Alexa Chung at the JW Anderson SS24 show in London
Style star Alexa Chung suffers from endometriosis Courtesy of Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty

As a woman living with endometriosis, how I dress each day comes down to how I answer this question: Does this outfit make me want to rip my clothes off in a heated rage? If it's a "yes," then it's a definite no-go on my look and instead, I stick with comfortable, breathable fabrics and athleisure pieces that don't aggravate my symptoms or create any extra unneeded pressure on my abdomen.

If you're not familiar with the term endometriosis read on. It's one of the most misunderstood and grossly under-researched women's health conditions in the world. And yet, an estimated 1 in 10 women in the United States have this condition, including stylish celebrities like Alexa Chung, Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, Halsey, Chrissy Teigen and Gabrielle Union.

The lack of resources and support can feel overwhelming and isolating for many individuals with endometriosis. It's time to normalize women's health conditions and empower women with endometriosis to express their style through fashion, even if they have to adjust for flare-ups.

Endometriosis Changed My Life and My Approach To Fashion

Fashion Journalist Tabitha Britt
Fashion journalist Tabitha Britt on living and dressing with endometriosis. Courtesy of Tabitha Britt

In my teens, I started writing about fashion for local magazines, created my undergrad university's first fashion blog and went to Parsons School of Design to study in the Fashion Studies program. The goal was to (fingers crossed) become a staff writer at Vogue.

At the time my life revolved around the glitterati of New York City. I was obsessed with attending swanky events, voraciously reading fashion magazines and staying up to date on the who's who of the fashion industry. I dressed in a way that always made a statement and showcased my personal style, no matter what. I experimented with different outfits, played with textures and colors and took fashion risks. Fashion has always given me the power to be me, which was liberating — even if it meant getting picked on throughout high school.

Then in 2018 came the crushing dual diagnosis of endometriosis and interstitial cystitis (a chronic bladder condition that causes pelvic pain and aburning urethra). Everything changed. My journalism career quickly pivoted to a different focus — patient advocacy and raising awareness for endometriosis and chronic illness.

My style has definitely evolved since my diagnosis. Living with endometriosis means being forced to look at a different body in the mirror every day. Some days, I barely recognize myself. The bloat caused by endometriosis fuels body dysmorphia for many people with the condition. It's hard to love yourself when all you can see is the physical manifestation of pain and discomfort. Not to mention actually being in pain and discomfort all the time.

Despite all of this, I still find ways to express myself through fashion. If I'm feeling up to it, that is. I choose clothing that's gentle on my body with soft fabrics and loose silhouettes that don't constrict or add unwanted pressure.

With their flowy and forgiving designs, dresses from World Market (yes, the furniture store) have become my go-to. Soft and breathable high-waist briefs from Victoria's Secret (or Target, if I'm in a pinch) help to make me feel more in control of my body and reduce any discomfort. Period underwear from Modibodi gives me reassurance that I can go about my day without worrying about leaks or stains.

If I'm going to an event or feel like getting dressed up, I love Altar'd State's Daria Tulle Dress. I have it in pink, black and dark blue. Paired with stilettos (which I can still wear, you can't take the heels out of the girl) and statement earrings, I feel glamorous even when dealing with a not-so-glamorous health condition.

On days when my pain levels are high, I wear comfortable athleisure wear. Anything loose and stretchy, like sweatpants and oversized sweatshirts, is my go-to. I've definitely worn sweats with spiked heels before just to remind myself that I can still embrace fashion even on the toughest days (if I'm not glued to my heating pad and curled up in bed, of course).

While every person is different, there's one piece of advice I'd give to anyone living with endometriosis or any chronic illness: Prioritize your own comfort and well-being no matter what. If something feels off or you can't stand the way you look in the mirror, flip the narrative. Nothing is wrong with you, it's the clothing that needs to change.

What is Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition in which endometrial-like tissue grows outside the uterus. It can spread to literally anywhere in the body, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity. (In rarer cases, it can even spread to other organs like the lungs or the brain.)

The abnormal tissue acts like normal endometrial tissue and breaks down each month during the menstrual cycle. When the body is unable to dispose of it, it can cause irritation and inflammation, leading to severe pelvic pain and long-term bloating among other hellashish symptoms.

"Pain is interesting in that you are the only person that experiences that specific pain," says Dr. Amanda Chu, board-certified gynecologic surgeon and endometriosis specialist at the Seckin Endometriosis Center. "I have been told statements like 'I have to crawl to the floor on my period' or 'I plan my activities around my period.' This is not normal. I can't count the number of times women have told me that they have gone to the emergency department for pain only to stop going because no one believes their pain and they think they're seeking drugs," says Chu.

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