On She Goes

Yes, You Need a Jumpsuit

This single piece of garment is a must-have in all travel wardrobes.

Kamille Washington
Kamille Washington
February 22, 2018
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Jumpsuits are magic. No matter where I go, I always pack at least one jumpsuit when I travel. Jumpsuits have the ease of a little black dress and the simmering, cool-girl drama of a bold choice. If done right, jumpsuits can be the all-in-one garment described by the best fashion adjectives: chic, interesting, effortless, and versatile.

Wear denim jumpsuits with your coolest sneakers and lots of confidence.
photo by Kamille Washington

I have a dozen jumpsuits, and even the most outrageous among them can be styled to suit most occasions. For example, one of my denim jumpsuits is sleeveless, skintight, made entirely from stretch denim, and zips up from the waist. It is—objectively speaking—a ridiculous thing to own. Wearing it feels a bit like time-traveling to the early aughts and listening to “I’m Real” in a Baby Phat hoodie. And yet, I find ways to wear it every season. It doesn’t wrinkle, it matches everything, and it can easily account for three great outfits in a weeklong trip.

Jumpsuits are magic.

But let’s imagine that you would like something a little less daring, something that you could wear to a work event without anyone batting an eye. For this purpose, I recommend the black jumpsuit. I have seen these everywhere, at every price point, and in every size. I checked my closet, and I have no fewer than four different black jumpsuits. The best and most wearable of them share a few key details: they are wide-legged, they incorporate a wrap-front, and they are made in a jersey knit. Frequent travelers are already familiar with the powers of a good jersey knit. It’s washable, it doesn’t wrinkle, and (in the right size) it drapes beautifully.

This brings me to the crux of many people’s fears about jumpsuits. I have heard countless women say that they could never wear jumpsuits because they are not adequately tall, thin, or curvy. I have a dear friend who genuinely fears that her butt will “look like a lima bean” if she puts on a jumpsuit. First of all, I personally love lima beans and am unconvinced that a lima bean butt is necessarily a bad thing. Second, and more importantly, jumpsuits are just pants with a little bonus on top. They are not going to do anything to your body that a regular pair of pants would not. Let us all free ourselves from the mistaken notion that a jumpsuit is a wild garment for wild people with wildly perfect bodies. It’s 2018. We’re not doing self-hatred anymore. If you love the jumpsuit, wear the jumpsuit.

A structured jumpsuit requires some effort to pack, but can bring something fun and unexpected to your professional wardrobe. Layer with a sweater for a more casual look.
photo by Kamille Washington

Once you’ve chosen your black jumpsuit, style it any way you would style a little black dress. Layer jackets and blazers depending on the weather, and use accessories to incorporate color. For a casual night out, I like denim jackets (sitting loosely on the shoulders for maximum chicness) and gold hoops. For work events, I reach for boyfriend blazers, heels in fun colors, and beautiful, interesting necklaces.

I have another dear friend who insists that jumpsuits are inherently unprofessional—not because they are too “out there,” but because you have to take your top off to pee. Jumpsuits, as she sees them, are too fussy for a working person. I won’t dismiss this concern: it is true that you will have to do a little wriggling in the office stall. But think about it: Is it really all that different from the shake-and-shimmy you do when you use the restroom in a skirt and thick winter tights? What about all the times you painstakingly tuck a long, silky blouse back into high-waisted jeans? These are small inconveniences that you tolerate because you love the way you look and feel (and because everyone has to pee eventually). Again, if you love the jumpsuit, wear the jumpsuit.

A good cotton jumpsuit will take you easily from day to night in tropical climates—easy to wear and wash.
photo by Kamille Washington

If you are headed someplace tropical to sip fruity drinks in a floppy hat, you’ll need something lighter. Find yourself another wide-legged jumpsuit, but this time, make it cotton. Now, this is tricky: it’s much harder to find a flattering cotton jumpsuit than it is to find a knit one. But it’s well worth the effort. My hot-weather jumpsuit has the classic shape: nipped at the waist and wide-legged but with a slightly cropped length. I spent a whole day wearing it in sticky Singapore heat and not only looked great but stayed (relatively) cool and comfortable. I even wore it to dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Magical, I tell you.

Stand out in a colorful wrap jersey jumpsuit.
photo by Kamille Washington

The last jumpsuit I would recommend is one that you get not because of its practicality or versatility, but because you just love it. Right around the time we apply for our first jobs, we begin to learn that everything we wear must make a statement about our value to the workforce. That is a road that leads one place: a rack of joyless, boring work clothes whose purchase feels like paying a tax. Sure, dressing “sensibly” has its place. But is it so much to ask that clothes be fun too? My newest jumpsuit is wide-legged and pinstriped, with a cut-out in the lower back. I usually wear it with a tuxedo jacket, and drape the jacket over my shoulders if I’m feeling dramatic. When I take the jacket off, you can see part of the bee tattoo I have on my ribs. There’s a sense of mischief about this jumpsuit. Every time I put it on, it makes me smile.

I think that’s really what people are responding to when they ooh and ahh over my jumpsuits in the ladies’ room—not how perfect I look in them, but how much fun I must have had when I got dressed.

There’s a jumpsuit out there for you. Go find it.