Why Aren’t You Wearing a Jumpsuit Yet?

They’ve been trending in Philly for years. But pulling one off isn’t so simple.

jumpsuit trend philadelphia

Illustration by Bett Norris

I was standing in front of the mirror in my hotel room, assessing the situation. It was 2015, and I was on an overnight work trip to New York, squeezing in dinner with friends. I had packed light, tossing only my new black jumpsuit and an innocuous ripped-jeans backup outfit in my bag. Tonight was the night, I had told myself that morning. New York was the perfect place to debut my new jumpsuit.

It was silly, all this agonizing. My jumpsuit was black-washed silk, with loose legs and a neckline I had altered to a more modest V. It was from Banana Republic. But still, I stressed. I changed my shoes. I tried different earrings. Hair up, hair down. Nope. I meekly unfolded my tried-and-true skinnies and pulled them on in defeat.

This was only the beginning of a complicated relationship. Jumpsuits made their return to the runway in 2013 and went mainstream soon after that. And like skinny jeans, they’ve held on. Online shops like Anthropologie and Net-a-Porter have categories dedicated entirely to the one-pieces now, with “jumpsuits” snuggled right in there between “dresses” and “tops.” I see Philly women sporting them (and their summer cousin, the romper) everywhere: down the Shore, at Rittenhouse restaurants, at work, even at camp pickup.

They’ve become basics because they’re so appealing: They’re flattering on most of us. They can cover you up like a poncho or serve to highlight your best feature — ­cleavage, curvy hips, Michelle O arms. They’re comfortable and easy (it’s off the hanger and out the door), and they come in tons of styles. Are you going for utilitarian cable-guy cool? Coachella free spirit? Kim K minimalist-fierce? There’s a jumpsuit for you.

This is why I, and apparently many others, keep buying them. I currently have three, plus one romper. But two still have the tags on. I haven’t stressed so much about an outfit since my college friend bullied me into wearing a tube top to my first frat party. This is because jumpsuits, despite their seeming effortlessness, aren’t so easy. My internal monologue when I try them on: Am I too old? Am I trying too hard? Am I cool enough? And … how will I pee?

I’m not alone. My friends have copped to their own one-piece insecurities. Turns out not everyone in Philly is rocking this look — we just wish we were.

This isn’t just a 30-something problem, either. A co-worker, having overheard me complain about this sartorial situation, recounted a story about his teenage daughter. She was going to see Mean Girls on Broadway and knew a jumpsuit was perfect for the occasion. An emergency trip to the mall ensued. But on the way home, her doubts set in. Ultimately, she chickened out.

That night, much to her surprise, at the end of the show, Tina Fey herself came out to thank the audience. And guess what the pride of Upper Darby was wearing? Yup. A jumpsuit.

Published as “Suit Yourself” in the September 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.