On March 25, I wrote a piece titled “I Really Want This Fashion Nova Bodysuit That Will Only Cover 15 Percent of My Labia,” in which I poked fun at a pleather-esque bodysuit that looks very cute, but is impractical for anyone with a vagina to actually wear. The post was picked up by several other publications, with the help of a man in the comment section who wrote a short essay mansplaining my own labia.
Along with some right-wing British tabloids, it also caught the eye of the New York City branch of Planned Parenthood, who loved all the hubbub about the controversial (and, yes, cooch-defying) bodysuit. So I called up Stacy De-Lin, M.D., Associate Medical Director at Planned Parenthood of New York City, about the potential health concerns that may await anyone who actually dares wear this Fashion Nova number. Our interview has been edited for clarity.
JEZEBEL: What were your primary concerns when you saw this bodysuit?
DR. STACY DE-LIN: So, it seems like this suit was made out of something like polyester, or some kind of cheap fabric. We definitely always recommend things like cotton. The vagina has a very delicate microbiome, composed of different kinds of fungi and bacteria. Having too much moisture trapped in one area can be dangerous and upset that microbiome and can cause problems with the healthy acidity that helps your vagina fight off infection.
That sounds like a yeast infection, right?
Yes, exactly. So it can cause things like yeast infections and also things like UTIs. The type of bodysuit that you showed was very narrow, which seems like it can easily shift between the rectum and the vagina. It could introduce bacteria from the rectum into either the vagina or urethra, causing things like bacterial vaginosis or urinary tract infections.
The bodysuit pairs with these tight, vinyl, non-breathable spandex polyester pants. Do you think that would also disturb the chemical balance in the vagina?
Yes, correct. When you too trap moisture and don’t let the area to breathe, it can really upset the PH of the vagina.
Another thing is that super tight underwear, especially that kind of material, can cause friction that can lead to things like irritation and ingrown hairs as well.
If someone wears cotton underwear underneath the bodysuit, would that still not be enough?
It would depend on how tight it was. And there’s the risk of rubbing, which can cause irritation. That wouldn’t necessarily change with the cotton. You want air to circulate.
You need to let the kitty breathe.
A lot of comments about the bodysuit pointed out that if you move one step, that bodysuit is just going to be wedged between your labia.
It’s important to note that people should wear what makes them feel comfortable, so if someone did feel like they wanted to wear this outfit, it should probably only be worn for a short amount of time and not very often.
So, maybe like, at the club for a little bit, but as soon as I get home I take all of it off and get in the shower.
There was a comment on the original piece that went viral, in which a man said that this bodysuit isn’t a problem for just anyone with a labia, this is just a problem for people who have a big labia. What would you say to someone who says that this bodysuit is totally fine if you have a small labia?
I would say that while one’s overall anatomy can be very different, the underlying principles of PH balance and bacteria and [the importance of] wearing comfortable clothing are universal amongst all people with a vagina.
So size doesn’t matter here.
[Laughs] Size does not matter in this case.
Let’s say someone is a brave soul—let’s say it’s me—and I decide to purchase the Fashion Nova bodysuit. I’m loving my life, I love my polyester spandex bodysuit, I don’t care that it’s literally cutting my vagina in half. Afterwards, something doesn’t feel right down there. What should I do?
Good question! It’s definitely worth following up with a doctor.
Planned Parenthood actually has an app for things like UTIs and birth control. It’s present in 22 states. You can chat with one of our clinicians remotely. If a patient did get a UTI from their lovely red bodysuit, they can talk to a clinician and have something prescribed to their pharmacy remotely.
Wear [the bodysuit] with caution and be sure to follow up with your doctor if any problems ensue.
So I just talk to a doctor. I can’t sue Fashion Nova for getting a yeast infection from their cooch-cutting body suit?
No, I don’t think so!