Once upon a time the sight of a jumpsuit was rare. Unless you were at a nightclub in the 70s, an all-in-one felt like a difficult look to pull off – too dressed up for the office or hanging out with your mates. But in recent years, all that has changed. Suddenly jumpsuits are everywhere; not to mention playsuits and boilersuits. At Asos, jumpsuit sales have gone up 70% compared with last year, according to design director Vanessa Spence. On global fashion search platform Lyst, searches for jumpsuits are up 61% year on year. And while demand usually peaks in the winter, June saw a 46% surge in searches on the previous month – proof that the jumpsuit has become the look of the summer.
Jane Fonda’s stylist recently called jumpsuits “the epitome of a modern woman’s wardrobe”, and they have ushered in an age in which women no longer have to spend hours agonising over matching separates. At Ascot last year, they were finally decreed fit for the races, while that weathervane of high-street fashion, Asos, gave them their own category on its site in 2016, alongside skirts, trousers and tops.
But why are they suddenly so popular? Perhaps a line could be drawn between our increasingly busy lives and the sartorial ease of a one-piece.
It helps that, according to Guardian stylist Melanie Wilkinson, “there really is a style to suit everyone … overall styles will look cool and modern”, or for a more pulled-together look “opt for a belted style”. If you’re more petite “this season’s culotte-style jumpsuit is ideal to avoid trouser legs puddling on the floor”.
The jumpsuit has come a long way since it was first invented in the early 20th century by the Florentine artist Thayat, who wanted to create a liberating, anti-bourgeois item of clothing. In the 60s, Mick Jagger wore an Ossie Clark one with metal rings that apparently heated up under stage lights and burned his skin. In the 70s, Farrah Fawcett wore a deep-V silky emerald green jumpsuit in Charlie’s Angels, while the 80s brought Anneka Rice’s brightly coloured tracksuit versions.
Stella McCartney has long been a fan, but arguably the pioneer for today’s renaissance is former Celine designer Phoebe Philo. When the woman credited as having the most influence on our wardrobes in the past decade wore a black tux-esque jumpsuit to the British Fashion Awards in 2009, fashion circles swooned. A few years later and they were big at Cannes, worn by Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence; a “red-carpet rebel” next to more traditional, goody-two-shoes gowns.
In 2018, wearing a jumpsuit as evening – or occasionwear – is no big deal. Lyst can testify, having seen a rise in searches in the formal category. Jumpsuits are “great for evening and can feel like a more masculine, streamlined option if you don’t feel like wearing a dress”, according to Matches fashion and buying director Natalie Kingham. Try Topshop’s ivory bandeau jumpsuit for £59. Or, in the spirit of going all out, why not opt for its silver sequin one which, for £99, will make you feel like a disco ball.
Vogue fashion features editor Ellie Pithers has started receiving emails from brides asking for advice on wedding jumpsuits. Whistles already stocks a Victorian lace bridal jumpsuit, available at £549 for brides wanting to look a little bit Brontë sisters. And for something a little simpler there is & Other Stories’ lace culotte jumpsuit, yours for £125.
The most 2018 look in the jumpsuit family tree, however, is less about red-carpet glamour and more about workwear. The jumpsuit’s hard-grafting cousin the boilersuit is having a moment. Asos has seen a rise in demand, particularly for wrap-front styles, dungarees and casual boilersuits. M.C. Overalls is one brand nailing this aesthetic. Their £135 overalls come in functional navy, baby blue or pink and are built to last. According to founder and CEO James Scroggs, their utility “resonates with people as the bridge between our personal and professional wardrobes becomes muddled”.
That’s not to say it can’t still fit in when the lights go down. The joy of it, he says, is that “it can be dressed up or down to look industrial, chic … or industrial chic”; accessorised “as the occasion demands”. Add a pair of statement earrings to Finery’s oatmeal linen jumpsuit (£97) and you’ve got a look that would be practical in the apocalypse as well as ideal for a summer party. Or to give a workwear silhouette a softer edge, Mango has a floral jumpsuit in pale lemons and peaches for £59.99.
If you’re after a more subtle nod to the workwear aesthetic, you can always fall back on trusty dungarees. On Asos you’ll find them in red, floral and off-white; as well as classic blue and black denims.
So if you are yet to join the jumpsuit brigade in this long, hot summer, why not jump in, feet first?
