Surprisingly, perhaps, the current must-have fashion item, the jumpsuit, has a long and decidedly macho pedigree. Back in 1919, the first recorded jumpsuit was an Italian revolutionary number. Thus the jumpsuit started out as the work and leisure wear of the proletarian male masses in their struggle to bring power to the people. World War Two changed all that, however. Even today, some fashionistas still consider what subsequently took place the style war crime of the last century.
The war witnessed the rise of air power, and aircrew and paratroopers all had to be adequately clothed for parachuting out of a plane down to the ground below. Top brass called the adequate clothing in question a jumpsuit. Women were to wear similar items of clothing whilst working in bomb factories. The first fashion jumpsuits for women appeared in the 1950s, after the war had ended and the weary world staggered back to some sort of normality. By 1960, a high-end version of the Jumpsuit, going by the name of Palazzo Pyjamas, first appeared draped over a succession of screen goddesses like Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren.
The 1970s was the decade when the great controversy erupted, mainly on stage. David Bowie, in the guise of his androgynous creation Ziggy Stardust, first sported a floridly kitsch jumpsuit in 1972. By 1977, a fading Elvis, bloated and sweating was wearing a white version on his last stage appearance; Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury, Cher and Abba wore other iconic examples of how not to wear a jumpsuit in that eventful decade. However, it didn’t take that long before high street fashion buyers jumped onto the bandwagon, although thankfully not the menswear buyers!
By the 1980s, jumpsuits could be found in the wardrobe of most women in what was then described as the developed world. Watch any movie, or film from this era and wonder at how ubiquitous they had become. The jumpsuits were as eighties as big-hair and legwarmers.
Then came the revolution.
As if by magic, the evening outfit of choice for women the world over fell to the fashionista’s axe. By the early nineties they were suddenly the height of bad taste, a joke once worn by the critics’ mothers’ generation and, like everything else from the seventies and eighties, fit only for shelving away in the ‘Forget’ sections of the designer filing systems.
As the old saying has it, however, what goes around comes around, and jumpsuits are very definitely back on the up. Granted, the comeback has been a gradual affair. Chanel ran some out in 2006 and other designers experimented with them too, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the jumpsuit was officially rehabilitated.
The comfort and undoubted elegance of these now once again classic fashion items cannot be overstated. On the runways and red carpets, all over the world, they have reclaimed the high ground they once so rapidly lost. If you never liked them, and there are those who remain unenlightened, just console yourself with the good news: at least men have stopped wearing them, apart from aircrew and paratroopers of course!