnosed, and after spending some years suffering from clothes with inflexible waistbands, I would have explained IBS to them and why I was not wearing tailored suits.

Men and Uniforms.
I can see that this would be a problem for people in uniform and for men who have no option but to wear trousers. It is possible that some mens trousers have semi-elasticated waists, and if they do not ( for reasons of cut and style ) this is a great shame. Men can suffer IBS just as badly as women and have no option but to bear it, or to discreetly loosen the waist of their trousers when they sit down. It seems that the majority of mens trousers with elasticated waists are jogging bottoms or casual slacks. If any-one reading this does know where they can buy suits or slacks which are both smart and with partially elasticated waists, I would be grateful if they could contact me so that I can amend this article.

The limitations of IBS and style.
For me, there are less limitations than there were back when I was grateful that my skin-tight jeans loosened a little each time I washed them. It took years of browsing mail-order catalogs and thrift shops, and later to find high street shops which stocked formal skirts whose waistbands were either partly or fully elasticated. Many of these outfits and skirts were very smart, so the old belief that elasticated waists are only for large sizes or older woman is definitely a myth.

I will not even look at trousers or skirts now that have no elastic at the waist. They say women have to suffer for the sake of beauty or style, but my stomach comes first. The skirts I do have could be worn in an office job or out at night, and are not frumpy or casual, and their waists are fully elasticated. Due to bloating, I tend to wear tops which rest on or over my stomach and do not cling to it, I also rarely wear belts, although wide, elasticated ones that clip together are both smart and not uncomfortable.

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