The jumpsuit: every few years, the Paris runways are full of them; it's a style that has never really gone out of style since its appearance in the early twentieth century. Technically, a jumpsuit is:
But we all know differently! A jumpsuit can be an easy-breezy, cool, and fashionable garment (as a slew of entertainers--Elvis, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury--and fashionistas have known for decades!).
The word itself explains this garment's origins: they were developed to keep aviators warm in freezing open-air cockpits during the early days of flight (Amelia Earhart can be seen wearing them)--and paratroopers wore them to "jump" out of planes. A similar garment, coveralls, well, they covered all (of the clothing worn beneath them). They are also called "boilersuits," and they were originally worn by workers maintaining steam-powered engines--as this work required one to sometimes climb into the boiler (or firebox on a locomotive), the one-piece suit prevented soot (or embers) from getting into, for example, the waistband of trousers; the sleek lines also helped to prevent the garment from snagging on something when one needed to enter tight spaces. And as skiing became more popular as a leisure-time activity in the 1920s, specially designed ski suits (often one piece for aerodynamics and to keep the snow out) were available, including chic suits by couturiers such as Lucien Lelong and Elsa Schiaparelli).
Women began to fill factories during World War II--Rosie the Riveter, we're looking at you!--and coveralls (and overalls, too) were worn, again, as a protective garment, both in terms of nothing getting caught in machinery (their hair was worn back or wrapped with the famous Rosie bandanna/scarf) AND as a way to keep clothing clean (fabric became more scarce during the war so new clothes became a luxury for most people). Reportedly the workers hated them as they had to practically undress just to use the bathroom--but the coverall has become an iconic image representing the "Yes We Can" spirit of women moving into the workplace and helping in the war effort.
Top left: Clad in a fur lined leather flying suit with oxygen facepiece, NACA test pilot Paul King prepares to take to the air in a Vought VE-7, 1925. Courtesy NASA Langley Center, courtesy Wikipedia.
Top right: Boiler suit [at right], from a 1920s Brown Bros. leaflet, courtesy oldclassiccar.co.uk
Bottom left: Lucien Lelong ski outfit, photo by Egidio Scaioni, 1927.
Bottom right: Factory workers in coveralls/boiler suits in England during World War II. Photo courtesy thephotodetective.co.uk
In terms of a non-work-related jumpsuit, in 1919 Italian designer Ernesto Michahelles--who was part of the Futurist art movement--designed the "TuTa," a T-shaped garment for men cut from one piece of cotton and constructed with one straight cut, several seams, seven buttons and a belt (pictured below, top row left). (He renamed himself Thayaht, a bifrontal palindrome, reflecting the symmetry of his design.) The pattern for the TuTa was published in an Italian newspaper to make it accessible to the greater public. There was also a version for women. Alexandr Rodchenko also designed a uniform-like jumpsuit in 1922 (interesting that artists first jumped on the bandwagon--pun intended!). And from that point forward, as some women (those in the upper economic classes, at least) had more time for sports and leisure, easy-to-wear jumpsuits (except for that pesky visit to the bathroom) became a popular garment. (There were also "beach pyjamas," sometimes one piece, sometimes two--but that's for another post. And rompers and playsuits: often simply an abbreviated jumpsuit!).
Top row: “TuTa,” designed by Thayaht (Ernesto Michahelles), 1919
Joan Crawford, looking amazing (and slightly spooky!) in a jumpsuit, ca. 1920s. Image from ilarge.listal.com, via Pinterest
Jean Harlow in a velvet jumpsuit designed by Vera West; photographed by Ray Jones. Courtesy Mothgirlwings.tumblr.com
Middle row: Elsa Schiaparelli “shelter suit,” 1940s. Courtesy costumedept.eu.com
A pre-blonde Ginger Rogers in a wide-legged jumpsuit, 1940s. Courtesy pickyourselfup.tumblr.com
Jumpsuit from Vogue, 1950s. Courtesy tammy17tummy.tumblr.com
Bottom row: Mid-1960s jumpsuit. Courtesy blog.wiseling.com
Veruschka in a Norma Tullo jumpsuit, 1970s. Courtesy superseventies.tumbler.com
Thierry Mugler jumpsuit, 1980. Courtesy beauty-is-a-warm-gun.blogspot.com
The jumpsuit evolved from slinky (1930s) to more functional (1940s) to wide-legged palazzos for entertaining (also 1940s and then 1960s) to more streamlined (1950s) to anything goes (1970s) to avant-garde (1980s) to today: halter, wrap, sleeveless, wide legged or slim, there is a jumpsuit for everybody (and every body!). Remember, fit is important--no saggy bums, please (unless you're going for that M.C. Hammer effect).
Now let's look at some lovely jumpsuit patterns from members of the Pattern Patter team on Etsy!
Top row, left to right: McCall 7277: retromonkeys
Second row: McCall’s 2002: sydcam123
Third row: Butterick 4779: PrettyPatternShop
Fourth row: Simplicity 8280: JeaniesShop
Top row, left to right: Simplicity 9370: RebeccasVintageSalon
Second row: Butterick 5889: PeoplePackages
Third row: Simplicity 9263: JerseyGirlPatterns
Fourth row: McCall’s 9773: SloCrafty
Top row, left to right: Spadea 70533: Denisecraft
Second row: McCall’s 3068: RomasMaison
Third row: Vogue 2182: Fragolina
For more on jumpsuits, refer to this informative post written by Amy from ViennasGrace, which was published on our blog last year.
Which jumpsuit would YOU like to jump into? Tell us in the comments!
Text sources: Wikipedia, Italian Vogue (vogue.it/en)