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Designer Nicola Dames has created Vanilla Blush, a range of practical and attractive swimwear and underwear for people who have colostomy bags, which means when the colon doen't work an opening has been made from the large bowel through the abdomen, called a stoma, and a bag is attached to collect the waste that the body cannot pass naturally.
Nicola had an ileosotmy, which is a bag attached to a stoma from the small bowel, after an operation four years ago. She found it hard to buy underwear that was comfortable and made her feel good.
She said: “I started my life when I had my surgery because before I was really unwell and I released that when after I came out of hospital, being a real underwear freak before I went in, underwear is a major issue.”
There is a gap in the market for colostomy bag wearers as normal underwear just does not hold up to their needs.
Nicola said: “The problem is that if you go into to high street stores you are quite limited in what you can wear there are a lot of high legged stuff and a lot of stuff that you might see you’re bag sticking out the top or coming out the bottom and with lace trends you can see the bag through it.”
The Vanilla Blush range has a special compartment for the bag to be hidden discretely at the back so the wearer is not bother by the bag hanging below the leg line or sticking up above the waist band. They are also designed to look great.
Nicola said: “We try to improve self esteem, body image and that having a stoma is no barrier to beauty.”
The range that Nicola designed attracted the attention of Girl’s Aloud singer Nadine Coyle, whose friend, hairdresser Conner, had to have a colostomy bag put in after surgery and found it hard to cope in the vain industry he was part of.
Nicola said: “It was first brought to Nadine’s attention by Connor and she was just shocked by the negative connotations that surround it and the stigmas. People do tend to think it’s an elderly person’s problem, elderly people do have this, but so many more people are affected by it.”
The Vanilla Blush Intimacy range mixes the practicality of safely storing the bag with fun and flirty patterns that are great for young women. Leanne, one of Nicola’s models, has had her stoma since she was 13 and really loves Nicola’s designs.
Leanne said: “Before I got introduced to Nicola I realised that underwear was very hard to find, but I found that she had ranges in all different colours and sizes it’s just been brilliant and so comfortable, it’s changed my life.”
Another of Nicola’s models, Beth, who has had her stoma since April this year, shows a three in one piece called 'Funky Punk' that can be worn as a mini dress, a top or a swimsuit.
Beth said: “I would probably wear this anyway as it emphasises you in the right places and its got a lovely kind of 1950s style to it.”
Alexa is just 18-years-old and has had her stoma since last year. She modelled 'Mint Choc Chip' an item from the same three in one range, it can be worn with jeans or on its own on the beach.
Alexa said: “When I first had my operation I was in the house all the time I refused to go out, I didn’t think that anyone would understand. I just wore my dressing gown or pyjamas but when I met Nicola she asked me to be her model and it gave me such confidence. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for this woman, she’s amazing."
A men’s underwear range is available and swimwear is coming out soon. Nicola and her models will be travelling to fashion shows in America to promote the range.
For more information please visit the Vanilla Blush website.