Behind the Taboo-Breaking Design of Modibodi’s Teen First Period Kit
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 02/06/2024 | 5 Minute Read
“Aunt Flo’s visiting.” “Welcome to shark week.” “I’m checking into the Red Roof Inn.”
From an early age, the world teaches young girls to remain hush-hush about “that time of month.” They learn to discreetly slip out to the bathroom, always have an extra pad or tampon in their purses, and to suck up the pain because this is a once-a-month occurrence that they’ll just have to get used to. Much of the talk around menstruation stems from shame, but getting a period for the first time is much more nuanced—it’s uncomfortable, it’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s awkward, it’s new, and it’s a unifying experience of womanhood all at once.
Period underwear brand Modibodi recently updated its Teen First Period Kit to make space for these emotions, all while chipping away at the stigma against periods. They want young people who menstruate to understand their period and not be ashamed of it, so the kit includes some necessities—a pair of Modibodi undies, a waterproof bag, a mirror, and a period fact sheet. The limited-edition box also has a sticker sheet and comic strip inside, all created by writer and illustrator Justyna Green, and these help to normalize the changes that girls go through.
“I'm passionate about women's health and specialize in brave projects that break the taboos,” Justyna said. “I've had an eye on Modibodi for a long time because I love their products and who they are as a brand. It happened that when I got in touch, they were looking to reimagine their Teen First Period Kit, so it was perfect timing. The project was a dream project to work on, with a powerful message to help girls navigate first periods better and get to know their bodies.”
Justyna and the Modibodi team worked collaboratively, developing an idea everyone felt was the right direction. They wanted to take what would otherwise be a sterile, educational leaflet and turn it into some kind of new content. The essential information for those having their periods for the first time still needed to be there, but the stuffy, boring educational handout approach had to go.
“Through conversation, we quickly pivoted to the idea of creating a four-page comic that opens up into a poster that would tell a personal story of a teenage girl getting her first period on a school bus,” said Justyna. “It was a pivot from informative to emotive. We still managed to get the key information outside of the comic. We have then introduced visuals from the comic on a sticker sheet and throughout the packaging.”
The comic strip tells the story of Riya and Rosie, who are riding the school bus together. Riya gets her first period, and Justyna portrays the experience in an honest way—one that explores the physical changes girls go through and all of the emotions they experience, like embarrassment and anger. Her illustrations are fun, vibrant, and full of expressive characters. Small details like a hissing cat, a nosy little brother, and playful doodles bring the comic together.
Justyna and Modibodi also prioritized depicting a vulva within the comic. “There's a stigma associated with a vulva, which results in vulva regularly being referred to as vagina, and with both adult women and men not being able to describe female body parts correctly,” Justyna explained. “Having the words to describe your body and knowing that it's normal to use them is the first step in girls learning to love their bodies.”
In the comic, Riya comes to a place of self-acceptance by looking at her own vulva. The character wears a loving smile and says to herself, “Maybe this is just my body doing its thing.” That encourages girls to use the hand mirror in their kit and explore their own bodies rather than be afraid of it.
Justyna admitted that this is the kind of thing she wishes she could have received when she was young. The design is informative, real, fun, welcoming, calming, and so much more—but that also meant Justyna and the Modibodi team had to find the right balance of every element. Keeping things simple, from the color palette to the shapes to the situations in the comic, helped them walk the line of everything they wanted the kit to be. They also didn’t include a parent figure coming in and explaining everything to Riya; instead, she gets guidance from her bestie and learns on her own, as well.
Modibodi’s Teen First Period Kit is a necessary step towards changing the way people think and talk about menstruation. A first period can be many things, but it doesn’t have to be a shame-filled experience. By sharing the reality of having a menstrual cycle in such a relatable way, the door opens for young people to understand themselves better, admire their bodies, and to more openly communicate their feelings and needs.
“I would like the conversations about periods to be normalized, especially among the young generation,” Justyna said about the kind of influence she hopes the kit could create. “No more tucking tampons into a sleeve so that nobody can see them or whispering about ‘that time of the month.’”