Work clothes while recovering from surgeries?
December 9, 2017 11:59 PM   Subscribe

After a serious illness, I am preparing to interview work. I've been living in over-sized sweaters and leggings, but am looking for a more professional look that still works with my fragile health. Any suggestions welcome! Details beneath the fold.

-I'm having a laparoscopy for endometriosis. Pants that are tight around the waist are generally too painful for me.

-I have a inguinal hernia and wear a hernia belt that is visible through clingy or thin fabric. My hernia causes me pain so belts around the waist are out.

-I sometimes wear a lidocaine medication patch on my neck. It is somewhat large and difficult to hide. My strategy has been scarfs during the winter and high neck shirts during the summer.

-I have hormonal skin issues on my legs that I sometimes want to cover. Stockings tend to be itchy, but I'd be really interested in suggestions.

-Bras are out. I'm wearing comfortable bralettes, but I'm a C-cup and unsupported.

-I'm aiming to hide my hernia belt/patch/the fact that I"m not wearing a bra/health issues as much as possible.
posted by likethenight to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Take a look at some of the looser clothes from Smoking Lily. Specifically:

Shelter Dress
Documenta Tunic
Documenta Tunic in Linen
Saturday Tunic


Lawren Scarf
Loop Scarf

I've tried the loose tunics/dresses on in the store and while they didn't suit me at all, I can attest they are made of high quality, sturdy, structured fabric that will be less likely to show your hernia belt, and they are comfortable and well made. I know they are not inexpensive, but they are definitely well made clothes--I've had some of my pieces from Smoking Lily for close to a decade and they show almost no signs of wear. of luck in your recovery!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:24 AM on December 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

It would be helpful to know how formal or otherwise you are aiming for and what climate you live in.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:07 AM on December 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

For leg particularities I always suggest sending an email to the excellent people at Sock Dreams. They will be very happy to help you find the softest things at the warmth you need and any other specifications you might have.

The patch on your neck, is it on the front or the back? If it's on the back of your neck something like a shawl-collar open cardigan is very office normal and can come in many levels of warmth and formality. A stand collar jacket would be more businessy. If the patch is in the front I feel like finding some lightweight high necked shell tops in neutral colors might work as an intentional layering component with something like a wrap top or flowy tunic. Large lightweight scarves are super common where I am in the PNW year-round, and a lot of people wear them to the office to combat AC chill.

I think shoes might help make a more loose fitting and less tailored outfit come together as more professional. Do you have some really great boots? Oxford flats are very useful and look great with wide leg pants.

Depending on your shape you might like some of the more structured ponte leggings/pants that are in stores these days, apparently these are fine worn as pants but I wear them with skirts and they still make me look a bit more "together" than my ten dollar target leggings. If those hurt you though, try the leggings at j.jill which are tremendously stretchy and soft.

Think about wrap skirts. They're having a bit of a trendy moment and are typically worn with tights or stockings underneath. They're often good for people whose waist measurement is kind of variable and a true wrap skirt will have a double overlap in the front, which means your hernia belt would be better concealed. Ditto on real wrap dresses, which are harder to find these days.
posted by Mizu at 2:06 AM on December 10, 2017

My approach to this is to take away attention from things you don't want people to look at by drawing attention to others (I like Mizu's shoe suggestion for this reason). Some ideas, which will be of greater/less interest depending on your style and workplace:

- Swing dresses, like this one. Hear me out before you look at the fact that it's fitted and has a belt (I've had open abdominal surgery in the past and then gone back to work in formalwear, I do know what I'm talking about!). The belt and shaped areas of the dress are above the belly button area (on dresses from lindy bop they are around the lower part of my ribs, but I am tall), and so all the painful endometrial/hernia areas are under the flared, flowing part of the skirt. I don't think that a hernia belt would be visible. Because of the 50s styling, a scarf looks good with it for the lidocaine patch. I think that the shaping of the top would mean that there was a little support added to the bralette, so would look ok (but that's something that you would need to try on the dress and see about). For legs - have you tried microfibre stockings? I used to find tights intolerably itchy until I found microfibre ones.

- A very smart, tailored jacket - you can wear loose pants and a loose shirt, then with a sharp jacket over the top (worn open) it makes the whole thing look sharper without actually pressing on any painful bits.

