The Current

These designers think everyone should wear jumpsuits — so they've made one in 248 sizes

The Rational Dress Society proposes that we clear out our wardrobes and wear jumpsuits 24/7. It's not just a fashion statement, it's a path to unity and equality, they say.
The Rational Dress Society thinks everyone should wear jumpsuits — so they've designed one in 248 sizes. (Lara Kastner)
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Originally published on April 4, 2018. 

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Would you abandon your entire wardrobe and replace it with a jumpsuit?

That's the bold proposal designers Abigail Glaum-Lathbury and Maura Brewer are making. They sell made-to-order jumpsuits online and they practice what they preach. For more than three years, they've been exclusively wearing the jumpsuits they've designed, looking to reduce their wardrobes and opt out of mainstream fashion.

Brewer and Glaum-Lathbury take their title — The Rational Dress Society — from a Victorian movement of the same name, which aimed to get women out of corsets and into something more suitable for work and cycling.

Abigail Glaum-Lathbury and Maura Brewer wanted to explore ways that clothing could express group identity. (Beatriz Meseguer/onwhitewall.com)

The designers — Brewer is based in Los Angeles and Glaum-Lathbury in Chicago — want to address the environmental and social costs of the apparel industry, which uses a lot of water and chemicals and emits large amounts of greenhouse gases. 

The project is also intended as a critique of the garment industry, and capitalism more generally, the designers said.

Brewer said capitalism in fashion has often served to "produce hierarchies in social space, like who's cool and who isn't cool and who can afford what." But they're trying to do the opposite, creating clothes that symbolize unity and equality.

Available in 248 sizes

Brewer and Glaum-Lathbury also wanted to explore ways that clothing could express not just personal identity, but group identity.

One of the design challenges they have encountered is sizing. There are a lot of variables — not just when it comes to height, but also leg and torso length.

Accordingly, it comes in 248 sizes, based on NASA data. In the future, the goal is to digitize the pattern and provide it online so anyone can make a jumpsuit of their own. For now, the jumpsuits retail at $199 US.

The group aims to create clothes that symbolize unity and equality. (Lara Kastner)

Practical considerations

The most common question the designers get is about having to take the whole jumpsuit off in order to use the bathroom.

"One of the most surprising things about the project is the amount of anxiety people have about jumpsuit-bathroom compatibility issues," Brewer said. "For me, it has never been a significant problem."

Writer Heather Radke is one of the people who've tested out the jumpsuit concept. She wrote about the experience in The Paris Review. She says she found it hard to get used to wearing such a loose garment. She wore it for three weeks straight — as an experiment.

"Some people noticed of course and said something to me," but she says others didn't notice at all.

"I just told people I was going to come and do this interview and they were like: 'Wait, you wore a jumpsuit for three weeks?' And these were people who saw me most of the days of those three weeks, and hadn't noticed at all." 

The designers believe the jumpsuits are suitable for all occasions: work and play, formal and casual.

Glaum-Lathbury said the only time she worried her jumpsuit may not be appropriate was when she was invited to a wedding, but not for the reasons you might think.

It was because both the brides were planning to wear jumpsuits. One was wearing the black version, and the other bride wore white.

"I was nervous to upstage the brides," she said.

Her solution?  

"I wore the polka-dot version."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page, where you can also share this article across email, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.


This segment was produced by The Current's Julie Crysler.