Menstruation and Fashion: Free to Go with the Flow

Every woman's relationship to her period is different. By extension, a period may reshape  a woman’s usual daily routine to varying degrees and in ways that are often taken for granted. For example, menstruation might influence your fashion choices. Though this might not have been the first thing to come to mind, you probably wouldn’t think to wear expensive white pants while on your period. But if you would, then you do you. 

When it comes to menstruation and fashion, making the informed decisions that are best for you is paramount. However, navigating how to do that  isn’t explicitly discussed enough. If you do a Google search on “menstruation and fashion”, you’ll either find fashion hubs making statements on menstrual equity or vague comfortable outfit suggestions. Though both types of information can be helpful, neither sufficiently engage with the nuanced relationship between your period and your clothing. This begs the question of whether the fashion industry bears menstruation in mind when designing wardrobe. 

We must acknowledge that there are only sparse details about considering the intersection of menstruation and fashion.  Women have had periods for as long as humanity has existed, and yet, this regular and relevant part of our lives isn’t adequately reflected in fashion designed for us. That’s why we need to be intentional in strengthening this dialogue. Ultimately, what each woman decides to wear during her period depends on how she addresses her menstrual flow. There are different methods emphasized in cultures across the world.  And despite what societal conformity may indicate, there are viable ways to manage your period outside of the “mainstream” use of  birth control, pads, tampons, feminine cups, etc. An increasingly popular alternative is embracing various forms of free bleeding.  Is the fashion industry ready to accommodate this trend? 

Free bleeding is a lot more multifaceted than you might think. It doesn’t necessarily mean not doing anything to absorb your menstrual flow. That’s just one of its many possible implications. The free bleeding movement is more about minimizing the impact menstruation has on a woman’s quotidian routine. In other words, with free bleeding, a woman shouldn’t have to change how she goes about her day because of her period. If anything, daily elements are adjusted to normalize menstruation. 

A direct manifestation of this accommodation is naturally in clothing. Most recently, this has led to the emergence of period-absorbing underwear. Instead of using a pad, tampon, or feminine cup as an intermediary between your menstrual flow and your clothes, underwear is being redesigned to bridge the gap itself. As many prominent period-absorbent underwear brands argue, you don’t change the routine; rather you change the material to meet the need. In theory, any woman could choose to wear period-absorbent underwear every day, making menstruation regulation one less thing to consider. Menstrual absorption technology, however,  has not evolved much beyond the undergarment space. There are some explorations in incorporating said materials into activewear, but it has yet to be embraced by the fashion industry at-large. 

We have to be more willing to engage with this under-explored relationship between menstruation and fashion. Actively learning about alternatives like free bleeding is a very important part of developing this discourse. Of course, at the end of the day, in navigating decisions like these, choose whatever is best for you and be careful not to judge others for making different choices. Let’s all be free to go with the flow in our own ways.  Frankly, the more options women have to optimize any aspect of our wellness, the better.

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