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How to wear a jumpsuit: Tips for the style trend

From casual everyday wear to ultra-formal, best bets for trying the one-piece look.

This slightly stretchy jumpsuit is a wear-anywhere wardrobe

This slightly stretchy jumpsuit is a wear-anywhere wardrobe piece and features a wrap-tie, roomy pockets, wide legs and elastic back waist -- it's a bestseller, $128 at select J.Crew stores and jcrew.com. Photo Credit: J.Crew

There was a time, not that long ago, that the one-piece jumpsuit was considered by some to be risqué — an option only for the young and fashion-forward. And while certain women look great in them, perhaps you’ve resisted the style for years.

Now is the season to try a jumpsuit. The current fervor for the garment might be that it’s suitable for almost every occasion — work, play, even black tie. For once, body type doesn’t matter, as sizes run from petite to plus in an array of silhouettes that can be extremely flattering.

“I see the jumpsuit as the next way women of all ages are getting dressed up ... and dressed down,” says Cheryl Feld, owner of Impulse Boutiques in Port Washington and Greenport. “We always had, like, one in the store, but it was a little bit of a tough sell. People didn’t accept it as the norm. Now, it’s like they come in and the first thing they ask is, ‘Do you have jumpsuits?' I bring them in and they go out.”

There’s a popularity surge at Lane Bryant, too, where jumpsuits come in sizes 12 through 28, as well as petites.

“We’ve definitely seen our customers gravitating toward jumpsuits more and more,” says Malissa Akay, a senior vice president at the company. Lane Bryant customers are, she adds, looking for “more trend-focused statement jumpsuits that can be dressed up or dressed down depending on her mood or plans for her day.”

The appeal? “They are a fantastic alternative to a dress. Jumpsuits are easy to wear, they’re comfortable and they look amazing on everyone.”

Feld agrees, “Jumpsuits are the perfect combination of a replacement for the dress and the ease of wearing pants. And today, there’s a versatility to them and that’s why they’ve taken a huge leap.”

JUMPSUITS THROUGH THE DECADES

There may finally be mainstream acceptance of the jumpsuit, but it has taken a while. The style is almost 100 years old.

1919: The one-piecer was actually created for parachuters and skydiver jumping (yes, really) out of airplanes.

1930s: Fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s easy air-raid suit didn’t exactly catch on (could it have been the matching gas mask?) in a green silk with large pockets. Later, Katharine Hepburn amped up the popularity with a monogrammed silken variation in the 1937 film “Stage Door.” And in the 1940s, millions of Rosie the Riveters all over America donned jumpsuit coveralls to wear to work at factories while men were at war.

1960s-1970s: The style shows up everywhere, from the runways to jet-setters such as Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Onassis. Wide-legged versions were popular with Cher, as were slimmer variations on guys — Elvis, Mick Jagger and David Bowie. Then there was the dance floor of disco scene at Studio 54.

1980s: The silhouette turned into a mega statement-maker (bold shoulders, metallics, brilliant colors) — think Devo in “Whip It.”

TIPS FOR WEARING A JUMPSUIT

Debating the look? According to Ken Downing, the senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, there is one sure way to decide if it’s for you. “If you feel fabulous in it then it is,” Downing says. “If you don’t, than don’t buy it.” And Downing says not to worry about body type. “Petite, curvy, tall, short, absolutely everyone can and should wear a jumpsuit.” There are a few ways to help glamorize the look:

CREATE THE CURVE  “I like a built-in waist on a jumpsuit,” Downing says. “But if it doesn’t have one, belt it.”

ADD SOME HEIGHT To keep a jumpsuit from “looking like a uniform,” wear a heel -- even a small heel will do. Not only does the elevation add style, but it helps create “an elongated look,” he says.

ACCESSORIZE For Downing, an oversized dangling earring is key to amping up the overall vibe of a jumpsuit. “It’s so '80s as is, so why not go all the way with a big, big, big earring?”

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