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Sexy styling tips for people with pelvic pain from Melbourne stylist Rose Pure

PHOTOGRAPHY AND STYLING BY ROSE PURE
WORDS BY Arielle Richards

Endometriosis, PCOS and IBS can all cause pelvic pain, but fashion can be functional.

Pelvic pain is defined, loosely, as pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen. For people with uteruses, pelvic pain can come in many forms and in varying degrees of severity. While it’s commonly known as a feature of menstruation, pelvic pain can also be caused by trauma, as well as diseases including endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

While these diseases are largely ‘invisible’, they affect a huge portion of the population. According to the Pelvic Pain Association of Australia, pelvic pain is experienced by one in five uterus-havers. For people with chronic pelvic pain, getting dressed can be a source of anxiety and frustration. How to clothe oneself when in persisting agony?


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The dizzying chaos of the accelerating trend cycle doesn’t help, with the ongoing resurgence of Y2K and noughties fashion prescribing body-con dresses, low-waist jeans and tiny crop tops which expose the stomach to the elements. While hot, these ‘trendy’ garments and ways of dressing are consistently at odds with comfort, especially when chronic pain is thrown in the mix.

For decades, a lack of awareness, research and demonstrated medical bias has seen pelvic pain diseases dismissed and overlooked. It takes on average seven years for an individual to receive an endometriosis diagnosis, and while awareness has increased over the years, people living with the hidden symptoms of chronic pelvic pain are often left out of the wider conversation around accessible fashion.

Dressing up can have hugely positive effects on our mental health. For people with chronic pain, fashion can be a useful tool in regaining agency when your body feels pitted against you. On her experience living with endometriosis, Liana Rossi, MONA Tasmania’s social media manager and a definitive style icon, said sometimes dressing up feels like the “only power” she has.

“After all these years of chronic pain, I still struggle to identify what I’m feeling and actively convince myself that I’m not overreacting, thanks to deep-seated learned dismissal of period pain. Sometimes getting dressed up seems like the only power I have, so that’s what I do,” Rossi wrote in an Instagram post.

 

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Amid flare-ups, the desire to wear nothing but a fluffy robe and slippers is hard to overcome. But, the world keeps turning, capitalism is still de rigueur, and for working people, staying home all day isn’t always an option.

I spoke to stylist and photographer Katherine Rose (Rose Pure), who has endometriosis. As a working creative, she has built an arsenal of tips and tricks for when the chronic pain hits. For Rose, comfort, accessibility and functionality are key in these pieces – their stylishness is just an added bonus.

Elastic waist pants

Usually reserved for your working from home look, elastic waist pants can easily be layered to look stylish and polished. Tight waistbands push on your stomach and restrict movement, whereas a pair of leggings or slacks with an elastic waist allows for versatility and plenty of room for bloating.

Garments made from stretch fabric are a must, as they allow space for heat packs and pain relief devices. An alternative to this is purchasing larger pants and having them tailored for your perfect fit. Rose Pure’s go-to tailor is Miss Molly Tailor.

Styling tips: Layering necklaces, scarves and interesting shaped garments on your top half is an easy way to draw the focal point of the look up and away from the pain-affected area. If unflattering elastic waistbands are an issue, layering a comfortable minidress over the pants can make for a quick yet effective serve.

Rose Pure’s picks: Hara Frankie Flares, High Rack Sublime Rib Flares, Sister Studios Miki Velvet Pant

Comfort shoe

Thank you Britney Spears. While 2008 to 2013 may be universally deemed the darkest period for 21st-century fashion, it’s time for possibly the most hated trend of that strange time to make a triumphant comeback. Ugg boots are obviously the comfiest footwear available, and they deserve to be worn outside the house. If you’re having flashbacks to leggings paired with muscle tees, Sportsgirl bags and Uggs… aren’t we all (I am sorry).

But it’s time to eschew that fashion trauma and embrace reality: comfy footwear is back. Crocs have re-entered the mainstream, Birkenstocks will always be unanimously beloved, and take a look at an orthopaedic shoe and tell me it’s not giving Bottega clog. I’ll wait.

Styling tips: Keep it refined but fun with a pair of tailored pants, coloured puffer jacket and fluffy hat. When talking Uggs, the classic shade of tan is incredibly versatile and works well with neutral shades, pastels and especially bright colours – perfect for spicing up an otherwise bleak winter.

Rose Pure’s picks: Hush Puppies, Uggs, Birkenstocks and Crocs

Tracksuit

This one goes without saying – the tracksuit has canonically been a saviour for chronically ill and disabled folks since the beginning of time itself. It’s a trend that has been made fashionable thanks to the early 2000s McBling era, specifically by the queen herself, Paris Hilton. The classic two-piece velour tracksuit has been on a steady return as a wintertime staple in recent years, and it isn’t going anywhere.

Styling tips: For a pulled-together look, layer your full tracksuit under a long trench coat. A well-structured coat will elevate the tracksuit past its intrinsic leisurewear status, while a pair of chunky sneakers are a nod to the garment’s Y2K roots. Layer a few statement rings and jewellery, add a slicked-back hairstyle, and you’ve got yourself a fit.

Rose Pure’s picks: Ramp Tramp Tramp Stamp, High Rack Studios, To Dye For tracksuit sets

Overalls

Incredibly durable and useful for working, creating or just leaving the house at all, overalls are the perfect garment for stashing all of your essentials. Getting an oversized pair will ensure they’re roomy, breathable in the hotter months and able to be copiously layered under during the cold seasons.

The extra pockets provided on overalls are convenient for carrying all the items that help to manage chronic pain symptoms when away from home: TENS Machines, medication, EMesis bags, heat packs and spare period undies.

 

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Styling tips: A huge bonus with these is that they are so easy to style, perfect for flare-up days when you just need to chuck something on and go. Rose suggests styling lightweight canvas overalls with a knitted jumper or turtleneck underneath and chunky sneakers.

Rose Pure’s picks: Suk Workwear, Surya straight leg overalls, Ovira Noha Pain Device

Essentials

A key stock of essentials is crucial for a functional wardrobe. For Rose, essentials are versatile, comfortable items that mix and match seamlessly with your wardrobe, as well as basics like plain tees and undergarments. “Bare Boutique’s bamboo basics are fitted, cropped and the softest material on your skin. The leggings and crop top would be a perfect outfit with a cute jacket on top,” she says.

“Period underwear is a saviour and if you haven’t tried it you must! Not only is there less wastage by avoiding sanitary products, but [it’s] a low maintenance option for everyone who menstruates. A secret tip my friend gave me is wearing maternity tights and stockings when facing chronic pain. They don’t constrict or press on the stomach and are a much more comfortable way to wear skirts in winter.”

Rose Pure’s picks: Bare Boutique bamboo basics, Pseushi Everyday Tee, Scarlet period underwear,  Bonds maternity tights, Clothing the Gap basic tees

Rose counts bags among her wardrobe-essentials. “Bags need to be lightweight but roomy, with loads of pockets for carrying medicine, water, heat packs and medical forms! People with chronic illnesses usually have many appointments with doctors and specialists each week, where they need to bring pages of medical docs, prescriptions for the chemist and various other documentation.”

Rose Pure’s picks: Crumpler bags are lightweight with so many pockets, PAM totes are huge and handy, and Bichon Pockets are a stylish and sustainable choice.

You can follow Arielle Richards here and Rose Pure here.

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