Hidden-in-Plain-Sight Bibs

The season for get-togethers is upon us! If you are anything like my family, your social calendar is likely full to overflowing with commitments in the weeks to come.

But gatherings involving food can be a little complicated for some of us in the chronic illness community. Food restrictions, difficulty chewing and swallowing, challenges managing cutlery, and weakness that causes frequent choking or dribbling can make meals downright humbling. If you find yourself in the last group, in particular, you may be on the lookout for subtle ways to protect your clothing without appearing to be wearing a “bib.” Just in time for the holiday gatherings, then, here are some alternatives to protect your clothing and dignity around the table!

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you purchase through those links. I post links to products that I have used personally, or that I feel might be helpful or useful to my readers. I particularly like to support small businesses, socially-responsible sellers, and other disabled/chronically ill individuals whenever possible.

Image of blue bandana, with link to Birch Box.
Two photos are shown. On the left, a man holds up a folded blue bandana. On the right, a bearded Caucasian man is shown with the bandana around his neck, tucked inside a white collared shirt and black suit jacket.

When it comes to protecting your clothing, one trick is to layer outfits with removable pieces that can be taken off once they get soiled. A great option for this is a bandana. Suitable for men or women, bandanas are inexpensive, come in a variety of styles and colors, and are easy to wash. For a subtle look, a bandana can be worn in the neck of a shirt as seen in this picture, and pulled out slightly at mealtime. If it gets dirty, just remove it (and add another one before the next meal, if you’d like!). You could opt for a dark colored scarf like this one (less likely to show food stains, but more noticeable in contrast to clothing), or a bandana that matches your clothing and is less noticeable. Either way, what looks like a fashion statement is actually a practical accessory!

Image of plaid wool scarf, with link to Target.
A woolen plaid scarf in turquoise, gold, black, and red is shown draped around the neck of a mannequin.

Similarly, a scarf is another great option that doubles as a subtle bib! There are hundreds of varieties of scarves, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and weights. They make a beautiful (warm!) accessory to most outfits, but can be easily removed if they get dirty–sparing your clothing from food stains.

Image of fabric adult bib, with link to Etsy seller.
A diamond-patterned fabric bib, with appearance of a halter top, is shown on a mannequin.

Thinking less laterally, there are great adult bib options on the market that look like anything but a bib. These beautiful fabric covers can be worn over clothing just at mealtime, or all the time. They have all the appearance of an accessory, but all the practicality (and washability) of a bib. The lightweight fabric makes them a better option than scarves for the warm-blooded among us.

Image of fabric apron, with link to Etsy seller.
A fabric sweetheart-neck apron, with rose print pattern and red striped pockets, is shown on a mannequin next to vintage cookware.

Another fantastic, subtle option is to simply wear an apron. This is especially practical for those who are helping in the kitchen with meal prep, but even if you are not, an apron is not an unexpected accessory at a dinner gathering. There are countless styles and patterns available. If you are prone to dribbling, you might look for something with a high neck (such as this sweetheart style). If you have difficulty putting things over your head, or anticipate a messy apron after eating, consider a style that unfastens at the neck so that you won’t need to lift a soiled apron over your head. Aprons are particularly useful if you are prone to dropping food in your lap, as they also protect your clothing below your neck and chest area.

Assortment of adult bibs, with link to Etsy seller.
A collection of bibs is shown in green, black, yellow, gold, and red, styled to look like collared dress shirt fronts with skinny ties.

Of course, on the other end of things, there’s always the option to make a statement with a bib. Sometimes the best way forward is by being upfront and facing challenges with laughter. If this is your approach, you could consider a playful bib made to look like a dressy outfit, or a bib with a funny message. Far from hiding in plain sight, sometimes these pieces help to “out” the elephant in the room and put you more at ease–but only if you’re comfortable with a little attention!

Regardless of your needs and choice of protective wear, I wish you many happy hours around tables, surrounded by friends and loved ones!

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