Arty Girl: One for All, All for One: The Jumpsuit at Phoenix Art Museum

By Lilia Menconi

James Sterling's 1966 jumpsuit. Photo by Ken Howie.

I’m a relatively fashionable chick who’s known to make some bold moves with her wardrobe every once in a while. After being virtually single for two years, I learned to bring a little razzle dazzle to my closet. With so much competition in this town, you really have to work out some strategies not only to be noticed, but to be memorable. So it wasn’t unusual for me to wear some flashy, enormous earrings made of peacock feathers or bright red glitter pointed toe pumps. Working in a few key pieces to an otherwise safely stylish wardrobe can make all the difference.

But there was one realm of clothing I dared not venture and that would be the one-piece garment. I guess I was more of a fashion wimp than I thought because even when my friends were looking adorable in their onesies on the dance floor, the whole idea was way out of my comfort zone.

But a one-piece garment really makes sense. Think of the convenience. It’s like the Wal-Mart of your wardrobe, one-stop shop to fulfill all your needs.

Which is how the one-piece outfit got started. Inspired by utilitarianism, the garments were designed for factory workers, mechanics, pilots – any profession where the worker had to get down and dirty. But, being the aesthetically sensitive creatures we are, the one-pieces were inevitably adopted by fashion designers who made some tucks, amped up the fabric quality and bedazzled the hell out of them. No doubt, the jumpsuit peaked in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Opening Saturday, September 6th, the Phoenix Art Museum chronicles 90 years of this garment with “One for All and All for One: The Jumpsuit” in the Kelly Ellman Fashion Design Gallery.

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Yojhi Yamamoto, 2002. Photo by Ken Howie.

The impressive array of over 35 examples features a WWI women’s factory uniform, a Charles Lindberg original flight suit, a NASA spacesuit and some stellar jumpsuit designs by Yves Saint Laurent, Rudi Gernreich and Donald Brooks. The show even explores the future of the beloved jumpsuit with design renditions by Stella McCartney and a display of the new Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit – the design worn by U.S. Olympic hero, Michael Phelps.

I can’t wait to see what PAM has put together for this show. Not to mention, Fall is approaching and I’m on the search for a new look.

One for All, and All for One: The Jumpsuit runs from September 6th - February 1st in The Kelly Ellman Fashion Design Gallery at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave, 602-257-2105, www.phxart.org.

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