Jump into the Surprising History of Women’s Jumpsuits
There’s nothing quite like women’s jumpsuits. They can be utilitarian, fun, professional, even sexy. With recent features in modern entertainment – Fleabag in the UK, for instance – the popularity of this all-in-one garment is skyrocketing today.
Why are women’s jumpsuits so popular today? How long have they been with us, allowing women to express themselves eloquently through the language of fashion? Below, we’ll take a deeper dive into the surprising history of this seemingly simple garment.
Why Are Women’s Jumpsuits So Popular?
Before delving into their history, let’s tackle a question many find pressing. Why are women’s jumpsuits so popular? There are many potential answers.
They’re convenient, for one. A jumpsuit solves the problem of having to spend time trying to find the perfect combination of separates. They’re also pretty versatile. The same jumpsuit, when paired with the right accessories, can go from work to play to a night-on-the-town in mere moments. They are multifunctional, as well, meaning that you can have fewer things in the closet but not suffer from a lack of outfits.
Whether you’re looking for a basic jumpsuit for a day job or something sleek, sexy, and elegant for that special night out, there’s an option for you. However, jumpsuits weren’t always this popular, nor were they always considered the height of fashion. In fact, they were once considered “workwear” and played an important role during wartime.
An Outfit by Any Other Name
Chances are good that you’ve heard jumpsuits called something else, perhaps several other things. Boiler suit, flight suit, onesie, coveralls – these have all become interchangeable names for a one-piece outfit, but they were originally different things entirely. Jumpsuits and boiler suits were once worn for very different purposes (and they looked very different, as well). It was the slimmer jumpsuit that first gained notoriety in the world of fashion, although today’s manufacturers continue to blur the lines between the various garments.
The History of Women’s Jumpsuits: From Workwear to High Fashion
Jumpsuits were first created in the early 1900s and they weren’t designed to satisfy the need for high fashion. They were designed for parachuting out of airplanes and worn by parachutists and pilots. However, with the advent of WWI, things began to change.
As war engulfed the Continent and drew in other nations, such as the UK, and eventually the US, the jumpsuit transitioned from its airborne roots, and together with the boiler suit, was worn in munitions factories and other manufacturing situations by women supporting the war effort. Far from being considered fashionable, these garments were workwear in its truest sense. Once women were allowed to wear jumpsuits starting in 1915, dressing rooms were installed in the workplace, and women wore their regular clothing to work, changed into their jumpsuits, and then changed again before returning home. For many years, that pattern remained and the jumpsuit was shunned in favor of garments seen as more “feminine”.
Fast Forward a Bit
While women might have become familiar with the jumpsuit during WWI, it was not until the 1920s that the garment really began to come into its own. In 1919, Thayat, an Italian designer, created his own version of the garment out of cotton. The design was intended to be easy to wear and useful for working people. Dubbed the TuTa, it was ultimately adopted by the elite and transformed from workwear into a fashionable look.
The Varst, developed in Russia a few years later, was an attempt at the same thing – to create a usable, comfortable, utilitarian garment for the working class. Unlike the TuTa, the Varst failed to find popularity with any class and eventually just faded away. However, in the 1930s, the world finally got its first high-fashion jumpsuit.
Elsa Schiaparelli designed the first fashionable jumpsuits. Her designs were at once elegant and controversial, though, and while they garnered a lot of word of mouth, few were actually purchased and worn. In the 1940s, Vera Maxwell began designing women’s jumpsuits, and although they were still seen as novelties, more women added them to their wardrobes. Bonnie Cashin was next – her evening jumpsuits debuted in the 1950s.
In the 1960s, women’s jumpsuits finally started to come into their own. The first-ever jumpsuit to grace the pages of Vogue magazine debuted in 1964. That appearance spawned a fashion trend that slowly grew. In 1968, Yves Saint Laurent debuted a women’s jumpsuit design, and in the 1970s, jumpsuits soared in popularity.
It was during the ‘70s that jumpsuits truly came into their own. Designers created options for work, for around the home, for working out, and for nights out on the town. Virtually all fashion houses had their own selection of jumpsuits, including Oscar de la Renta and Dior. Hollywood stars and starlets wore them, as did superstars like Elvis and royalty, including Princess Diana.
In the 1980s, the jumpsuit hit peak saturation. They were found everywhere and even dubbed “the ball gown of the next century”. That proclamation proved premature, though.
As with most trends, the popularity fueling the jumpsuit’s rise to fame flickered and went out. It was not until the early 2000s that jumpsuits began to regain something of their former appeal when Nicolas Ghesquiére (Balenciaga) ultimately helped to relaunch the garment with an experimental design. That resurgence was cemented a few years later when former Celine designer Phoebe Philo wore one to the British Fashion Awards (2009). Jennifer Lawrence and Kristin Stewart both wore jumpsuits to the Cannes Film Festival, as well.
Women’s Jumpsuits Today
Today, jumpsuits can once more be found almost everywhere. Up-and-coming fashion houses like Roksanda and Henry Holland showcased jumpsuits on catwalks during the 2020 pandemic, and 2021 is set to be more of the same. They are also being embraced beyond the world of fashion – sustainability consultant Alice Wilby explained their liberating capabilities and immense versatility in an interview with BBC, while also extolling the freedom of movement and female empowerment and autonomy offered.
