Open Heart Surgery: What to Wear

Yup, you read correctly – a whole post dedicated to heart surgery fashion. If you’re not the fashionable type, stop and at least skim this post anyhow. Because it might matter more than you think.

Most of the fashion advice is going to depend on your personal tastes, and on the hospital you’re getting the surgery in. I could’ve worn hospital PJs the whole time, with just one outfit for going home in. But I couldn’t stand the idea of wearing hospital clothing… I wanted some semblence of normality back ASAP.

The First Day or Two

If you’ve still got tubes hanging out of your chest, you’ll want some clothes you don’t mind getting stained with various fluids. Old pyjamas or something. You won’t want to raise your arms more than necessary, so the top should definitely be fully openable down the front. Otherwise, the guidelines below should be fine.

Dressing Gown

Something relatively warm (but not too warm), and relatively short. Mine came down to mid-thigh – just enough to cover my bum and keep my back safe from draughts, but not long enough to get legs tangled in. Because, trust me – you do NOT want to fall over just after heart surgery. Nuh uh. *wince*


They need to be easy to slide your feet into unassisted (you won’t want to be bending down to get them on), something that your feet won’t slip around in, with non-slip soles. I bought a pair of fluffy thongs (flip-flops, for the non-Aussies) which were surprisingly ideal. They had raised edges all around the foot and ridged soles, which made them beautifully ‘sticky’ on my feet.


Buttoning down the front. Cotton’s a good choice – some hospitals turn off air conditioning at night and it can get quite stuffy and warm. A tie waist is probably a good idea, just in case you lose some waist area after hours in surgery and recovery. I found that after the first day or so I could raise my arms enough to get on a top that only buttoned halfway down.

Day clothing

Of course, you can wander around in your pyjamas all day. Few hospitals will have a go at you about it after such major surgery. But I found that I wanted to dress each morning once I was over the initial pain-and-sleep thing. It made me feel more normal. I’d recommend at least a couple of button- or wrap-close tops, and loose cotton pants. Tracksuit or leisure pants are good. I had a couple of sleeveless kimono-type cotton dresses (tied at the waist) which I wore with bike pants underneath when it was warm.


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