History of Jumpsuits : Then to now
1919, the first jumpsuit. Invented by the Florentine Thayat (that model is now part of the collection of Palazzo Pitti), it was launched as a subversive and liberating garment during the Futuristic period. Its T shape was cut from one piece of cotton or African canvas. Thayat considered it a universal item of clothing, a creative, do-it-yourself and anti-bourgeois solution: seven buttons, a belt, a straight cut, a few seams.
1923. A similar creation, but Russian and constructivist, by Rodchenko and his wife Stepanova: the name was Varst, the jumpsuit was – again – the revolutionary garment of the new man.
Even Elsa Schiaparelli designed a bunker suit, a hooded light-blue jumpsuit, braided decorations on cuffs, ankles and waist-line, and a cross-body water bottle.
The futuristic connotation is clear, when the jumpsuit is the costume of sci-fi fiction. For example, Star Trekturned the shiny bi-color jumpsuit into a cult piece.
The basic model was still the one worn by parachutists, skiers and aviators, but it progressively moved from the world of sports to closets. In 1943 The Little Prince was published: Saint Exupery, an aviator, drew the protagonist standing on his planet, wearing a jumpsuit and watching the horizons of life.
Later came the bomber pilot Emilio Pucci, marquis and designer, who patented the fabric Emilioform, silk shantung and helanca, a combination of elastic fibers which ensured the success of the first total look, even in jumpsuit version. This happened in 1960. At Pitti the garment which can be considered a high society version of the jumpsuit was shown: the palazzo pyjama by Irene Galitzine, a princess designer who dressed Sofia Loren and Liz Taylor, Paola of Liège and Jackie Kennedy.
Talking of the world of rock, many jumpsuits were sported on stage by men who anticipated the contemporary feminine version of this garment: theirs were skin-tight and a bit kitsch, while ours are loose, with a more couture impact, or sportswear-inspired, made of different fabrics, thus following the evolution of taste.
Memorable, on stage, the flared and over-decorated jumpsuits, embroidered in gold and completed by a short mantle, seen on an exhilarating Elvis Presley.
Characterized by a glam and psychedelic vibe, the striped jumpsuit with exaggerated cut, worn by David Bowie in the role of his androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust in 1972. Unforgettable the black and white check jumpsuit on Freddie Mercury and the diamond-print one on Mick Jagger. Today, the red patent jumpsuit of Britney Spears, a leopard-printed model seen on the Spice Girls, the vintage fluorescent yellow piece worn by the electro artist David Sugalski, known as The Polish Ambassador, during his live performances.
Madonna has a tuxedo-jumpsuit designed by her friends Dolce & Gabbana. As for designers, we remember a loose and white jumpsuit – super-flared pants, bodice cut as a double-breast jacket – a couture model by Valentino from 1971. Helmut Newton made it famous in a picture shot at night: the model wore it with a huge burgundy tie, cuff links and high heels, posing in the streets.
White (again) the jumpsuit designed by Cerruti, paying homage to early 20th-century aviators; the piece with a Forties curvy silhouette by Donna Karan and the blue working class jumpsuit by Yamamoto.
Stella McCartney in total black, lace jumpsuit, bow belt and high-heel pumps. Silver sequins on Juliette Lewis. Black super-short jumpsuit on Agyness Deyn. Katie Holmes wearing one of her own creations, a loose jumpsuit in white silk with sheer black lace straps. Keira Knightley wearing a white model with a Seventies cut, echoing Saturday Night Fever. Peaches Geldof with a short and futuristic piece, plunging neckline, silver with fuchsia trims.Sophie Marceau in silver at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, wearing a couture strapless jumpsuit with flared pants.
Rihanna dares to wear Catwoman-like, skin-tight zebra-print jumpsuits. Silver mirror effect on Amber Rose. A loose but luminescent style on Kylie Minogue. Tight as a black glove on Beyonce.
Summer 2010. Among the most famous jumpsuit, the floral-printed one by Stella McCartney, the multi-pocket one by Givenchy, the one made of plaid silk by Prada. Pixie Geldof attended the H&M flagship store opening in London and wore a short mustard jumpsuit. Erin Wasson attended a party in Los Angeles wearing the above mentioned Prada piece. Elettra Wiedemann and Helena Christensen wore loose and long jumpsuits: the first attended a Swarovski cocktail wearing an orange number, while the second was spotted at a party for Antony Todd wearing a jumpsuit with no accessories. Rihanna was snapped in Los Angeles wearing the floral, ultra-girly and frilled jumpsuit by Stella McCartney.
2011. The super couture model by Saint Laurent; silk fabrics for Alexander Wang; python-print or sunny yellow models by Paul & Joe. Purple and hooded for Diane Von Furstenberg; a plum maxi bow closes the pink jumpsuit by Marc Jacobs; horizontal stripes – a trademark – at Sonia Rykiel.