The Rational Dress Society’s Maura Brewer has a different take on the garment, though. She sees the jumpsuit as the mono-garment of the future. It may ultimately be a way to help tackle some of fashion’s most dangerous side effects, such as waste and unbridled consumption. Then you have forward-thinking designers like Karl Templer with Ports 1961, who has been reimagining classic two-piece designs as one-piece jumpsuits and boiler-esque options.
Once more, the jumpsuit is our go-to garment for work and play, relaxation, and fun. Of course, today’s options are a bit toned down in comparison to the explosions of color and form we saw in the 1980s, more in line with today’s sensibilities. However, that does not mean that they lack fun or flair.
You’ll find women’s jumpsuits in stunning gold and silver, with and without sequins, in lovely floral prints, in ivory and black, with fringe and without. Want something elegant for a night out? Choose a sleek, black jumpsuit without sleeves. Need something for the office? A chiffon sleeve jumpsuit might be the perfect option.
Long sleeve jumpsuits, cold shoulder designs, cropped styles, wide or narrow legged – you get the picture. There’s a jumpsuit for virtually any need or personal aesthetic today. However, today’s trend is not towards “more is better”. If anything, women’s jumpsuits have become a nod to the ongoing paring down of the wardrobe, providing a garment that can transition from work to social life that combines both utilitarian functionality with a touch of class and elegance.
The jumpsuit’s evolution has been long and convoluted. It began as a garment meant for male pilots and parachutists, then transformed into a work garment for women during wartime. Innovative designers experimented with the jumpsuit over several decades, finally transforming it into a fashion statement that proclaimed women’s equality and freedom. Today, though, it is morphing once more, going from fashion statement to fashion staple.
Choosing the Right Jumpsuit for You
Jumpsuits have an almost magnetic appeal. They can be fun, formal, liberating, or empowering. However, they can also be tricky to fit since they’re a single garment rather than several different pieces. So, how do you ensure that you’re getting a jumpsuit that flatters your figure?
The first thing is to understand your body type. Is your body apple-shaped or pear-shaped? Do you have an hourglass figure? Are you more triangular or rectangular? Each body type requires different steps to fit properly and different jumpsuits will help you accentuate what you want while minimizing what you don’t want as visible. For instance, if your body is triangular, flared pant legs can give you a sense of more volume below the waist.
It’s not just about body shape, though. It’s also about understanding how various accessories affect the look of the outfit and knowing what you want to achieve in terms of style. Are you looking for a pulled-together professional feel? Add a wide belt to cinch the entire outfit together. Want something a bit more relaxed? A narrow, cloth or rope belt or cloth drawstrings can work. Wooden beads added to cloth drawstrings can give you an earthy, boho feel.
If you want a jumpsuit that’s equally at home in the boardroom and the dance floor, consider going with light colors for the suit (taupe makes a lovely statement, for instance) combined with metallic accessories. A narrow, metallic gold belt paired with a sleeveless taupe jumpsuit featuring straight or tapered legs can be just the statement to take you from day job to nightlife.
Of course, cut and color are also important to consider when choosing from women’s jumpsuits. For instance, if you want to show off your hourglass figure, a cinched waistline is a must. If you want to highlight your neck and shoulders, go with a strapless, cropped design. Want to communicate power and poise? A striped, sleeveless jumpsuit helps you achieve just that.
Finally, consider what you’ll wear with the jumpsuit. While they are designed as mono-garments, they’re versatile enough to work with almost anything else. For instance, a V-neck, strapped design can be worn all on its own, but you can also pair it with the right top underneath and completely transform the look.
You can also pair your jumpsuits with jackets – that offers warmth during the colder months of the year but also helps you accessorize your outfit in new ways. Don’t forget your other accessories – the right footwear can make or break your outfit, as can your handbag, and even your choice of jewelry.
Why Connected Apparel?
Searching for women’s jumpsuits? Whether you’re buying your first or you’ve been a fan of the style for many years, Connected Apparel offers access to the hottest modern styles. From foil-printed jumpsuits to botanical prints, strapless designs to wide-legged options, there is something for every woman in our collection.
Still wondering why you should choose Connected Apparel? Beyond our wide selection of styles, we also offer regular, petite, and plus-size women’s jumpsuits. We also make it simple to find exactly what you want – use the convenient filters on the left side to choose the size range, color, occasion, length, and sleeve configuration that works best for you. Whether you’re about to head to a tropical destination for vacation, you’re planning a night out with your girlfriends, hosting a dinner party at your home, are part of a bridal party, or you’re looking for a jumpsuit for the office, you’ll find an impressive range of options here.
The Connected Apparel advantage goes deeper than our selection of women’s jumpsuits. We pride ourselves on quality, design, and the right fit every time. We also deliver quickly – you’ll receive your purchase in just two to seven days and then you have 21 days to return or exchange it if you’re not completely happy.
With over 70 years of experience in the world of dressmaking and design, Connected Apparel is your go-to source for women’s jumpsuits, dresses, and separates. From power wear to casual wear, we help you look and feel your best.
Shop our collection of women’s jumpsuits online to find the perfect outfit for work, leisure, special events, and more!