I stood near the circular rack, willing my body to absorb into the swell of plastic hangers and flimsy fabric. Across the aisle, however, my mother was relentless.
“Chaunie, what size bra do you think you are??!” she shouted at a decibel that could best be heard from space. My 10-year-old eyes locked with those of a boy walking by with his mother and he quickly averted his eyes in disgust as my entire body burned in shame.
Many women remember their first experience with the wonderful world of puberty, complete with awkward fumbling of pads into underwear in the bathroom and embarrassing moments spent bra shopping with their mothers, through hazy, shameful eyes. We may not have fully understood what was happening with our bodies, but we knew that it was something that we needed to hide. We learned to tuck in our unseemly bra straps, conspicuously carry a purse to our classrooms, and tuck a tampon up our sleeve. And don’t even get me started on the sheer amount of panic attacks we have all suffered through the years wondering if we had bled completely through our pants in the cafeteria line. (Who among us hasn’t heard a story involving a period + poorly-timed white pants?)
Needless to say, going through puberty can actually be a pretty scarring experience instead of a positive one. So, when a week ago, when my two oldest daughters, who are only 10 and 8, came to me and asked to go bra shopping, I quivered in fear. Would they cry like I did about getting breasts? Would they fumble playing sports, unsure how to move with the new weight in front of their chests? Would they be horrified at the onset of what would soon be happening to them every single month?
Much to my surprise, my daughters were pumped about getting bras. Unlike my shameful experience with puberty, my girls were excited to learn about the changes in their bodies and thought that getting bras was super fun. I was shocked, but pleasantly surprised to realize that my efforts to encourage body positivity in my girls and to educate them early on about their development seemed to be working. Moms, there is hope for a future where kids who get periods don’t feel ashamed — and with more and more girls entering puberty earlier than ever, along with the worrisome link between early puberty and depression, there are companies out there supporting that message with some really cool products that help make the transition even easier. (Where were these when I was the only 9-year-old with boobs in my class, huh?)
Megan Grassell, the 22-year-old CEO of bra and sleep/loungewear company YellowBerry, was only 17 years old when she launched her company. After taking her younger sister Mary Margaret shopping for her first bra when she was 12, Grassell was shocked to see the “options” available for a girl’s first training bra: padding, lace, leopard print, and even push-up styles. (Side note: Grassell is totally right; even the selection at Kohl’s where I took my girls was shockingly “sexy.”)
Dismayed at how sexualized training bras seemed to be, Grassell took matters into her own hands and launched her company to offer age-appropriate bras that allowed girls to be, well, girls.
“Our mission to support girls, literally and figuratively as they take on the world,” she tells Babble.
Grassell’s products range from sleepwear to sports bras to layered camisoles all with the same message: that being a girl can be awesome. All of her products are sent out wrapped in packages, so a girl receiving her first bra feels like it’s a gift she can be excited about. They also contain heartfelt encouraging messages inspired by the death of Grassell’s younger sister, Caroline, who passed away when she was only 5 years old. Oh, and one more cool feature of YellowBerry? All of her models are photographed from the back, so there’s no risk of the creep factor of young girls in bras on the Internet. Letting girls be girls? Amazing.
After watching her young daughter, too young for tampons, being forced to sit out her swim meets after months of training just because her period had arrived, Crystal Etienne, 41, from New York, decided enough was enough. She worked for three years before launching her company, which features a period-approved swimwear collection for young girls and adults alike.
Etienne’s period bathing suits can hold up to approximately 2.5 tampons-worth of menstrual fluid, depending on the individual’s flow, and are designed specifically for the water. In addition to the swim wear, Panty Prop offers period-proof underwear, sleepwear, active wear, hygiene kits (including a fun and positive First Period Kit) and one-of-a-kind double-sided pads.
“People with periods are starting to demand better and safer products to deal with menstruation,” Etienne notes. “There has not been much innovation in decades. PantyProp intends to be a part of ending the stigmas by offering innovative hygienic products for people to do anything at any time.”
Founded by Kristy Chong, a mom of two, Modibodi offers period-, leak- and sweat-proof underwear specifically for teens. Not only can each pair of underwear hold two tampons worth of fluids, but the underwear can be used as “back-up coverage” when necessary too. Just think of all those ruined pairs of underwear from overnight leaks and how much better life will be for our kids with the ability to never wake up to a bloody massacre again.
“The feedback we have received from parents has been amazing and very rewarding to hear, as we have been told that young girls have now felt confident to participate in sports and swim activities because they now have the option of comfortable and discreet protection,” Chong tells Babble, noting that all new customers can try Modibodi’s products with a 30-day trial to make the line even more convenient.
The brand we have all heard of by now also has these incredible training shorts that look just like your everyday cool sport shorts — but they’re fully period-proof for up to two tampons-worth of fluid. You don’t even need to wear backup undies with these shorts because they’re already built in. Not only would they perfect for active girls and sporting activities, but they would be a great choice to sleep in too. Even now, as an adult, I sometimes sleep in shorts when I’m on my period because it feels less risky if there is a leak.
First Period Kit
Unlike my first period experience — which pretty much amounted to me finding an old, discarded tampon box in the garbage and reading about it, horrified — this kit tries to make getting your first period a more positive experience, complete with a sequined travel clutch and feminine products.
Lunette Menstrual Cups
While menstrual cups sound like a great idea in theory, with less leakage and the ability to wear them for longer periods of time, as well being more eco-friendly, not many of us might associate with menstrual cups with young girls or people with periods. But there is no current research that says that young girls and teens can’t use menstrual cups and in fact, might offer a healthier alternative than tampons or pads. So, Lunette designed a smaller size-1 menstrual cup specifically geared towards teens.
Vyve’s line of splashwear isn’t period-proof, but their capri pants can be worn over swimsuits in the water or for really sweaty activities if your teen doesn’t feel quite comfortable rocking a traditional bathing suit on the beach or at the pool.
Knix Founder & CEO Joanna Griffiths, 35, explains that the Toronto-based company had already been making period-proof underwear and products for adults when they started to hear from moms that they wanted leakproof products for their children on their periods.
“Through my research, I found out that periods were a main source of anxiety for teenagers,” Griffiths notes. “On average, 80% of women and girls get a leak or worry about getting a leak once a month. Knixteen was a really natural extension of knix and the response has been amazing.”
Their boy short underwear, which can absorb three teaspoons of liquid, is especially great for young girls looking for more coverage or during activities that will keep them out of the bathroom for a while, like camping or sleepovers. The brand also focuses on education for teens with real-talk about periods in a matter-of-fact way. Griffiths notes that opening up the conversation about periods is more important than ever, as their company research has revealed that 15% of American girls are getting their periods as young as 7 or 8. 7, people!