8 Tips When Shopping for a Post-Surgery Wardrobe

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The clothing that you wear makes a big impact on your comfort after surgery. Having the wrong clothing can cause chafing, promote swelling and irritate the incision site — while the right clothing will promote an easier and faster recovery. Here are our top tips for shopping for comfortable clothes to wear after surgery:

Know where your incision site will be.

One of the most important things that you need to keep in mind while shopping for post-surgery clothes is the location of your incision site. You want to choose garments that are cut so that the seams and waistbands will not rub directly against the incision site, which can irritate the wound and compromise the quality of the stitches. Depending on the location of the incision, you might need to branch from your regular clothing style. For instance, nightgowns are a great choice for people of all genders after abdominal surgery instead of pants with a waistband that will rub directly on the incision site.

Be prepared for limited mobility.

Another thing that you need to consider is how much your mobility will be limited after surgery. This will be most pronounced around the surgical site, of course, but your entire body will likely be stiff and sore after surgery. A big, loose sweatshirt that you once slipped into without issue might be impossible to pull over your head after the procedure. You might even need help getting dressed and undressed, especially in the days immediately following the surgery. Keep this limited mobility in mind as you shop for clothing to wear after the surgery.

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Accommodate potential swelling.

You will likely be very swollen in the days following the surgery, and this can sometimes last for weeks after a very involved procedure. Talk to your surgical team about how much swelling to expect during surgery recovery and how many clothing sizes you should go up from your normal size. If you expect your size to fluctuate a lot, look for clothing made out of stretchy fabrics that will accommodate differences in swelling. You might also wish to buy clothing in a couple of different sizes to make sure that all your bases are covered.

Choose soft, breathable fabrics.

Speaking of fabrics, we also recommend choosing materials that are soft and breathable. Breathability is important because it helps your body to regulate temperature and doesn’t trap sweat (very important in the days after surgery when you might not be showering every day). Soft fabrics will be comfortable to wear for long periods of sitting or lying down and will reduce the chances that your skin becomes irritated or chafed.

Source: Roman Samsonov/

Prioritize seamless designs.

Soft fabrics aren’t enough on their own. You also need to seek out garments with low profile seams or seamless construction. Hard, rigid seams press into your skin, causing discomfort and potentially restricting blood flow as well. In serious cases, they can even contribute to bed sores due to the non-stop pressure they put on your skin, which is a big concern for patients who will be on bed rest after surgery. Ideally, your post-surgery clothing should minimize the number of seams that it has, and the remaining seams should lie flat comfortably against the skin.

Look for easy access closures.

There are multiple situations where you or your caretaker might want to be able to check something without forcing you to completely disrobe. These situations include looking at the incision site, changing bandages and monitoring a catheter. As you shop for post-surgery clothing, look for adaptive clothing for seniors that has easy access closures and medical ports in the places that you need them. You might want pants with a medical port in the leg to accommodate a catheter, or shirts with sleeves that unsnap so you can look at the incision site. If you’re not sure what features you need, ask your surgical team ahead of time.

return home after surgery
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Make bathroom use easy.

If you will not have a catheter when you return home after surgery, then you need to be prepared to use the bathroom with limited mobility. In addition to bathroom aids such as toilet risers, you will also want to choose post-surgery clothing that will make it easy to use the bathroom when nature calls. For instance, post-surgery gowns can simply be pulled out of the way instead of forcing you to fumble with zippers or buttons on pants. Such delays can result in an accident when the urge to urinate is too great, so it’s better to select clothing that you can take on and off either by yourself or with help.

Don’t forget about shoes and socks.

We couldn’t wrap up this article without talking about socks and shoes. You will likely be unsteady on your feet after the surgery, and struggle with cold feet as well. Socks with grips on the bottom will keep your feet warm and give you some extra help if you do need to get up. Slippers with a non-skid rubber sole will provide even more stability. Look for ones with adjustable Velcro closures so you can adjust the fit to accommodate swelling. We generally recommend staying away from stiff, heavy shoes immediately after surgery, as this can increase discomfort and worsen swelling. All in all, we recommend prioritizing comfort and functionality over appearance when shopping for clothing after surgery. The faster you recover, the sooner you will be back to your nice-looking regular clothes, so embrace this chance to wear comfy, loose clothes instead of worrying about what you look like. Many surgical clothes will need to be ordered from specialty retailers, so be sure to place your order well in advance of your surgery date to ensure that the garments arrive on time.

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