The History of the Jumpsuit

Education Fashion History

When looking at fashion history, the changing place of women in society can be marked by the jumpsuit. It has always had the connotation of rebellion, and is now associated with power and freedom. The jumpsuit has become a fashion piece that is incredibly versatile; in a jumpsuit you can fix a car, climb a tree, straddle a bench, get to work, or go to a party. Today, the jumpsuit is a power statement that shows people you mean business. But who invented the jumpsuit, and when did it become popular in fashion as we know it today?

The Invention of the Jumpsuit 

The overall or bib & brace was developed by Levi Strauss in the 1890s, and became  the staple outfit for hard working rural men and women. This piece was incredibly popular because of how practical it was.  Soon after this in 1919, a slim fitting one piece covering the arms and legs was developed for the dangerous work of parachuters and skydivers.  Twenty years later, the history of the jumpsuit continues during World War II, when the looser fitting boiler suit or coverall was adopted by female munition workers, such as Rosie the Riveter. This piece quickly became identifiable as a symbol of freedom.

Historic Jumpsuits in Fashion History: Jumpsuits During WW2

The tighter fitting catsuit, or bodysuit,  was  the uniform of gymnasts  and other athletes, and later became the costume choice of Cher, Elvis, Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger and David Bowie. This catapulted the jumpsuit into the realm of glamor and high fashion. Over the span of one century, the history of the jumpsuit has moved from the shop floor, to the racetrack,  pilots,  paratroopers,  the stage, and lastly to today’s popular fashion.

What years were jumpsuits in fashion?

In the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli, inspired by the coming war, presented a green silk jumpsuit with large front pockets to the fashion world. In the ’40s and '50s the jumpsuit began to be  called a playsuit. The main features of the playsuit included a tight waist through the  mid-thigh, loose legs, and  a matching skirt for modesty. These jumpsuits were bright, patterned, and usually worn in the summer as sportswear. After this era, many other types of jumpsuits began to be invented. 

 In the '60s and '70s Yves Saint-Laurent, Norma Kamali, and Irene Galitzino followed suit with their versions of the playsuit, which helped to establish the jumpsuit’s international popularity. Pauline Tigere, with her precise tailoring, then created the bell bottom, balloon sleeved jumpsuit that every woman wanted. By the '80s the jumpsuit got bigger, bolder, and brighter becoming the epitome of “cool.”

History of Jumpsuits in Fashion Throughout the Years

 In the 2010s, it was resurrected by Gucci and Saint-Laurent on the catwalk, and  the boiler suit became the grunge alternative. The type of jumpsuit that we know today is more toned down as it moves from being a fashion statement to a fashion staple. Easy to wear, versatile, practical, and feisty, the jumpsuit has universal appeal. It’s a true signifier of  hard work, adventure, and a genderless future. 

YSL Jumpsuit 2007

When and where can a jumpsuit be worn?

A jumpsuit can be worn summer and winter casually, formally, for business or for play.  It is a blank canvas that is uncomplicated, multifunctional, and chic.

What do I wear with a jumpsuit?

Fun to style, you can embrace a jumpsuit’s roominess, belt it or layer it. You can wear a jumpsuit with practically any kind of shoe, and our personal favorites are to pair them with are  h a sneaker, a combat boot, or a chunky heel.  Outer layers are also incredibly versatile. You can pair your jumpsuit with blazers, jean or leather jackets, and  cardigans. To add a twist, play along with the styling of your jumpsuit. Cuff the leg, add a tank top or a long sleeve t-shirt underneath. There are so many ways to dress a jumpsuit up or down, and it can be worn  multiple ways, many times. The jumpsuit is truly the perfect solution to paring down your closet.  

Jumpsuits at Meg 

Meg has been creating jumpsuits for twenty- five years. Every customer waits for the next one to arrive. Their timelessness means these jumpsuits are with you for years to come, always easy and comfortable, always powerful and fashionable. The jumpsuit is never out of commission at Meg! Be sure to check out our latest jumpsuit styles.



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