What are Jumpsuits?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A jumpsuit is a one-piece garment that generally features long sleeves and full leg covering. The name derives from the original use of the jumpsuit, as a functional garment for parachuters. In modern times the jumpsuit is frequently used as a uniform but has also inspired trends of modern dress.

Parachutists often wear jumpsuits.
Parachutists often wear jumpsuits.

Skydivers’ jumpsuits were manufactured to be utilitarian. The fabric protected parachuters from the extreme cold of the air, while inserts and pockets in the jumpsuit provided covering for parachute handles. Modern jumpsuits are used by aviators and astronauts. In addition to being flame-retardant and insulated, one piece-suits have an advantaged over multi-piece clothing in that they will not float or become entangled during zero gravity or high-speed, aerial maneuvers. Race car drivers also frequently employ similar jumpsuits.

The jumpsuit is often used in factories or industrial plants. Used as an outer garment, a suit provides full-body protection, something an apron cannot do. As most jumpsuits involve a variety of pockets and hooks, it can also be helpful for those using tools. As the design is unisex and can accommodating to most body shapes, the jumpsuit is a simple means to create uniformity among employees. Prisons also frequently employ jumpsuits as their mandatory uniform.

In fashion, vintage aviator or tradesmen jumpsuits are often worn by women to create a retro or aviator-chic look. For this style, the legs are often rolled up to create a capri pant, exposing the calves. Often, this look will be pared with 1940s style accessories, such as colorful hair scarves or aviator-glasses. Truly vintage jumpsuits are often embroidered with a man’s name or logo across the chest, which is left unchanged regardless of the wearer’s gender. This look has resurfaced several times in modern fashion, and has both proponents and detractors in the fashion world.

Another everyday interpretation of the jumpsuit is the overall. This one-piece garment consists of either shorts, a skirt, or pants attached to straps that come over the shoulder and hook or button to a corresponding piece that covers the chest. Denim and corduroy overalls were a popular garment in 1980s and 1990s America, but fell out of popularity as part of the grunge-fashion movement by the turn of the 21st century.

The term jumpsuit is also applied to snow suits, heavily insulated one-piece garments used for snowy or freezing climates. These heavy suits are usually filled with down or another insulating material, and are often seen on small children. In the movie The Christmas Story one child, Randy, is so engulfed in his snow suit he is famously unable to put his arms down or get up when knocked over. Despite that comedic portrayal, a snow suit is actually a very useful garment and, as it is one-piece and quite large, difficult for children to misplace.

Jumpsuits and overalls may not suit all body types, but can be flattering to some. As a fashion statement or utilitarian garment, the jumpsuit has already survived nearly a century. They can be quite comfortable and excellent for wearing during dirty or potentially messy work, such as house-painting. The simple replica item for fashion use begins at around $20 US Dollars (USD), while a basic parachuter’s jumpsuit starts at about $120 USD. Prices vary greatly based on the garment’s history, fabric and function, and you may wish to research online or in stores before purchasing.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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