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    Jumpsuits redefined what it was to be a woman throughout both of the World Wars. Continuing to evolve during the feminist movement before and after the wars, the jumpsuit is now one of the trendiest items to hang in your wardrobe!

    'Olga Anderson'. Article 'The Evolution of the Jumpsuit'. Source of the image:


    The definition of a jumpsuit describes that it is a slim-fitting, one-piece garment that covers the arms and legs. The birth of the jumpsuit originated in 1919 and is attributed to an Italian designer, Ernesto Michahellas. Back then, it was known as ‘Tuta’ in Italian, due to its T-shape worn by members of the parachute regiment and skydivers to jump out of planes in. It permitted them some form of protection from the cold temperatures and high altitudes that they would be jumping from. Hence, the design was awarded the title of ‘jumpsuit’ – a self-explanatory name that reflected its status as practical, economic, and casual wear.

    Later on, it became increasingly popular amongst aviators and race-car drivers.

    Although the design was simple in essence, it proved to be liberating and revolutionary, even accompanying the first man to walk on the moon.

    Neil Armstrong, 1969


    During the 1930s, Elsa Schiaparelli launched the jumpsuit into the ubiquitous world of fashion – as shown in image 2 – with a feminine elegance by using silk materials that liberated the item from its prior associations with workwear, instead elevating it to an everyday style necessity. Schiaparelli innovated the Paris couture scene with the easy-on, easy-off air-raid suit in her Avant-guard collections. However, trousers were still considered to be daring for women to wear at this time, limiting its popularity somewhat; skirts remained the clear preference for women at this time
    'Olga Anderson'. Article 'The Evolution of the Jumpsuit'. Source of the image:
    A jumpsuit by Maison Schiaparelli, 1939

    However, what is most interesting about the jumpsuit is its cultural and historical associations with both World Wars. During both wars, women experienced freedom from the conventional roles of housewife and mother that had trapped them for centuries, in order to help the war-front effort. Women were suddenly rushed to work in hospitals, fields, and factories, where practical and comfortable clothing was required to effectively carry out their difficult, physically demanding industrial jobs, as opposed to their previous uniform of tight-fitting corsets and skirts. Ultimately, this role functioned as the vehicle by which women eventually secured the vote for certain groups of women in 1918. By 1928, most women were able to vote, helping to emancipate vast swathes of womenkind in the UK.

    'Olga Anderson'. Article 'The Evolution of the Jumpsuit'. Source of the image:
    American WWII poster
    The American World War II poster of Riveting Rosie portrayed the character donning a one-piece jumpsuit, designed by Vera Maxwell. Riveting Rosie was an iconic cultural reference and symbol that helped boost female worker morale. The fact that the jumpsuit is a unisex item of clothing was significant, as it illustrated that women could be just like men. It also represented feminism in that it helped to prove that women are just as capable of performing the same jobs as men, including factory, farming, and industrial work. The jumpsuit appeared as a practical item of clothing during the war, empowering women to take on the previously male-dominated job market whilst the men were either indisposed or fighting the war.
    1942 working woman - overalls, knit shirt, turban hat

    Even though many women returned to their normal duties after the end of the First World War, the jumpsuit enabled them to envision the heights they were capable of traversing, emboldening the feminist movement and garnering more support.


    Artists such as David Bowie, ABBA and Cher hugely popularised the jumpsuit in the 70s. They advanced it from a practical item of clothing to a major fashion statement that exemplified a common way of dressing. From casual sportswear to embellished designs perfect for an evening of glitz and glamour, it made a bold statement that allowed people to choose how they wanted to express themselves.

    Although jumpsuits appeared throughout the 50s and 60s, the 70s were the prime years for the garment. Jumpsuits became essential as disco outfits, allowing more movement and opportunities for people to show off their funky, energetic dance moves, in a decade dedicated to freedom of expression.

    Many female designers during this decade produced garments that were an extension of the feminist movement, rejecting the constructive garments of the past and choosing instead to show the body as it was. Cher, as pictured in image 4, updated the jumpsuit by freeing the arms and adding a navel-skimming neckline. This removed the traditionally functional aspect of the jumpsuit, turning it into a more stylistic expression of sexuality. Moreover, the jumpsuit projected confidence on women that was both feminine and aggressive, redefining the feminist attitude that women could be sexy, smart, and self-determined. By wearing jumpsuits, women exhibited an ability to express this kind of overt sexuality, without resigning themselves to the role of sex object.

    David Bowie
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