Ahead of Mother's Day this year, we had the opportunity to sit down with Madeleine Chard, founder of minimalist, organic underwear brand, Female Form. Having started the brand during a difficult time in her life, the mother of two strives to challenge the somewhat outdated image of motherhood through creating pieces which celebrate the notion of womanhood.
Who's in your family?
Me (hi!), my fiancé Jake, my 4 year old daughter Olive, our baby girl Dot who is 5 months, rescue dog Daphne and three recent additions Elsie, Crystal and Honeymaren, our high maintenance yet underachieving silkie chickens - names curtesy of Olive of course.
How old are your girls?
Olive is 4.5 and Dot is 5 months.
When did you start Female Form?
The concept of Female Form is more than just comfortable undies. I started this project in 2017 during a difficult stint as a young single mum, which in hindsight has only made me stronger and more resilient. I experienced a bit of an identity crisis during this time and I feel a lot of this was due to brands and I guess society in general depicting an unrealistic, un-relatable and outdated image of motherhood. My main goal is to empower and inspire women to stay true to who they are, to stand out and feel confident in their own skin. The brand gives me an outlet to do just that, and although it began with motherhood in mind, it’s about celebrating the strength and fragility of womanhood and all its forms.
I’ve always hated underwear shopping as I have never felt there was anything out there that made me feel like, well, me. I’m a tomboy at heart (which may have something to do with the fact that I have grown up with three brothers), and I just enjoy simple, fuss free yet well designed clothing so when I realised my only maternity options were either lacey or granny and nothing in-between, I knew something had to be done.
The whole process has definitely been a steep learning curve, in particular manufacturing locally and sustainably, but it’s something that is really important to me.
What's something you've learnt from motherhood?
Besides becoming a pro multi-tasker with the ability to function off very little sleep, I’d say the biggest thing I’ve learnt since becoming a mum is patience. Motherhood can be very testing and overwhelming at times. I now know that there is no point getting frustrated and upset when things don’t go to plan as it’s just a waste of energy. Although it’s good to maintain some sort of routine and structure, I have definitely learnt to be more flexible/ relaxed in my approach and not to sweat the small stuff. I pick my battles!
I have also gained a much bigger appreciation for mothers and how much we are capable of, despite how much we go through both mentally and physically as well as the challenges we still face in society. Specifically, my own mum who has raised four children – I remember saying to her after giving birth to my first daughter “how the hell did you do that FOUR times?” haha. I now understand the weight of what she has done and continues to do for us every day.
Best thing about motherhood?
Waking up every morning seeing my girls smiling faces, cuddles in bed, exploring the world together, seeing them grow and develop their own little or should I say big personalities, laughing and having fun together, discovering and nurturing their interests and feeling proud of who they are.
They just bring so much joy and happiness and show you the true meaning of unconditional love. Olive say’s “you’re the best mum in the whole wide world!” after doing the simplest thing for her and when I am stressed out she tells me “It’s ok mummy, all that matters is your family and the people that you love” – it’s moments like these that make it all worth it. They give you perspective and teach you to stop and appreciate the little things giving clarity to what is truly important in life.
Most challenging thing about motherhood?
Motherhood is definitely an area where I am constantly learning and growing. The minute I think to myself “I’ve got this” it all changes, which can be frustrating at times, however I have learnt to just try go with the flow more. Knowing things are never permanent also helps when things are harder than usual and allows me to appreciate the present moment (another thing I struggle with!) Work life balance is also an ongoing challenge for me. I need a creative outlet and work is that for me. I love it, so much so that I find myself completely immersed in it and find it hard to switch off. Being “on” all the time is exhausting and it’s just not sustainable. Setting clear personal boundaries is really important for me so I can try to be present in every moment. I am also a perfectionist at heart so the pressure and unrealistic standards I put on myself whether in my work or parenting, are simply not sustainable and leave me feeling anxious and deflated. “Progress over perfection” is something I am trying to practice more and have found this is a much healthier way of approaching things, whether that be in work or every day life.
Any advice of wisdom for new Mums?
Stay true to who you are! When you become a mum, yes you are going to evolve and grow as it’s a huge transition both mentally and physically, but don’t feel pressure to act or dress a certain way - be confident, be bold and just be you!
Also - look after yourself! Prioritise time to do things that fulfil YOU outside of motherhood to ensure you are the best version of yourself, for not only you but your kids too. I think showing your kids that you are following your passions and dreams is really important.
Lastly, I think it’s so important to be authentic and honest with the realities of motherhood, as I know from experience – it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows! Some days you nail it, other days it’s absolute chaos and it feels like nothing is going right. It’s important to know that this is completely normal. No matter how picture perfect things may seem, most people wont share the down days so try not to compare yourself to others and go easy on yourself. Know you are not alone and we are all just doing our best!
Photography: Kaitlyn Bosnjak | @justfilm_