Did you know…in the 1600’s tampons were made from sponges or cotton wadding on a string.
When it came to feminine hygiene, boy, did these women do it tough! Pads were made from a combination of available materials including oil-silk (silk treated with oil to make it water resistant and mostly used to make rain coats), cotton fibres, cotton waste, slivers of wood known as ‘wood wool’, wadding, paper, wood fibres and linen, held in place with a belt. Tampons were made from sponges or cotton wadding on a string. Nothing was disposable, everything had to be washed by hand, dried and reused and there was no such thing as wings or adhesive strips!
In the early 1800s there was a real ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy surrounding periods and feminine hygiene. In other words, everyone just pretended they didn’t happen! Women were just expected to get on with it – quietly. They used cloths or rags that they pinned into their undies. After each use, they would be washed and hung out to dry for re-use. Most women kept their ‘rags’, as they were called, tucked away in a discreet place until the next time they had their period. That’s where the expression (nowadays considered pretty crass), ‘being on the rag’ comes from.
The first disposable, commercially available pads are launched – yay! Not surprisingly, the idea started with nurses who’d been using wood pulp pads to treat wounded soldiers and saw the opportunity to fashion similar disposable items for periods. It did take quite a while for them to become common place as the code of silence surrounding menstruation prohibited advertising, so many women had no idea they were available. Lack of personal money also prevented many women from purchasing these new products so most had to keep using the old washable ones.
Finally! In the 1920s, society began to relax a bit about feminine hygiene, so companies could start advertising pads in women’s magazines. However, they weren’t like the pads we have today. Women had to safety-pin them to their undies or hold them in place with a “sanitary belt”, a garter belt that went around the waist with a strap in the front and in the back which was then pinned or clipped to each end of the pad. This contraption persisted right into the 1970s.
More women were entering the workforce which turned out to be extremely liberating, as it meant they were earning their own money. Women now had the purchasing power to buy what they wanted, which led to a huge growth in household appliances, cosmetics and of course, disposable feminine hygiene products. With demand came innovation! The new pads had a net surrounding the absorbent core, while the pad itself was fastened to a girdle around the hips. It might sound a bit uncomfortable to us, but compared to some of the alternatives, this was a serious revolution!
Man walked on the moon, but more importantly, women could now walk without a girdle to hold their pad in place, because Libra invented the adhesive pad that attached directly to underwear. Imagine! The pad itself was also improved considerably, and now had a super-dry surface and came in different absorbency levels, including regular and super.
The mullet became a fashion statement for both men and women and Libra introduced tampons to the range. Our individually wrapped pads were also launched, the perfect solution for the ‘80s girl on the go. The 1980s also saw pads first earn their wings… so to speak! These nifty little side additions not only protect the edges of your undies but help hold the pad more securely in place and prevent the dreaded bunching. UltraThin became a thing, with new materials allowing greater absorbency with much less bulk.
It seems like every girl has an iPhone or iPod in their handbags and thanks to a Libra promotion, many also had a TamPod, a container specifically designed to carry 3 tampons. The Slim tampon was launched, offering the same absorbency in a slimmer format thanks to the invention of a new type of fibre. The Libra Designs tampons range included everything from mirrored disco packs to faux snake skin and the G-String liner was launched!
Who knows? But with the team of women designers here at Libra, you can be assured that we’ll continue to find new and better ways to manage periods. We’ll keep talking with you (or women just like you) to find out what bugs you about managing periods and keep inventing new products and features to iron them out. So, whatever the future holds, it’s looking good!