The jumpsuit was first produced in 1913 as the Lee-Union-All, created by the H.D. Lee Mercantile Company. The one-piece suit would become the official military doughboy uniform, or flight suit, during WWI, and the revolutionary garment was soon adopted as a work uniform for everyone from farmers to factory workers.
During World War II, the coverall was borrowed by ‘Rosie the Riveter,’ as women entered the factories once the men went to war.
Called “boilersuits” in the ’40s, these one-piece pantsuits gave women the freedom to move about in dangerous professions without catching skirts in machines, or dripping sleeves into gears.
Children of the 1950s suited up in the coveralls, which were now dubbed “playsuits”. Made of durable cotton flannel or corduroy, this one-piece wonder made it easy for young tykes to dress for after-school fun time.
The comfort and convenience of the coverall helped it maintain a stable position in the children’s and workman’s wardrobe until fashion stole the garment for its own purposes in the ’60s.
Renamed the jumpsuit after the colourful suits worn by parachute jumpers, the one-piece unisex coverall moved from rugged wear to casual and even formal attire. Coveralls were pushed to the title of grubby workwear, and jumpsuits landed as fashion.
The 60’s jumpsuit expressed itself best in bold floral prints in sleek nylon fabrics. The wide-legged, sleeveless jumpsuit became the perfect loungewear for the new leisure class.
The ’70s funkified the jumpsuit, giving it a unisex foxy flare in double knit polyester. Topped off with a wide waist belt and a turtleneck underneath for casual moments, or bejewelled for formal occasions, the jumpsuit battled with the leisure suit for favourite ’70s fashion.
Even the King of Rock and Roll knew the power behind the one-piece wonder. Elvis Presley made his comeback resplendent in bejewelled and studded jumpsuits that will remain in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere.
The ’80s jumpsuit took a lesson from the King’s excess, bedazzling the denim and cotton jumpsuits with silver studs and jewels.