14. 5. 2020

English Version | One-piece wonder

by Mónica Bozinoski


Unlike those one-hit wonders that have been hidden and forgotten in the back of our wardrobes, jumpsuits continue to take center stage of the Fashion industry. After all, union is (really) strength.

© Getty Images

Few pieces of clothing can withstand parachuting, world conflicts, trips to the moon and endless nights at Studio 54, and survive all this to be able to tell the story, but the all-in-one - that unique and unifying element who has saved us all from the horrible and feared crises of “a closet full and nothing to wear” - is one of them. From functional invention to disco's best friend and street-style lover, the jumpsuit prevails as one of the most consistent trends in a world in constant (and fast, very fast) change, as well as one of the most interpreted and reinterpreted style staples by the vast universe of Fashion. But nothing the all-in-one is not used to - after all, this silhouette has served the most diverse purposes, occupations, moods and ages. 

Rewind to 1919, the year when the most practical piece of a women's wardrobe (please forgive us white t-shirts, high-waisted jeans and that cashmere sweater that survives all seasons) was born. Originally conceived by Thayat, pseudonym of the Italian designer Ernesto Michahelles, and adopted by the parachutists and aviators of the time for its functionality, what is considered the first jumpsuit was a subversive, liberating, universal and antibourgeois model - in the words of its creator, it was “the most innovative and futuristic garment ever produced in the history of Italian fashion.” Truth or lie, what is certain is that, with the arrival of the 1930s, the silhouette landed in the hands of Elsa Schiaparelli, who began to design jumpsuits with more couture details and more noble materials, designed for elegant women.

This style was definitely not the same as the one that would be conceived by the American designer Vera Maxwell in the following decade - in 1942, with women replacing men in the labor force due to the war, the company Sperry Gyroscope asked Maxwell to create a comfortable and practical uniform, able to withstand the heavy work of industry and make women feel attractive in it. The result? The historic Rosie the Riveter, a utility jumpsuit immortalized by the “We Can Do It!” Poster.

Despite being in every catwalk today - we could run the Fashion Alphabet and find an all-in-one in each of its letters - the jumpsuit was not always the most obvious choice, let alone the most popular, when it came down to choosing the outfit of the day. Or even the outfit of the night. This is because, apart from the world of sport and the working world, which soon enough appreciated how practical, comfortable and functional the all-in-one was, the silhouette took a few decades to take off. But once it did, it never stopped walking among the stars - from Hollywood and beyond, of course. From actresses Katharine Hepburn and Janet Leigh, who helped glamorize the elegant and belted jumpsuits during the Golden Age of Cinema, through the highly ornate models of Elvis Presley, the silhouette ended up landing on the pages of American Vogue – a brown jersey-knit piece created by Guy Laroche and photographed by Irving Penn for the September 1964 issue - the 50s and 60s were a real launching pad for the jumpsuit, making it a true style statement.

When the 70s came around the corner, the all-in-one (be it in its most sporty and relaxed version for the day, or in its more wow factor and sensual version for the night) was all over the place. Which is as if to say, it was everywhere: designers like Emilio Pucci, Yves Saint Laurent, André Courrèges and Oscar de la Renta created their own versions of the silhouette; names like Abba, David Bowie, Cher, Diana Ross, Jerry Hall, Farah Fawcett and Bianca Jagger helped to immortalize the jumpsuit, either on stage or on the iconic Studio 54 dance floor, where Halston's designs were queens of the night; and Sigourney Weaver’s military look in Alien, the cool from the original Ghostbusters, Madonna’s black, tight and belted jumpsuit in the clip Papa Don’t Preach, Britney Spears’s red PVC all-in-one in Oops! I Did It Again and the unforgettable one-piece leopard pattern by Mel B (circa Spice Girls, obviously) injected a dose of pop culture into the silhouette. It was no accident that, in the 1980s, the American designer Geoffrey Beene defined the jumpsuit as “the evening dress of the next century”.

And if it is certain that the jumpsuits started to be, eventually, very down to earth - can we blame the comfortable and practical allure of athleisure and pajama dressing? -, some say that it was Nicolas Ghesquière who, in the spring of 2002 and at the service of Balenciaga, updated the silhouette and resurrected the trend. Heroes aside, the truth is that the jumpsuit has never stopped being ready for take off - and the route, this time, goes through a tweed version signed by the Maison Chanel; for a trip through the 70s, with a cinched in fit, a bell bottom and a vibrant mint green, all courtesy Gucci; for a mandatory stop in the utilitarian and relaxed sustainability of Stella McCartney; by Isabel Marant's effortless; Valentino’s romantic approach or the über cool one from Bottega Veneta, Fendi or Marine Serre.

This love affair doesn't stop there, with celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Victoria Beckham, Kendall Jenner, Rihanna, Emma Stone, Beyoncé and Solange Knowles (we believe that everyone remembers the cream one-piece signed by Stéphane Rolland worn by the singer when she tied the knot in 2018) keeping the trend united. All this with a helping hand from street style, of course, where the all-in-one is seen from season to season, with the same practical, functional and downright cool spirit that has always characterized it. And if it is true that the Beatles sang that all you need is love, love is all you need - and love is necessary, today more than ever -, some say that, in fact, all you need is one, one (jumpsuit) is all you need.