Pump Fashion: Dressing with Your Device

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What can you wear that best conceals your pump?

Your health care provider and your educators can give you the inside scoop on how the pump works and how to tweak your pump settings to get the best blood glucose readings possible. But blood glucose numbers aren’t your only concern when wearing a pump; sometimes you have to consider the fashion statement you are making and the operational pointers of living with a device attached to you.

People who use oral agents or take insulin with a syringe or pen don’t have to worry about having a skin-tight personal relationship with an inanimate object fastened to their person. That is not true if you wear a pump. Most pumps have tubing that needs to be securely hidden. After all you don’t want to be the person with yards of plastic trailing behind.

And one pump, if not appropriately concealed, can make it seem as if you have an oddly shaped protuberance growing out of your body. When you are a pumper, it is necessary to consider how you are going to incorporate your pump into your daily fashion statement.

Men and women wearing pants who do not care if the pump is visible can always wear it on their belt or waist band. If you are a fashionista(o) you can often color coordinate your look by purchasing a set of skins to overlay the monochromatic gray or blue of the pump.

For many pumpers, being discreet about who knows you have diabetes is important; therefore concealing outward signs of having a pump is a priority. So we asked a few people around Joslin who deal with this issue every day about their sartorial secrets and checked out a few outside blogs on the topic.

“For my son’s wedding I found a dress with side gathering at my hip. I wore a girdle to hold the pump snugly against my abdomen” –Elaine Sullivan, Joslin employee

Many workout clothes such as running shorts or leggings for cold weather have small, built in pockets in the waistband.  Although they were originally intended for holding keys or phones, they are the perfect size for an insulin pump.  And these types of leggings are a great option in the fall and winter months as an alternative to regular leggings says one Joslin pumper.

The pump in the sock seems to be a favorite trick. This one came from the sixuntilme blog.  Of course this requires long enough tubing for the infusion set to be attached to the skin on your stomach and the pump to cocoon into your sock. There was discussion about whether it is best to slip it in the shin or calf side for the most comfort. There were good arguments on all sides.  If you have tried this and found it useful, let us know.

The real conundrum is finding an easy place to wear the pump when you are the dress or skirt. Despite many suggestions there doesn’t seem to be a perfect place. Tight garters came up a number of times, but the risk of slippages remained. (Perhaps the old fashioned garter belt needs to make a comeback.)

Alex Root, a Communications intern at Joslin  suggests taking advantage of  undergarments  whenever possible. “Under all of my dresses I wear spandex shorts, similar to volleyball shorts, and put my pump in the waistband of them.  They really do act like one big pocket and keep your pump concealed, and in place.  The biggest downside is that it is difficult to access your pump.  Luckily many pumps are coming out with remote control options so you don’t need to access your pump to give an insulin bolus.”

Sewing a pocket on the inside of the dress was another alternative, although a few people mentioned the risk of looking unbalanced due to disproportionate weight on one side.

“Under all of my dresses I wear spandex shorts, similar to volleyball shorts, and put my pump in the waistband of them.” –Alex Root, Joslin intern

The most popular solution was the brassiere. While putting your pump in your bra ranked high for concealment potential, it got demerits for discretion.  Unless you go to the ladies’ room, it is difficult to pull a pump out of your bra in public without attracting notice.

Elaine Sullivan, R.N., Associate Director of Clinical Education for Health Solutions at Joslin who has had type 1 diabetes for 34 years, states “It is definitely a challenge.  I rarely wear dresses. When I can find them, I buy 2 piece dresses ideally where the top is loose fitting and drapes over the pump so it is hard to see.  For my son’s wedding I found a dress with side gathering at my hip.  I wore a girdle to hold the pump snugly against my abdomen.  I turned off the alarm on the sensor so it wouldn’t beep at a time when I knew I couldn’t access it to respond to the beep.”

So for now it still appears that the perfect accommodation for dresses hasn’t been found for those pumps with tubing. It is certainly easier if the pump comes with a separate PDA for bolusing and checking functions, albeit it still isn’t ideal.

Tell us–what do you do to conceal your pump in different outfits?

Need some guidance on living with a pump? Check out Joslin’s Pump Program

7 Responses to Pump Fashion: Dressing with Your Device

  1. Kris says:

    I also wear shorts under my dresses. Mostly those “correct all” shorts. I usually buy two sizes bigger because I am not looking for the “correcting” aspect of them. I sew a pocket to the inner thigh and wear my pump there. This seems to be the best option so far for dresses that I have found. I’m ALWAYS looking for new and better ideas though! A clothing line for this would be amazing! If only I knew how to sew and had any fashion sense!

  2. Cindy Shaler says:

    I wear my OmniPod on my upper arms, since my abdomen and torso have become scarred and since I discovered I can garden without losing the Pod from sweat if it’s on my arm. As far as concealing it–I don’t bother! Even with sleeveless dresses in the summer, I still wear it proudly. I’ve had type 1 over 60 years now, with no complications, and I’m happy to talk about it. Most people don’t even ask, though. Everyone’s wearing some device or other these days.

  3. Gloria Lodge says:

    I don’t wear dresses – and I only buy pants with pockets. I also avoid putting my pump in my bra if Ii am wearing a snug sweater – the lumps look odd. And what is the solution for a pool party? I take it off when I am actually swimming. Where do people put it so that it doesn’t show and the tubing is hidden when you are hanging around the pool wrapped in a towel and cover-up?. (I have a one piece suit…)

  4. Debbi says:

    When I wore a MiniMed and/or an Animas pump(s) before switching over to Omnipod, I often would sew in a piece of material with a slot added, to attach my pump to, if on a top/blouse/dress. My wedding dress was strapless and adding the matching material with a slot for the pump, worked well, even when dancing. Yes, I had to go to the bathroom, to bolus, but at least my pump was concealed and no one know what I was doing in the bathroom. : )

  5. Judith says:

    I look for dresses with pockets and pass the tubing through a small strategically cut hole. It leaves me perfect access to the pump, and not having something clipped at the waist of my skirt or jeans is a welcome alternative.

  6. Cynthia Cook says:

    Here is a site that sells wonderful accessories for pumpers. My favorite purchase was the half slip with a pocket into which the pump easily slides.

    http://uniaccs.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&view=category&virtuemart_category_id=213

  7. Erin says:

    I pretty much only wear skirts and dresses (off the rack jeans are always too gap-waisted) so I’ve figured out a few things. Mostly I’ve converted to only wearing skirts and dresses with pockets (like Judith above), but obviously this doesn’t usually work with dressy clothes. For those I have bike shorts with a pump sewn in, like Kris, or I clip my pump to my bra. I also have actually worn old-fashioned stockings with garters and clipped a the thigh holster to the garter belt, since the proposed mode of clipping it to my underwear just pulled my underwear off, haha.

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