Zoe Reid, 19, London
I like jumpsuits because they’re more put together than shorts and a T-shirt, and more practical than a dress, but you get the same visual impression. I’m doing the London sights sightseeing today with my friend from America – when it’s windy on the river, dresses blow everywhere. I think they’re good in a heatwave because they’re quite light. The one I’m wearing today is from Hollister – and I don’t usually shop there, but I saw it in the window. It was about £30.
Nikki Humphreys, 47, Yateley
I wear jumpsuits about four times a week – they’re an easy, quick outfit and they’re comfortable and cool in this weather. I’ve been wearing them for a couple of years, inspired by how many there are now to choose from in the shops – you can have a different one for every day of the week. This one is from a charity shop and was £6.
I like jumpsuits because they’re really easy. You can literally just slip them on and you feel very comfortable. Plus they’re great in a heatwave – especially this one, because it’s so airy. Over the years I’ve owned a lot. I was a singer/songwriter and they were a good stage outfit. I’ve always found them really glamorous and I really love the 80s and that kind of overall vibe with big earrings. This one is from Asos. I can’t remember how much it was but it wasn’t that expensive.
Emma Simon, 19, North Carolina
Jumpsuits are comfortable and easy; they’re good to walk in. I don’t remember when I first started wearing them but it was probably when I was little. I now own about seven of them. I don’t think they’re particularly good in a heatwave, they’re a little sweaty. The one I’m wearing today is from Urban Outfitters and cost about $40.
Lerato Umah-Shaylor, 32, Eastbourne
Jumpsuits have always been one of my favourite things to wear – I like the androgynous style. If we were going out later on tonight I could put on heels and look glam. Now I’m wearing sandals and I look summery and casual. I can’t count how many I own – I swap them around as I fluctuate in weight. I think they’re good for a heatwave, especially if they’re not the tight leotard kind. This one is black, which is not the best colour for the heat, but it’s backless so it’s breezy. It was from Finery and cost £85.
Natasha Edun, 24, east London
Jumpsuits are comfortable and look stylish. I’ve been wearing a lot – I think as it’s summer and they’re doing lots of nice prints. I used to have lots for going out, now I have more casual ones. This one’s from Zara and cost £25.
Maisie Miller, 26, Watford
Oh, jumpsuits are so comfortable! And they keep you covered up, but not too covered up – when it’s weather like this, they’re really cool. They’re really flattering as well – I have quite a bottom-heavy shape and I think they quite suit it. I own up to 10, all different colours, textures and style. This one is from Missguided. It was definitely less than £15.
Jess Dhillon, 31, east London
I like jumpsuits because they’re practical, long and versatile because there are lots of different styles. I have about 10 in my current repertoire, and will wear them at least once a week. They’re not figure-hugging so they don’t stick to you in this weather. Even when it’s cold I’ll wear the shorter ones with tights. This one is from Hollister, probably via Asos. It cost about £30.
Alison Chadwick, 49, Oxfordshire
I love jumpsuits, I’m obsessed – they are smart and comfortable but with a slight fashion edge. I’ve been wearing them for about two years. I used to think they looked like you were trying to make a different statement, and my style is quite classic, but now they’ve come into the mainstream they feel more classic. For business travel they’re effortless. I use jersey jumpsuits for long-haul flights – an air stewardess the other day wanted to know where one was from. They’re great in the heatwave – this one’s silk, so it’s lightweight. It’s from LK Bennett and was about £200.
Ella Northover, 17, Essex
They’re very comfortable and they go with anything. I think they’re good in a heatwave, especially this one I’m wearing because it’s sleeveless and three-quarter-length. I think I own about three or four – some floral, some spotty. This one’s from Missguided – I can’t remember exactly how much it was, but it was reasonable.
Breege Hrughey, 48, Donegal
I got my first playsuit when I was 20; I was always told they suited me. They’re very cool and the shorts are handy for when you’re doing activities – you’re not always worrying about gusts of wind on the underground like you are with a dress. I’ve always felt comfortable wearing them. I have to make sure my legs are a bit tanned, but that’s only the same as wearing shorts. This one is from Primark and it was about €16.
Jasmine Simpson, 25, Canada
Jumpsuits are nice in summer, especially in Canada where you can’t wear this kind of stuff all year round. I’ve been wearing them for a couple of years and probably have about five. I think they might have been in style when I graduated and moved to the city. I got this one online, I think it’s shipped from China but I found it on Instagram. It was about US$30.
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