Physically challenged and fashionable

Story highlights

  • Patients who use external medical devises can have difficulty dressing around them
  • Insulin pumps, colostomy bags and tracheotomies can limit clothing choices
  • People who require the devices have created stylish accessories for them
  • Online forums give people who need these devices to survive ideas and fashion options
Scan any well-stocked newsstand, and you'll no doubt find a bounty of women's magazines touting tips for achieving bouncy hair, kissable lips and a cellulite-free derriere.
What you won't see are headlines hyping haute insulin pumps, artful colostomy pouches or flirty tracheostomy covers. Meanwhile, there are countless women dealing with the daily challenge of feeling beautiful while tethered to a device that's necessary to stay alive, but often unlovely to look at.
In decades past, people with external medical appliances were sentenced to life of voluminous "clown clothes" (as one ileostomy wearer puts it) and counseled to hide their conditions as best they could. But in this golden age of Internet community, designers and patients are taking matters into their own hands to create clothing and accessories that help women feel gorgeous in their own skin -- and spark conversation about a previously taboo topic.
The secret surgery
In 1990, Leah Humphries went to sleep as a carefree young woman and woke up with a hole punched in her gut and a pouch strapped to it. The 22-year-old art student ha