Sartorial Observer: The dos and don’ts of pulling off the jumpsuit

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Jumpsuits have quickly become standouts on today’s runways. Photos courtesy of Elle.com and Style.com.
Jumpsuits have quickly become standouts on today’s runways. Photos courtesy of Elle.com and Style.com.

With students on campus looking forward to spring and all the fun that warm weather brings, the jumpsuit – a one-piece outfit and soon-to-be new fashion staple – is a worthwhile investment. Soon the days of fleece-lined leggings, puffy jackets and Bean Boots will be in the past and students will be more willing to take fashion risks without worrying about the sub-zero temperatures and seven inches of snow and ice. To most, the jumpsuit may seem intimidating; the key to pulling it off is to find a good fit and to accessorize well.

For some, the word jumpsuit evokes fierce images of mechanics, racecar drivers and astronauts. However, this fashion staple has an interesting history. Starting in the early 1900s, men began wearing jumpsuits for convenience and functionality. Jumpsuits became uniform for pilots during World War I, and soon after became synonymous with innovation. When NASA began developing apparel for astronauts in the 1950s, hi-tech versions were developed in an effort to allow proper range of movement and incorporate special features such as temperature control and pressure regulation. The insulated garb developed by rocket scientists eventually trickled its way down into the wardrobes of fashion-forward toddlers as snowsuits for their outdoor frolics.

The jumpsuit is also closely tied with women’s rights. Women started wearing jumpsuits during World War II when the work force was understaffed and women began taking over jobs that were previously reserved for men. (Might I suggest a handkerchief or fabric headband as well, if you want to really commit to the Rosie the Riveter look?) In a sweeping fashion development, women audaciously took over an article of clothing typically associated with men and menial labor and turned it into an empowering testament to equality.

In a time when women’s apparel was limited to a few staple items (#aprons), the jumpsuit allowed women to express themselves more through their apparel choices and break from gender norms while still looking fashionable. Using the jumpsuit as a form of fashionable liberation continued well into the 1970s as many famous singers, notably Diana Ross, revived the trend. Urging women take control of their own bodies and inspiring them to make bold, nontraditional choices became an effort to gain equal footing with their male counterparts. Recently, the jumpsuit has been revitalized as a daring fashion choice for women of any age, from the college student to the successful businessperson.

Although daunting in the dressing room, finding a jumpsuit that is form flattering is actually easy to do. There are many different kinds of jumpsuits including rompers, which are jumpsuits with shorts instead of full legs, two-toned pantsuits and ones with flowy bottoms, which look more like dresses than pants. However, a note of caution: Please, whatever you do, do not confuse these with gauchos – befuddling excuses for capris that are only as flattering as loose-fitting spandex can be. Nonetheless, when choosing your jumpsuit, it is important not to get anything too tight, and depending on personal preference, fitted pants or boot cuts are both fun to experiment with. For a more fitted look, try to find a jumper with a drawstring or just throw on a belt to create more shape.

The next obstacle can be print and color. For a newbie who is a bit wary of the trend, a basic black, white or gray is easy to mix and match, and is a simple way to try out the trend without feeling too self-conscious. For those who are a bit more adventurous, jumpsuits come

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in every color and pattern imaginable, which can be extremely useful for on-campus themed soirées. However, be wary of certain patterns. In general, large animal prints and pinstripes are difficult to pull off.

A jumpsuit is surprisingly versatile; depending on what it is paired with, it can be worn to class, to a Goodrich party, to a Lyceum dinner or even to the sustainable garden, (yes, I mean overalls). Part of what makes the jumpsuit interesting is how it easily crosses the line from relaxed, boho-chic to a bold statement piece, hitting everything in between. For a day look, the key is to pair it with a blazer and simple jewelry. The “less is more” idea works well here, and the blazer pulls together a more conservative look for the classroom. For a party look, try a halter-top jumpsuit with bright jewelry. As for a more formal look, style a jumpsuit the same way you would a dress. Accessorize with a nice pair of heels and an eye-catching cuff to emphasize your arms. If you are looking to purchase a cover up for a warm spring vacation, a jumpsuit is easy to throw on over a swimsuit.

Jumpsuits have been all over Fashion Week runways the past few years. Designers like Alexander Wang and Giorgio Armani have incorporated variations of the look including playsuits and intricate dress-like versions of the jumpsuit. Because of this popularity, jumpsuits are relatively easy to find. Stores like Tobi, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters offer a wide array of fits and colors to suit any need. If you are interested in trying out this trend, fear not! With so many different variations of jumpsuits, it is easy to find one that makes you feel comfortable and fits your fashion sense. For those few intrepid individuals who are brave enough to be clad as would-be members of the Justice League, do your part for women’s rights and for our struggling space program, and wear your jumpsuit.