- 60s style dress with a very rectangular silhouette but a bold pattern, something like this (paired with a high neck top it would cover a patch as well), in a size that hangs loose on you. The eye is drawn to the pattern, rather than the shape underlying it - but this is very much dependent on you/your workplace being comfortable with bold patterns.
posted by Vortisaur at 2:50 AM on December 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

I just also had abdominal surgery and skin issues and I wanted to recommend Emma Jane maternity bras- I had very uncomfortable breasts when pregnant and have remained extremely hyper sensitive in that area, and those were the only comfortable bras I found- I have never stopped wearing them. Maybe have a look. Then I got a tiny elastic belt I can wear to keep my trousers up and mostly high waisted stretchy trousers... I got a pair of herringbone yoga pants for example. A very nice pair of boots can make leggings and a sweater look pretty nice I think. Good luck. I don't feel very well at the moment and my heart goes out to you too!
posted by catspajammies at 4:24 AM on December 10, 2017

Pairing a blazer + statement necklace should help. Necklace looks polished & draws attention up around your face. A scarf will serve the same purpose as the necklace if you want more warmth or neck coverage. Blazer covers chest so going braless should be ok, and the structure of the blazer adds enough dressiness that you can pretty much wear whatever you want on your lower half and not look sloppy.

A bright blazer over a dark shirt & pants, plus choosing fabrics that are made of woven, rather than knit, fabric, will help camouflage bralessness and hernia belt even more. Woven fabric has its own structure and will tend to skim over you- knit fabric is more flexible and will be more likely to cling to you.

Full-panel maternity pants might be comfy on your middle- they have a short fly, or "low rise" in the front, with a very low fake waistband designed to sit below the belly and not constrict- then a loose panel of soft material with a loose elastic band, designed to fit up around the top of the baby bump.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:04 AM on December 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of dresses out there right now that are styled to drape loosely from the shoulders, leaving the abdomen region untouched and unshown. I think that if you combined them with the softest leggings you can find and boots (or depending on the dress, booties) you'd have a winning outfit.

Example of a dress where this would work.

Any thicker sweater dress also works with this formula.

And swing dresses.

Shifts have varying levels of non-binding abdomens, also.

I second the pull on ponte pants paired with a looser tunic or swing top as well.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:20 AM on December 10, 2017

The Uniqlo bra cup tanks work for me (I'm a D-cup): thin strap or thick (also in the Airisim fabric for warm weather). I find them comfortable and to have a little more support and coverage than most bralettes.

The JJill ponte pants are elastic waist--I don't know if that's comfortable for you--and are quite popular in the office- professional work environment I'm in
posted by crush at 7:22 AM on December 10, 2017

Check out some of the clothes at the F. H. Clothing Company, particularly the tops.
posted by gudrun at 9:32 AM on December 10, 2017

Misook is a bit more expensive, but designed for comfort while looking quite professional (even in a suits environment) and machine washable and I see many women wearing Misook or Ming Wang (and the even more expensive St John) in court. Some of the prints are awful but many are just fine.
posted by crush at 9:38 AM on December 10, 2017

When my wife had a C-section, she wore a lot of flowy dresses from Old Navy during recovery. They're primarily jersey (t-shirt) fabric, so they're light and comfortable, but still work-appropriate dressiness. There's one she has in particular that's full-length (covers your legs) and has some formal detailing in the bust area, which I think would work well for your situation. Also, because they're from Old Navy, they're like $10 each, so you could buy a whole wardrobe full without spending much money. She usually wears a cardigan over the top. I think it's a nice look.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:56 AM on December 10, 2017

I’d like to second the suggestion to look at maternity pants and nursing clothes. Nursing bras (bravado for example) might work for you too. They are soft and a lot like bralettes.
posted by CMcG at 10:14 AM on December 10, 2017

This has been so helpful. Keep it coming!

I live near San Francisco and the climate is pretty mild overall. I'm aiming for business casual, with maybe one more formal outfit for interviews. Everyone in San Francisco dresses a bit casually which helps me. I currently have a part time job teaching high school students and am dressing somewhat less formally than the other teachers (I would like to change this).
posted by likethenight at 10:44 AM on December 10, 2017

Thigh-High tights or nylons really serve this purpose of nothing tight around your belly while keeping your legs warm. If you have or can find any jumpers (in US this refers to a loose sleeveless dress worn over a long sleeve shirt, does not refer to a sweater as the term used in Australia)—especially cute are jumpers that have straps and a yoke similar to overalls, but its a dress. Long loose “Annie Hall” like dresses work great. Feel better soon!
posted by Lylo at 10:50 AM on December 10, 2017

I often suffer from abdominal pain from endometriosis and ibs, and I've found the Wearever line from J. Jill to be very comfortable. I linked to one of their skirts, but they've got several dresses and skirts. They're made of a soft cotton/spandex blend, and skirts (if you chose to get a skirt) have a a very wide, loose fitting band of soft stretch around the waist that I could wear easily even on my worst days.
posted by backwards compatible at 5:32 PM on December 10, 2017

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