When I came across Meenal Mistry's recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that bodysuits are making a comeback, I became confused and started to think about the contents of my own closet. I only have a couple of bodysuits, but I find myself wearing them more and more frequently. Did I just happen to be effortlessly fashion-forward, or was I so out of touch that I'd actually worn an outdated trend through to its second-coming? Then I realized: it was neither.
Mistry references the 80's and 90's as the bodysuit's "heyday", citing Donna Karan's 1985 Seven Easy Pieces collection as a pivotal moment. I agree this may have marked the bodysuit's introduction as a ready-to-wear staple, but doesn't necessarily qualify it as a "trend" of the period. At that time, the bodysuit paralleled the leotard - the stretchy centerpiece of the 80's "dancewear" trend. But unlike the leotard - worn over unforgiving shiny spandex pants and unfortunately paired with the requisite leg-warmers, matching headband, and belt - the bodysuit was really intended to be worn as a top (hence the awkward snaps in the crotch).
What bothers me about Mistry's article is her failure to differentiate between the bodysuit and the leotard. Repeated mentions of "pirouettes" conjure images of dancewear, and the American Apparel sleeveless cotton bodysuit she wears is about as close to a leotard as you can get (it's only technically a bodysuit thanks to those convenient crotch-snaps). Citing body insecurities as a reason why women shy away from the bodysuit implies it must be form-fitting like a leotard. In reality, bodysuits vary in features from embellished halters and faux button-downs to billowing long-sleeves and even peplums. The "return" of bodysuits instead of a specific style trend like dancewear asserts that an entire category of garment had become obsolete. It's like if someone were to say that pants, for example, are making a comeback.
Crotch-snaps included, the bodysuit is really an ingenious design and realizing how versatile the ones in my own closet have been, I'd already made a mental note to add more. As Mistry discovers, they eliminate the struggle of tucking into slim-waisted skirts or pants. My mom is a huge fan of the bodysuit and I remember her trying to make me wear them when I was a kid - especially in winter, since they make it impossible for the lower-torso to be exposed to a draft (which she believes will make you sick, because she's old-school like that). As an adult, I can fully appreciate it's ability to prevent the public display of my backside that inevitably occurs when sitting in low-waisted pants and jeans. And I love how it creates a flattering silhouette, always accentuating the waistline; even bodysuits that drape in the front eventually have to gather at the waist, unlike blouses that just hang down from the bust.
I may have just recently rediscovered my own love for bodysuits, but they never really disappeared from the fashion front. Mistry quotes Net-A-Porter buying manager Sasha Sarokin as saying that they can never really be a trend "because you can't actually see them". Yet this is why we can't say bodysuits were ever not in fashion: women have been wearing them all along, we just can't tell when they are. And while they may not have been dominating the runways, bodysuits have continued to be included in designer collections year after year.
It's true that designer bodysuits from the runway haven't been successful in reaching the sales floor, especially with a shift towards more casual clothing; leggings (which, incidentally, were also part of 1985's even Easy Pieces) beg to be paired with long, camel-toe concealing tops. In the meantime, however, plenty of women have remained well aware of the bodysuit's many advantages and where to find them. Bebe and Urban Outfitters always carry a selection in spite of having different target audiences, which only speaks to its appeal even more.
It seems a disservice to categorize a garment that has served so many women so well - and for so long - as a novelty or fad simply because it hasn't been in the limelight. Peggy Bundy's leopard-print leotard is (thankfully) a thing of the past, but the bodysuit remains a reliable companion in many fashion-forward closets. And if a resurgence of trends that pair well with a svelte, tucked-in top lead to an increased availability of bodysuits, it's just good news for those of us who have loved them all along.