What is a Bodysuit?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A bodysuit has several definitions. Most often, the bodysuit is defined as a leotard-like garment, often with long sleeves, that has snaps at the crotch. Fashion designer Donna Karan popularized this form of bodysuit in the 1980s. It was usually made of stretchable fabric, and provided the advantage of never needing to tuck in one’s shirt.

Woman shopping
Woman shopping

Today, this type of bodysuit can be a little harder to find, and you can try looking in the lingerie section of department stores for them or on the Internet. They often are made of a combination of Lycra and cotton, or Lycra, nylon and polyester. Some are stretch lace that have a nude under layer so they can be worn under suit jackets.

You can also find strictly lingerie bodysuits in a variety of fabrics. These tend to have spaghetti strap sleeves, as opposed to short or long sleeves. They also may be completely sheer and don’t function well for outerwear. The bodysuit can also have either a thong or regular back. Those who wish to avoid the fashion disaster of the visible panty line may prefer thong bodysuits.

The snap crotch on the bodysuit is helpful, since it means you don’t need to get completely undressed to go to the bathroom. This is not always an advantage. In tight public bathroom stalls, women have been known to wrestle with reattaching the snaps. This can create some difficulty because of the stretch and spring of the bodysuit fabric.

Another definition of the bodysuit is often called a union suit, a catsuit or a unitard. This covers the entire body and usually does not feature a snap crotch, though some long underwear versions do have “backdoor” access. Unitards also became popular in the 1980s, and were often preferred by dancers because they were easier to wear than the traditional tights and leotard ensemble. Because they closely cling to the body, people dancing and exercising can observe their bodies’ movements when they are striving for precise positioning.

Sheer unitards are frequently worn by dancers in Vegas shows, since they provide a little bit of support but still give the illusion of nudity. Like the leotard, the full-length bodysuit or catsuit can be very difficult to wear for quick trips to the bathroom. The shorter, more traditional bodysuit with a snap crotch is often preferable.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Now, I remember seeing bodysuits for girls in the Sears catalogs in the 70s, and one of the options for Girl Scout uniforms in the 70s was a bodysuit instead of a blouse. So I'd say they were popular before the 80s.

In any event, while I like the sleeker look of a bodysuit, they are inconvenient to wear. I don't like having to take my clothes off to go to the bathroom. Even the snap crotch makes it more aggravating to use the restroom than just wearing a regular tank top and blouse. I think I'd rather wear a regular top and slacks.

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